It took me eight years to write my first four novels. In that time I had three kids, so I guess that makes sense.
My fourth novel Funny Tragic Crazy Magic was the best novel I knew how to write at the time, and I published it. It did really well, especially for a first novel. It spent eight weeks in the top 10,000 on Amazon, the lowest it got was 3,450 something. And it's still selling, that's the exciting thing.
The number one feedback I heard from everyone who read it, was my favorite question-- Are you going to write a sequel?
When I wrote it, I was very satisfied with the ending, and felt it was a stand alone book. However, publishing has taught me a lot, and the number one thing, is that if the reader isn't satisfied, then you can't be either.
So I looked into it, and they were so right. HOLY COW, THERE IS SO MUCH STORY THERE. I even started writing the sequel, got a few thousand words into it, but I knew it was the wrong path. It was stressful too, I guess. I didn't know how to write a sequel. I didn't want people to be disappointed, and I wanted a sequel I could be proud of, that FTCM deserved.
And I had different stories pounding on my head.
In the year and three months since publishing FTCM, I've written four novels. Granted I three of those novels were Prophecy Breakers, (whazup ladies!) so I didn't do it alone. But I've learned a lot in that time. I've learned from Sabrina and Melanie. I've learned from Waxling. I've learned from my amazing betas, and mostly I've learned from my AWESOME readers. I love that feedback the very best. I love seeing what they want, what they need from the story. And I've studied, practiced, and written about 250,000 words all on my own. Kinda crazy when you add them all up. I've been working really hard this year.
About a week ago I was on Pintrest (obviously working hard) and one pin I pinned almost a year ago had a comment by a reader I've never met. (Hi Madison!)
Well, that comment got me thinking... just one more time. Since the last time I approached FTCM's sequel, I've written a sequel (with help). But I know more now. So now, Sheena, what are we going to do for the sequel?
Yes, I talk to myself in third person.
Anyway, an idea fell out.
Not just an idea, the right idea. I knew it the second I thought it. This was the idea I was waiting for.
I tried to catch it on the closest piece of paper I could find (a junk mail envelope). My husband took a picture with his phone and then posted it on my author page, and people got excited. (I don't know why, it is not a flattering photo) I had more page views for that goofy picture than I've had in months, and a couple of my amazing readers started sending me private messages, responding, encouraging me.
The next day I was scrolling facebook (again being really productive) and one of my writer friends posted this link, a simple novel outline-9 questions for 25 chapters.
I could do nine questions. I could do simple outline. I know the idea, so I could totally do this. I got out my envelope and opened a file, and started answering the questions and filled out my simple outline. It helped that I had figured out my 8-character-archetypes on that envelope, and that I knew my hero, and my hero's goal, and set up the whole story idea around those goals. It was easy, took maybe ten minutes to answer those questions and figure out all the chapter headings. Simple.
At the bottom of that article, there was another link to an article,Quick Overview of The Heros Journey, and it said that this simple outline works really well with the Hero's Journey. SO... simple. Quick. Easy. I could do that. I clicked the link, and made a few simple adjustments and amplifications of my simple outline so it fit within that Journey. This took another ten minutes, but it was fun and simple.
There was another link on the side of that blog about the snowflake method, but it wasn't super helpful to me, so I googled it, found this snowflake-method link, and before I knew it, (okay, so it took three days and several hours of work), I'd filled out the first eight steps of the snowflake method, until I knew the story backwards and forwards. I could fix story structure before I wrote. CRAZY CONCEPT for me, and I knew all the characters, and why they did everything they are about to do. I had a list of necessary scenes, and chapters. Before I knew I had done it, I wrote 10,000 words of a detailed outline.
So that's kinda crazy.
And my betas, my beautiful amazing betas haven't finished reading Pyromancy yet, so I can't really work on the next one, and Waxling is tricky because of story structure problems that an outline would have fixed, and I have stressful things coming up and needed to escape, so I kinda sorta started writing Funny Tragic Shadowed Magic. I'm five chapters in, and it's the right beginning. It's going to be awesome.
It's weird though writing from an outline. It's weird knowing all the details, and the twists and turns of the story that are coming up. But it's given me so much more confidence in the details of the story. I know these people already, and I know that their story line will make sense, so I get to sit behind their heads and play there. It's cool, because since I know all the settings, all the characters, I don't have to use my mental energy to create them at the time, so I find I can write more in a sitting, and really enjoy the language, and the voice of the character.
Outlining is actually fun. Who knew? I'm loving being able to create twists and turns without risk of failure. I can throw out any plot twist or do any twisted thing my broken brain can come up with and see where it leads. I know no one will ever read that outline, so I don't have to work on the language, don't have to work on making it sound pretty, or think about the weight of an audience on my shoulders while I make the major decisions, and it makes writing easier. There is no block, because I know what comes next. If I'm in the mood to write an action scene, or an angsty scene, or a kissing scene, I know right were they go, and I can just write what I want, and know where the characters are in their journey.
Which will be SO helpful to battle against the obsession that is the world of Prophecy Breakers. Once the betas get Pyromancy back to us, I can jump back in and play, and know exactly where to go next when I come back to it. All this work in one paper, so I won't forget it.
So this is what I've learned this week. I'm putting the pants away. Perhaps for good.
And one more thing...a sequel is coming. I'm working on it as we speak.
Thank you, Madison, for commenting. You never know the power of one kind word.