Revising a Series: The Struggle

Prufrock - Eliot

Revising a Series

My current WIP is a five-book series. Five books! What was I thinking!!

My initial idea was a trilogy, which is one of the most common ways of writing a YA fantasy story: Make it three! But as I was outlining, I wound up outlining five books. Everything flowed beautifully. All aspects of the story matched up. It didn’t feel like too much or too little–it was Baby Bear’s novel series: JUST RIGHT. I couldn’t believe that I had built such an intricate skeleton.

Then I wrote book one, following the outline, and everything sang. Then I went back to revise it (mostly to add words because my goal of 80,000 wasn’t quite met) and worked through until I felt the piece was completed.

Then I started writing book two. That’s when things got interesting. I drafted book two for NaNoWriMo 2014, speed writing and following the outline, not really paying attention to anything that I would fix later on. When I went back to refine book two, there were things about the manuscript that needed to be added to book one, things about book one that needed to be in book two, and consistency issues that needed to be addressed.

In my world, outlining is so important, and I thrive on that structure to keep me focused. But, in the end, stories are fluid. Plot lines and character development will pave their own path, no matter what you’ve planned. While I am still remarkably close to my first outline, things have been tweaked to accommodate aspects of the novel(s) that I didn’t foresee.

And then I drafted book three for NaNoWriMo 2015 with the mindset that, perhaps, I need to write all five books together and then revise them all together–like one giant book, broken up into five pieces.

My productivity methods tend to vary, depending on my mindset and what needs to be done. There are times when I am entirely focused on the details, making sure that things match up and have meaning. Then again, at other times, I’m very much into the big picture, the grand scheme, the whole and complete story. As such, my thoughts were these: Since this story began as a five-book series, from outline to manuscript, maybe, just maybe, that’s how I should approach my revision process. My detail-oriented side will craft each book, then my big-picture side will hone the entire story once each manuscript is completed.

But that’s too much. That’s like creating five place settings of a meal onto your dinner table, all sides and beverages accounted for, and then eating all five of them at once.

So, once more, I turn to my outlines–my tried and true outlines. Instead of crafting entire manuscripts, I will be crafting the outlines for each successive book as I work my way through the series.

Fingers crossed.

Do you have any suggestions or tips on how I can work more productively on revising a series? Please share in the comments section!

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