1. Pyrotechnet

    Pyrotechnet New Member

    Nov 30, 2014
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    My first novel in a series has developed a completely different plot

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Pyrotechnet, Nov 30, 2014.

    So I've been spending a great deal of time working on a novel, and eventually I would like it to be a series. I'm about a fifth of the way through the first draft of the first book (about 25,000 words in) and I realized that I have a problem. The plot that I have in mind for the overall series becomes more centralized in each "book", meaning that the first book is a lot about the lives of the main character and his family/friends before the main plot, the second book is the main character trying to avoid getting involved in the main plot and while more of the main plot is present it's still a lot of about the lives of the characters, and the third book is finally the beginning of the overarching plot which continues through additional books.

    So the problem I'm currently experiencing is that the first book essentially has two very polar opposite plots.
    1. The main story is mostly about love and loss of the main characters as they grow, mature, and graduate. A lot of what happens in the first book is extremely important for a few of the main characters down the line. But a lot of it also really isn't important to the "overarching plot", just important to story being told in that book.
    2. The other half of the plot (which is the first conflict of many in the overarching plot and essentially what kick-starts it) is that the main character is the son of a great king and queen and he was sent away during a war so he would be safe. The antagonist is the son of the man who was at war with his father who believes his purpose in life is to finish what his father started and tries to kill the protagonist (now seventeen). This launches the main plot of the story later on, but it's only MAYBE 35% of the story being told in this first book (at this point. As mentioned, it's still very much a work in-progress).

    Long story short, here's my concern. I feel like I have an amazing story being developed in the lives on these characters and the way they interact, and the way they change as the story progresses. I'm worried that in this singular piece of work, the overarching story from later planned installments may appear more forced and out of place in this piece. Conversely, I worry that this book won't connect enough the plot of the later installments because it's not about the war and the battles to come, it's about the characters. I suppose you could say the first installment is very character-driven and so it spends enough time exploring their lives that I justify it existing as a standalone work,and the later installments are more plot driven.

    Make any sense?
    What advice could you give to me, fellow writers?
  2. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

    Mar 9, 2010
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    I'm not positive that I understand, but I do want to say that the first book needs to have a plot--it can't just be a book full of introductory material, with no satisfying resolution in that first book.

    This is particularly true if you hope to get the first book traditionally published--in that case, the first book needs to completely stand alone, needs to be worth reading even if the other books are never written or published.

    If you're self-publishing (and I'm in the anti-self-publishing camp) you can of course publish anything you want, but a reader is still likely to be frustrated if the first book seems to primarily be a lot of character sketches and backstory.

    So if your first book does have a plot that has a resolution in the first book, rather than being totally focused on some plot in in a later book, that's a good thing, not a bad thing.
  3. plothog

    plothog Contributor Contributor

    Jul 24, 2013
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    It's normally considered a good thing to have a central plot within a novel that is resolved by the end of the novel. Even if the novel is part of a series.
    In fact some might say that if it's the first in a series from an unpublished author that it's pretty much a requirement.
    I think you might need to approach the problem of the lack of cohesiveness from the other direction.
    I.e You should be looking for ways for elements of the overarching plot to impact on the novel plot rather than the other way round.
    35% of the novel being part of the overarching plot rather than this novels plot seems on the high side to me. You might want some in so that there isn't to much of a change in tone between the two books, but I'd be considering reducing the bits which feel most tacked on. Worry more about book 2, when you get to. You might even find it's got its own character driven subplot to give it some of the feel of book 1.
  4. mad_hatter

    mad_hatter Active Member

    Nov 26, 2014
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    Agreed, you need a plot.

    For an example, think about Harry Potter... In the first book we meet the main characters, the supporting cast, the location is developed. The overarching plot is hinted at and pretty-much kicked off through the events of the first novel.

    Perhaps you could try following that model?
  5. Mckk

    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

    Dec 30, 2010
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    I don't understand the obsession with writing series. Almost every first time writer on this forum want to write a series, from their first ever novel. What's up with that? What's wrong with a stand alone novel?

    Frankly it seems like you don't have a story that's complex or long enough to sustain a series. Write everything that you have as a stand alone novel - as just ONE book. And to be honest, if the story allows for more development even after you've told the first story, then write a sequel. There's nothing to stop you doing that. And after the sequel if there's still more to tell, then write the third book. What I mean is, write it as though it's going to be just one book, and if there's more story to tell later, then add books.

    But don't plan for a series and then stretch the story just so it could cover X number of books. You'll end up filling it up with pages of scenary and random songs like the films of The Hobbit! Write only as much as it takes to actually tell the story you want to tell.
    123456789, chicagoliz and stevesh like this.
  6. BayView

    BayView Contributor Contributor

    Sep 6, 2014
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    I think you're right to be concerned, OP. If your first book doesn't have a satisfying, complete plot line, it will be hard to sell. And if the series takes a dramatically different direction and tone after the first book, that will ALSO be hard to sell.

    It sounds like you have an outline that worked for you before you started to write - have you deviated from that outline? Would it be possible for you to get back to it?

    In terms of the tremendous amount of work you've put in already - it honestly sounds like you're just getting started. Being a quarter done the first draft of the first book in a series? A small fraction of what you're going to have to do, eventually. So take the time to redo it, if needed, to ensure that all your other work isn't wasted.
  7. chicagoliz

    chicagoliz Contributor Contributor

    May 30, 2012
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    Like Mckk, I've never understood why so many authors start out wanting to write a series.

    The way I see it, you need to go ahead and write your WHOLE story. Write everything that you want to write about these characters, because the more time you spend with them, the more you will understand and know them. You'll be able to figure out what they do, their motivations, and what makes sense for them. Go ahead and write it all down -- everything, all your characters, how the larger plot emerges from what these characters do and what happens to them. Even if it ends up at 900K words.

    Then the hard work begins. That's the editing. You'll find that you can cull a LOT of stuff. Just because something is cut, doesn't mean that the time spent writing it was wasted. The time spent was, in fact, very valuable. Because now you understand and know your characters. You may find that your plot has evolved in ways you didn't expect.

    What you have to do first is just go ahead and write that story that's in you. Don't worry at the outset how long it is or how many books it takes to tell the story (really, each book needs to be self-contained, anyway). Write it all and see what you've got. Until then you won't know for sure whether your plot is sufficient or whether your character development can carry it's weight.
    Mckk likes this.
  8. maskedhero

    maskedhero Active Member

    May 4, 2013
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    I say write this story completely, make sure it has a plot, and finish it...it may end up part of the series, or it may end up standing on its own...that's just how these things work sometimes.


    If the main story doesn't happen in the first book, maybe this shouldn't be the first book?
    VMLawrence5 likes this.
  9. VMLawrence5

    VMLawrence5 New Member

    Jan 12, 2015
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    San Diego CA
    I am having a similar problem. This is what I think I will do to fix it. I decided to take the storyline from a middle piece of my series, and write it as a stand alone; then I can reintegrate and hint at the past and future elements that I want addressed in the other books. That way I will have enough action and drive forward for the book to push the story on and yet there will be back story too. Also you might find that your story has a more focused edge if it lands in the middle of the plot and you are playing a little bit of catchup for the reader.
    DaveOlden likes this.
  10. jannert

    jannert Member Supporter Contributor

    Mar 7, 2013
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    Actually, unlike some people who seem to want to 'write a series' but can't get off the ground, you seem to have thought yours through pretty well. However, as others pointed out, you do need to craft a stand-alone book as the start of your series. Or at the very least, you need to bring certain elements to a conclusion.

    I just finished reading what I thought was a very enjoyable fantasy book that's the first in a series of three. It's Joe Abercrombie's Half a King. Again, it deals with a young protagonist and what happens to set him on his way into the overall story arc. Like your protagonist, Abercrombie's protagonist is still a young man when this book ends as well, and his journey through life is just beginning. But the story is exciting, many surprises appear, and it reaches a satisfying conclusion on its own. We know there is a lot more to come, and many still-unresolved issues, but it doesn't end on a cliffhanger.

    You could do worse than get hold of a copy and read it. It's a quick read ...most people only take a day or two to finish it, and it moves along at a great clip. I'm already looking forward to the next installment, which will be released soon. But it is a stand-alone story, too, and the immediate problems raised at the start of the book are now resolved.
  11. Dunning Kruger

    Dunning Kruger Active Member

    Oct 24, 2014
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    I'll go with the obvious references.

    If you read the first Harry Potter book you can see how it would stand alone as a book. You would miss a lot of the character development as we barely get to know any of the characters outside of Harry, Ron, and the Dursleys. Hermione has an important role but only for a third of the book and you barely see Dumbledore outside of a few key scenes. You can see nuggets where Rowling clearly wants to write more and leaves foreshadow for future stories. But if that was all JK Rowling wrote, it would stand up as a book. Star Wars - A New Hope stands up as a one off movie. Yeah, Vader gets away at the end leaving things open for a sequel. But the movie was a complete story in and of itself. Point being, two of the biggest series of all times started off with a singular story with the hopes of making a series.

    If you are sure you want to go with a series, you might want to wait to build out some of the character stories until the later books. You need characterization later too. Also, it creates space for you to tighten the plot of the first story since you can let characters remain in the background or periphery. Good luck with the effort.

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