Thursday, January 7, 2016

Of Pantsers and Sequels

I don’t always have another book or two in mind when I write a novel. Sometimes it is a single story idea. By the time I have finished the project I may have an idea of what happens next, but not always. When I first started writing, the idea that a publisher would accept a project of mine was excitement enough. What has happened, however, is that I get asked to continue a tale and I always say “of course.”

I confess to being a “pantser,” that is, a writer who usually creates by the seat of his pants. Unlike my alternate, the “plotter,” I don’t set out in great detail the world, the characters, and what is going to happen. This works well enough for me when creating a single novel, for a series it contributes to my grey hairs.

For example, when I wrote The Queen’s Pawn it was pretty much a stand-alone project. My world building consisted of the narrow strip of land the characters fled through, and I designed it as I wrote. I didn’t even bother to give the burning city they fled from a name. It wasn’t important to the tale I was weaving. When I finished, I wrote down two sentences as to what might happen next, if I ever found myself writing sequels. Number one was: The queen is getting married and everyone tries to stop the wedding. The second sentence was similar: The princess is getting married and everyone is trying to stop her. That’s it. My plotting for the sequels. And then I was asked to write two sequels.

I have learned from experience to try and make notes as I write. Important stuff like describe the characters as I create them, names, places. It would be so much simpler if I did this ahead of time, but it’s not my style. Now I have to expand the geography, expand the cast, and decide what nonsense the characters are going to get up to. In the case of these sequels, The Queen’s Man and The Queen’s Game, I had my main cast assembled and the villains still in the woodwork. I let the actors do the hard part and simply described how they would react to given situations.

One advantage for me to my method is I can jump right into the story without always knowing where I’m headed. It can be a voyage of discovery. Keeps me interested, and sometimes surprised by what happens. At least in the above examples I knew the intended endings, two weddings.

It is the journey of discovery that keeps me amused.


The Dark Lady Trilogy (Volume 1,2,3)
The Queen’s Pawn (Volume 1) (volume 2, The Queen’s Man, due in 2016)
The Housetrap Chronicles (Volumes 1 to 7)
Alex in Wanderland,
Knight’s Bridge