I’ve never been the kind of writer that plans my story before I take to the computer. Typically, I have an idea for a story, along with how I’d like it to turn out, and I sit down and begin typing. It’s as I type that the story unfolds.
For a standalone novel, this hasn’t been a detrimental strategy. With one story, it’s a lot easier to keep track of the characters and events. Lately, I’m finding that it doesn’t work with serial writing. More books in a series means more is going on. That makes it easy for the details to get lost as I go deeper into the series.
While I might forget the details, the readers won’t. Readers are as emotionally invested in the characters as the authors are. They feel a sense of kinship with these characters. The term “book boyfriend” doesn’t exist for nothing. Being so attached to the characters means the readers remember things.
As a writer, I think I owe it to my readers to give them the best possible product. That means that not only is the copy editing tight, but the plot is strong, the characters are well developed and I don’t overlook the little things.
If I had a professional editor, it might be easier for a fresh set of objective eyes to catch the fact that in book one the character was twenty-six and in book two which was set in the same year, he was suddenly two years younger. Since I’m not in a position to employ an editor, I have to develop strategies to catch these things.
This weekend, I sat down and wrote a detailed character dossier for the male and female leads of my next story in the Taking on Love series. It wasn’t the first time I did something like this. I once had a publisher ask me to write a character outline for my main characters. I’d never done it before and didn’t see the point, but since the publisher asked for it, I wasn’t going to refuse. I wrote the outline and actually had fun doing it, but I didn’t continue the practice for future works. As of now, that has to change. Using character outlines allows me to have a written reference for those minor details that I tend to forget when I’m caught up in writing the story.
And I’m not stopping with character outlines. I’m going to be doing the plot summary and timeline of events prior to beginning work on the novel as well. This will not only keep me on track but may help nudge me along if I get stuck at any point.