Now that I'm getting closer to the first book in my adult fantasy series being published, I wanted to start sharing more and more about the processes I took in writing the series. Things like where I got my ideas from, who my characters are, perhaps some snippets ... I'll start with writing about what it's like writing an adult fantasy series. The actual writing side, not the whole publishing, editing, whatever journey.
Just the writing part.
Writing a book is such a mixture of experiences. It's really fun, and I love it, and I can't think of anything else I want to do with my life more than just writing loads and loads and loads of books. Watch this space. It'll happen. I have so many ideas in my head, and I can't write fast enough. They're piling up.
It's also challenging. Of course it's a challenge. Especially adult fantasy books. They're huge! And it's a marathon, not a sprint.
So, I hope today I can share a little bit about what it's like writing an adult fantasy series. Or, at least my experience of it so far.
Writing book 1 of my adult fantasy series
Much like you'll read in the 'book 3' section, parts of this book were written before. But, again, a lot was missing (try a whole plot). I had the characters in mind and some snippets of what they went through, but nothing worked quite well enough. So, I did what any INTJ does best: I mooched over it for ages until it felt right.
I want to write a whole blog about where I got the plot idea and the characters' wants and drivers, but to sum it up quickly, everything clicked into place when I found out the 'why'. For me, I find writing with 'what if's and 'why' questions works best. And then, I just started drafting it bit by bit.
There's a good lesson to not look back when you're writing. This is where I failed in all my attempts to write pre this book. I just kept trying to edit as I went. Not this time. After reading Stephen King's On Writing, where he said the first draft is just to help the writer tell themself the story and to write until you finish it and not look back, that's what I did. And yes, it was tough to get into, but once I got into that habit, I found myself writing better, smoother, and faster than before.
Was the first draft still awful? Yup! No-one is ever, ever going to see it (okay, I showed my dad, because I needed to know whether it was even a thing worth continuing--even just the general concept), but other than that, we can flush that evidence and continue with the rewrites.
First draft done, then I let it sit for a few months.
By the time I came back to it, scanning through it and rewriting was really interesting. I'd never worked with this process before, and so it was intriguing how I tweaked parts in the rewrite and made things come more to life. The characters were more real this way as I'd not stopped to edit things and made them stilted, and I found the characters almost wrote through me.
Characters I'd never even planned came into the story, and those I planned for somehow ended up in different scenarios, some shocking, even. But, it worked out for the best. Quick first draft writing and then rewriting is THE writing method I go for now, even if it was hard to learn with this first book!
Writing book 2 of my adult fantasy series
With the knowledge of how to best write a book (first draft all the way through, no looking back, then let it sit for a bit, then rewrite it), I immediately launched into book 2. I'd never planned for this book. It was originally just going to be a two-book series. But, this one came naturally. So, I followed my creative genie and kept going.
Book 1 follows a female MC (Yoshiko) with a male secondary character (Gora). But as I wrote, Gora became such a key part of the story, they're almost, almost, equal MCs at this point. But not quite. However, I found Gora's goal changed, and an unresolved part of his past rose up through the events of book 1 that meant he needed to go on an adventure of his own. It must have been meant to be, because the plot of book 2, which happened almost naturally, flows perfectly into book 3. Without book 2, it would have been a clumsy join. Thanks, Gora, for being the link I needed. No wonder you're my fav!
As I mentioned above, starting book 2 flowed really well. But, somewhere along the way, for some reason, I stopped writing. I think I may have got too focused on moving house and then sorting out my visa that I stopped writing. Then, the time to edit book 1 came, so by the time I came back to writing book 2, I'd totally lost the flow. It took so long to get back into it that I actually felt disappointed in myself for stopping. But, life gets in the way. I thought that with such a good flow to this book, I'd never lose it, even if I had to stop writing it for a bit. Now I know I did, I'm always going to ensure that each 'phase' of a certain book (writing, rewriting, or a flush of editing) gets done in one go without pause. As much as I can.
I'm finally back into the flow of writing this one, and I've taken a few days off work to sit and just work on it all day too. I'm so close to the end, and parts of the story are coming naturally again. It was really challenging to lose the flow, but I learned how I write best.
By creating a writing habit.
I get up early before work most days. It used to be 4:30, but I wanted to give myself just a little bit more writing time, so I now get up at 4:00.
Sounds crazy, but it's what I need to do to keep my own writing going. I'm too tired after work. You only have a certain amount of creativity, decision making, and willpower in a day. You use it up throughout the day, and by the evening, you're running low. I know I didn't do my best writing then, so I get up early to work while my creativity levels are full and fresh. It also built a great habit, and I got used to that time being just mine, no interruptions, just writing.
It's what helped me write the rest of book 2 even with working a full-time job. I don't have to choose one life or the other. I really do get both.
Writing book 3 of my adult fantasy series
Funnily enough, this is actually the story I started writing first. It was a stand-alone book, and I wasn't happy with how it sounded. For one, it sounded really juvenile, and my main character was really flat. She turned out to be just like every other female lead in fantasy, and that bored me. I knew what I wanted her to be like, but I couldn't write her as I wanted to, and I couldn't write the book as I wanted to. Something was missing, so I set it aside for a bit, and it turned into ... *quickly mentally calculates the years* ... wow, eight years until I felt I was ready to touch it again.
But, this turned out to be the best thing I could have done for this story and my writing. I went out and got life experience. I moved to the other side of the world, lived and worked in two different countries, met loads more people, read loads more books, and mulled over the idea on and off, consciously or not, for that period. When I revisited it, I realised what was missing. The origin. It wasn't a stand-alone book, it was a series. And worst, it wasn't even the first book in the series. The whole 'explanation' part of it was missing, so of course it didn't work on its own. And, even more, my main character is wonderful now. She knows who she is, I know who she is, and important characters around her changed. I found the right people in my life, and she found the right people in hers (and the best wrong people, as the antagonist developed even more, too).
With this transformation, and the books ahead of it, I've planned it out again in detail, and I can't wait to start drafting it in this year's (2021) NaNoWriMo, which I'll use as a challenge and a prompt to get the first third or more done.
I'm so excited to be working on this book again, and I know it's got the right components now.
There's a side book!
I mentioned above that book 2 came naturally due to one of my main character's personalities and goals coming to life so much that it forged a path to write another book. Well, it happened another way too. Gora, again, was so much fun to write and he has so much story to tell that I found my mind mulling over his life before the series.
I believe writing stories is all about telling the story of a character. It's very character-driven, and if you follow a character's goals and desires enough, you'll have a good plot to accompany them.
This certainly was the case with Gora, and as much as I also adore Yoshiko (who also got a side book, but a kids' book--see My Best Friend is a Dragon here on my main website page, another book coming next year, 2022), Gora's past had such torments and wild adventures that I and others who had read snippets about him wanted a whole book about him and wanted to know about his past.
When beta readers ask for more, that's a great sign, and I followed them wholeheartedly on this one.
This book takes place before book 1, but doesn't necessarily fit the theme of the series, so I'm calling it a side book. When I'll write it, I'm not sure. Likely after book 3, unless I have a spurt of genius that smashes it all out while I'm also writing book 3.
Who knows. But it was an exciting adventure to even think of it.
Summing up what it's like writing an adult fantasy series
There really is nothing quite like writing a book series and watching how everything grows and plays together, and seeing how your skills grow with each new book you write.
Drafting book 2 was nowhere near as bad as book 1. I don't need to flush that evidence down the toilet, sorry Stitch. But, I will obviously still rewrite and edit it. However, to see the growth of a writer even over a series is really interesting, and I can't wait to share with you all each book in the series.
I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I enjoy writing them.