Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Planning a Subsequent Book In a Series

Where Love Once Lived developed over a long period of time because it was my first novel and, quite honestly, I didn’t know what I was doing. Vengeance Is Mine, may second effort, was much easier because of the experience I had gained with my first book. However, it has mostly new characters. Although there are references to a few others, only Liz, the librarian plays a part in both books. At the time I wrote Vengeance, I noticed a methodology emerging, but I didn’t stop to record it.

All I remember about the method was starting with an Excel worksheet with a row for each scene. I was aiming for a particular market with a maximum of 80,000 words and knew from my first book that a  scene length of 2,000 words was about right. So, I started with 40 scenes. Next, I identified the first ten scenes as Act I, the next 20 as Act II, and the last 10 as Act III. For more information about acts, see Elements of Fiction Writing - Beginnings, Middles & Ends by Nancy Kress.

By the way, the completed manuscript contains 72,334 words divided into 44 scenes.

With Vengeance Is Mine off to the publisher for review it is time to start Do Unto Others. This is the second in the bookmobile series, so I already know the characters. There will probably be a few new ones pop up and some of the ones from Where Love Once Lived will get bigger parts this time. I have a story question developed as well as the gem of an idea for each act. So I can start writing as soon as I organize the scenes.

I teach Microsoft Office at Austin Community College and, while teaching a class on integrating PowerPoint and Word, thought of a new way to get started on this book. Instead of Excel, I’m outlining with PowerPoint. Why? Because PowerPoint slides are so easy to move around using the slide sorter view.

This is similar to the way writers once used 3 x 5 cards for scenes and taped them on the wall as a guide to follow. Perhaps some still do that.

The title of each slide contains the scene number. Then there are bullets for POV, Time, Location, Goal, and Conflict. This is as far as I've gotten in my new method, but I'll continue to share the process with you as I go. Just so you'll know, my plan is to create 40 scenes, sort them as needed, then there is an automated way to convert the slides to a Word outline. Once in Word, I will convert the outline to hidden text to use as a guide for writing the book.

Do you have a method to share?


  1. Here is a comment on Facebook from friend Jimmy Clark:

    The computer professor's approach to planning a novel. Interesting. I can see how PowerPoint could be a great tool for that. You can do a LOT more with it than just creating slide shows.

  2. Here is an email comment received:

    Boy, your method sounds complicated. I wonder -- when do the characters take over and start complaining about your "scenes"?

    I was fond of the 3x5 card method to keep everything and everybody in front of me. Of course, for many years I wrote longhand on yellow pads, then edited as I typed them on the typewriter - then computer. This is the olden days. Not sure I would use your Power Point system though even if I were to start writing again. Cheers, Peg

  3. The scenes give structure to get started, but the characters control what happens. There is still room for them to roam. I've even had to rein a few of them in.