Daily Archives: June 13, 2011

Series Writing is Like an Umbrella

This post is inspired by a fellow scribe tagging me in a “Writing is like” challenge.  It’s also inspired by the crummy weather that continues to plague my little corner of the world.

It’s been pouring on our little prairie–again.  Over the past weeks, I’ve witnessed people pop open umbrellas while they go about their business.  The thin, waterproof fabric repels rain, keeping the user dry and happy.

Not a planner, I usually get caught without so much as a hood to cover my head.  By the time I reach my destination, I usually look like a hamster that fell in the toilet.

This non-planning/pantster mentality applies to my writing.  Outlines scare the bejeebies out of me and I don’t stick to them anyway.  But an umbrella, now that might work.  I’m still outside in the elements, trekking my merry way from point A to point B, but without contracting Drowned Rodent Syndrome. 

Since writing a series is much different from penning a single title, I knew I needed some sort of framework.  One massive story arc to cover the series and little story arcs to encompass each individual book.  You can read about it here if this is new to you.

I drew my big arc on the top of my page.  Along the bottom edge, I drew lacy arcs from the starting point to the end of my series.  Hmmm, it looked suspiciously like an umbrella.  To complete the effect, I sketched in spokes that radiated from each point to the middle of the top arc.

Yep, definitely an umbrella top.

Series Umbrella In Progress

On each spoke, I penned a key phrase summing up the resolution of each book.  I titled the mini-arcs with one word conflicts.  Everything tied nicely together.  Except…

…the handle. 

While my umbrella top summarized my over-all premise–inciting incident, MC’s progress and ultimate conclusion–it didn’t really address the antagonist.    My umbrella was incomplete, because even though I had an overarching premise, a physical antagonist was still necessary.  One central evil that propelled my MCs forward.  A villain to defeat, if you will.

This upped the stakes and gave me something to focus on.  Now when I write, I’ll be able to visualize exactly where each story must begin and end, how the conflict relates to the over-all arc and what central conflict my MCs are up against.

I’m still not writing to an outline.  Each chapter book within the series will be allowed to pants it’s way onto my keyboard.  But, thanks to my umbrella, I won’t get halfway through my journey and realize I started out for the grocery store when I really should have been on my way to a photo shoot. 

And we can all picture what that would look like if I got caught unaware in a storm. 

What tricks do you use to keep your writing focused?