Writing A Fantasy Series Pt. 1

Christopher Paolini, the young author of the Inheritance Series (Eragon), was featured in The Writer. I was excited as the title was ‘Writing A Hit Series’, and Paolini has created a magnificent world in the 3,000 or so pages of his four novels.

I was disappointed with the interview. The reporter assumed that most of us didn’t know who Paolini is and what he has written. The story focused on a lot of the well-recorded autobiography (that I am sure most of us love) and the decision of the Paolini family to self-publish Eragon and travel around the country selling copies face-to-face.

But there were precious few tidbits regarding writing a series. Paolini structures his stories before he writes them. Fair enough. There are no surprises, we are told, except I wish to point out that Book Three became two books (how do you misplan an additional 700+ pages? – not that I am complaining, Mr. Paolini – you can write several more and I will faithfully buy and read them together with my sons).

My son holding his autographed copy at the midnight release... a priceless moment!

Paolini also stresses the need for a map. He warns that if there is a small mistake in detail between Book One and Four, true fans will notice.

As I continue to put Book Three of the Wycaan Master onto (virtual) parchment, (just passed the 25,000 word mark), I am continually realizing how much I must refer back to keep consistent, whether in language, appearance, or plot.

I love the spontaneity of allowing the plot to unfold. It works for me and it is part of the magic of writing. But I totally understand the value of a structured plan as Paolini suggests.

I keep three lists going: characters, chapter contents, and odds-and-ends. I do not provide much in terms of character appearance and history. I regret this now, as I need to sift through over 200,000 words. Chapter contents are kept brief – 1-2 sentences, but serves to help me refer back relatively quickly. Odd-and-ends is, well, a lot of unresolved issues, detail needed, clan structure and more.

A Great Place to Write Fantasy.

I have no doubt that there is so much more to remember and involved when writing a series. I think when I begin another, I might take more careful notes and listen more to authors like Paolini, Salvatore, and Brooks.

But I also think it is worth it. The depth and richness of a series is an incredible honor to write. More on that aspect next week.

Until then, good writing.

——————————————————————————————————

Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist and A Gardener’s Tale. He has written two fantasy novels and the first has reached the Quarter Finals of  the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award as of March 2012. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/and on Twitter (@elfwriter).

 

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9 comments on “Writing A Fantasy Series Pt. 1

  1. This was super helpful. Thanks.

  2. kate says:

    thank you!!! i think i will try and do this too – keep the lists, I mean…

  3. Tolkien was continually revising THE LORD OF THE RINGS, right up until the day he passed away, because of mistakes he thought he had made and continuity errors fans pointed out to him. Yet people still loved his books. Granted, very few of us are Professor Tolkien, but it’s still possible to get too hung up on outlines. That’s why editors are so handy. If you’re not being published by a book company, it’s a good idea to hire an editor. And if anyone does spot mistakes, after you’ve published, the ebook can always be tweaked.

  4. Elli Comeau says:

    I partially agree. When I first started my series, I had no lists whatsoever. The further I got in the series, the more I needed to refer back. In the end it was just easier to make notes of the most important things as I go along. Chapter contents are definitely part of that, as they allow you to quickly find the right spot you’re looking for to refresh your memory. My chapter content list also helped me to get back into a book, after I had to put it aside for about a year because I got too busy with other things, without having to read the entire book again. For really important remarks I even added the page number, so I could quickly go there and re-read just that scene.
    Now I’m on book four of the series and I can’t even imagine working on it without my info files, all neatly organized.

    • elveswriter says:

      Thanks, Elli. How do you keep this data? Are they on flash cards? Computer docs?

      • Elli Comeau says:

        Word Documents. But I’m slowly moving to Scrivener, so some of my notes are in there now. I think I’d go nuts without those notes, and it would take me twice as long to finish my story. I don’t do it much for complete new books outside my series, until the volume becomes so huge that I feel overwhelmed, even with my enormous memory.
        How do you keep your data?

  5. […] This time, armed with a blanket and picnic, we were planning on some serious reading. Older son had a book assigned from school, a historical fictional account of many good people dying from a plague back in the 1700′s: perfect depressing material for the summer vacation. Not surprisingly, he hadn’t embraced the intrusion with the enthusiasm he showed for Christopher Paolini’s Eragon or J. K. Rowlings’ Harry Potter.  […]

  6. […] This time, armed with a blanket and picnic, we were planning on some serious reading. Older son had a book assigned from school, a historical fictional account of many good people dying from a plague back in the 1700′s: perfect depressing material for the summer vacation. Not surprisingly, he hadn’t embraced the intrusion with the enthusiasm he showed for Christopher Paolini’s Eragon or J. K. Rowlings’ Harry Potter. […]

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