How To Plan Out A Series

One of the most popular ways to write fantasy is through a series. Readers enjoy series because it offers them a chance to stick with the same characters over an extended period of time. They get to watch them evolve through a series of events and become very attached to their survival and happiness. Series keep us on edge every moment, waiting for the next book to come out or waiting for the final conclusion. If you’re thinking about writing a series of your own, here are a few tips to help you out.

Step One: Map Out Your Plot

One of the most important things about writing a great series is making sure that your story can be carried over several books. Now if you’re just starting out with an idea, it can seem like a lot to think about right off the bat. But if you’re looking to plan a series, I imagine you have at least some basic idea of what major events happen when. Use those to understand whether you’ve got enough story.

Think about how many books you want to write. There’s no magic number (although three is quite popular); each story idea is unique. Remember, each book needs to have its own plot arc: a clear purpose that is worked towards over the course of the novel definitively fulfilled at the end. Then on top of that, each book needs to contribute to the overall series arc. The series arc itself also has its own purpose that must be worked towards at each stage. If you can see all of these main elements, congratulations! Your idea has enough substance to write a series.

Step Two: Get To Know Your Characters

I talk all the time about getting to know your characters on an intimate level. I’ve suggested creating character profiles and conducting an in depth interview with your character. When writing a series, this is especially crucial.

Over the course of your books, you’re going to be playing around with multiple important characters and multiple big character arcs. Outside of your main character, several secondary characters are going to have significant arcs that will influence the story. In each book, your main character will go through a change. You have to clearly see that change each time you pick up the next book and introduce a new change that will begin to play out. Your secondary characters will evolve over the course of the series, and each book doesn’t have to have a specific change for them.

In order to accomplish this, you need to absorb your characters’ personalities, motivations, and goals. You need to know them better than you know yourself. Using the tools I’ve linked above will assist you.

Step Three: Consider your world.

Your worldbuilding will need to be detailed enough for your readers to learn new places and new details each time they pick up an installment. Think about the Harry Potter universe and how expansive it is, how J.K. Rowling introduced us to new places and magical aspects every time we picked up one of her books. Take the time to ask questions about your world and dive deep into everything from geography down to individual family life. Your magic system will also need to be built to last as it will be a crucial backbone as your characters move throughout your fantastical universe. Dream as big as you want.

Are you ready to start? Happy writing!

Worldbuilding: Mapmaking

When you’re worldbuilding, creating a map for your world can be helpful in seeing how kingdoms, cities, and towns fit together. Especially if your novel involves some sort of journey, a map can show you the logical paths to take to your characters’ destinations. A map adds an element of reality to your world and will absolutely make you feel like you’re getting somewhere.

Now, you can get into all types of mapmaking software that will allow you to customize every detail to your desire. But why get into spending money and learning how a software works with complicated instruction manuals that will take you at least a few days to learn the basics? My recommendation is getting a pen and paper or if you prefer, opening up a PowerPoint document and going to town.

Let’s begin.

Step 1: Understand the regions of your world.

Before you start mapping your universe, you need to understand how the world is broken up. Do you have multiple realms that you need to take into account? How many kingdoms or states do you have? How are those divided up: cities, towns, villages? You also want to make note of main geographical features that may divide up your land as well. Mountains, rivers, and forests can divide land or encircle it in such ways that can be important notes in your book. Go back to your notes from my Worldbuilding Questions series for help.

Step 2: Decide how to represent each place.

If you’re a fantastic artist who can draw beautiful buildings and detailed trees and mountain sides, you can skip over this section. If you’re like me and can’t really draw to save your life, you’re going to want to come up with some simple icons to represent your regions whether you’re drawing by hand or creating by computer. In terms of my PowerPoint, I used clipart of small houses to represent villages, a town hall to represent towns, and a group of skyscrapers to represent cities. Triangles became mountains, and blue lines became rivers. Make sure you write down your key so you’ll know what your icons stand for when you go back to edit your manuscript six months later.

Step 3: Create.

Once you’ve got all the logistical brainstorming out of the way, it’s time to create! Plan on spending at least an hour or two on your map even if you’re working with simple icons. This is a real opportunity to ground yourself in your world before you write your story. Really enjoy the process of creating your map. It’s fun!

Examples: The Three Realms

The Upper Realm
The Middle Realm
The Lower Realm

Happy mapmaking!

Going Back to the Beginning: A Lesson in Revisions

Hey everybody! On Monday, I finished up my last exam and my last paper, and I am officially finished with my freshman year! I can’t believe this year has gone by so fast. It feels like just a few weeks ago, I was moving into my freshman dorm, and now I’m trying to move out! I swear moving in was a lot easier.

My thoughts are a little jumbled right now due to me being a little under the weather. But I wanted to make sure I put out something solid for you all to read. So, I want to talk a little more in detail about the work I’ve been doing over the last couple weeks on the novel.

Revisions

At the advice of a very handy revision guide (linked here for reference; I will most likely do an article on this later), I decided to break down my novel into chapter summaries. Basically for each chapter, I made notes about which characters were featured, where the scene takes place, and the important plot points. This serves as a really great tool to understand everything that is going on in the book without rereading the whole thing every time you want to make changes. Note: You should still frequently read the whole book when you do make changes; but right off the bat, I’ve found this to be a good first step.

After this, the revision guide provided me with a multitude of questions to identify the main structural edits that my book desperately needs. I really loved working through them. They gave me the best information I needed to identify what needed to be done. Sometimes it’s very hard to formulate these questions on my own without any direction. With these, I made a list of about 25 major/moderate structural changes that needed to be made.

25 seems like a lot to me. The guide recommended listing 20 for your first pass, but I’ve never been able to do anything with limitations xD. Now, once the list is made, the guide recommends to go ahead and start revising. But… I felt like I really wasn’t prepared to do that yet. Two of my biggest fixes were as follows: make character development bigger and much clearer and incorporate more worldbuilding throughout. I didn’t feel like I had all the tools necessary to revise in the best way.

So I went all the way back to the beginning. Back to my ten months worth of research and notes from before I wrote this novel in November. I hadn’t visited them in great detail in a decent amount of time, so it was long overdue. I worked with the character interview questionnaire alongside my character profiles so I could work with both my basic original ideas and have inspiration to build off of them.

I focused on Grace and Aiden for now as they are the most prevalent in the novel. I plan on working with other characters as I revise as they pop up in the story. Grace has become a fuller character: retaining her stubborn and passionate nature while mixing in a few more character flaws, fears, and somewhat of a softer heart underneath. Aiden has completely reverted back to my original intention for the character that did not come across at all in the current draft. He plays a little more fast and loose and is driven by a strong desire for adventure. His regrets in his life will hopefully come more into play as well as he develops.

What Happens Now?

Now that I’m finished with character development for the time being, I plan on working a bit with each of the locations. As much as I talk about worldbuilding, I need to revisit mine and create more descriptive details that can be readily incorporated when I need them. Especially in the Middle Realm: that area has not been as planned out as I would like.

So because of all this, my timeline has shifted significantly. I plan on spending the entire summer in revisions. A second beta read will be pushed to either late July or August, depending on how efficiently I revise once I’m ready. I won’t be querying until potentially September or October. As much as I am a little disappointed that I wasn’t able to start looking for literary agents this summer, it is more important that the book is in its best possible condition before being judged. I believe it will make the process go quicker at the end of the day. I want my novel to be strong. So I will put in the time.

Worldbuilding Questions: Post #6 – Magic and Magicians, Part Two

Welcome back, creators! It’s been a while since I posted an article on worldbuilding, so today, I want to finish up talking about building your magic system. This is going to be another complicated one, so hang in there! By the end of this, you should have a fleshed out magic system that will support your story as it moves along.

Remember: we’re using this link! If you’re looking for part one of this section on magic, please follow this link to start your magical system.

How does magic fit into the overall universe? Is it considered a profession or an art form? How are magic users viewed in society? Is there a stereotype that surrounds them? How does organized religion view magic, if applicable?

One thing to consider is whether magic users are organized politically or as a society and how that organization is structured. In my book, the entire Upper Realm is made up of Fae, and the nobility are the only overarching hierarchy above the average man. However, in your story, you may have various magical races that may all be organized differently. It’s really entirely up to you; the possibilities are endless. But do consider how magic factors into politics because wow, can that get messy! (In a good way!)

I’m going to skip ahead a bit because I believe that this section of the questionnaire is fairly self explanatory. A lot of it goes over subsets of the points I mentioned above or were included in the previous worldbuilding post. So now, we’re going to confront magic’s relationship with technology. This area of worldbuilding is a really great spot to embellish. Starting with magic transportation, everyone’s favorite concept. Flying brooms, magic carpets, dragons, teleportation spells, the world is wide open for you, really. While I didn’t include any of these forms in my story (at the moment), I agree that it is one of my favorite things to imagine about. Don’t forget to consider the negative side effects of magical travel!

How are weapons affected by magic? Can they be fused with magic, or does some property of the weapon impact its ability to utilize magical properties? Does warfare include the use of magical spells in battle? What does that look like? I’m still exploring this area myself. I’ve always enjoyed reading books that include high-stakes battles, but writing one with magic swirling about feels way too complex to tackle at the moment.

How does magic replace what we know in our world as modern technology? What can magic improve on in everyday objects? This is a little nitpicky, so feel free to only elaborate slightly or moderately.

This last section is a bunch of miscellaneous questions that don’t fall under the categories above, but may be useful to you shaping your world. These questions include points about the legality of magic, magical research, magical artifacts, and healing, to name a few. They also, oddly enough, delve into more detail about magic’s role in politics. The last question is one of my favorites: magic’s relationship with the art. I’m a big proponent of the arts and to think of how perhaps emotional magic could set into a song or painting is an incredibly inspiring thought.

I hope you all enjoyed today’s article. Stay tuned for more from this worldbuilding series!

Worldbuilding Questions: Post #5 – Magic and Magicians: Rules of Magic

At the request of a new reader to the blog, I want to push out another worldbuilding post today! We’re going to begin diving deep into the building of a magic system, and trust me, its going to get interesting. I know exactly how complex this particular part of a universe can get; I’m just finishing wrapping up the finer details of my own magic system, so I’ve been working in this mode for at least two weeks in two separate periods.

Magic systems take time. That’s what it comes down. Building a magic system from the ground up takes time, especially if you want it done right. And you do because it’s going to be the foundation of your entire universe. Whether magic plays a main role or a supporting role, a fantastical universe will always be held in tether with some type of magic. Patience and attention to detail are key.

Let’s get started! Follow this link to the appropriate page.

Magic: Building a Foundation

Very first question, probably the most important question of all time. What can magic NOT do? What are your limits? This is key; take some real time thinking about this. Make a list. Make it reasonable. When my boyfriend and I were going over my magic system, he kept bringing up these tiny holes, the most nitpicky scenarios of all time, to point out flaws. That’s what he does; I’m not bitter about it. Okay, maybe a tiny bit bitter. I mean, EVERY nitpicky scenario you can think of. But what it did make me realize is that I needed to curtail my magic much more than I had originally anticipated. Not just on a large scale, but on a smaller scale too.

Once you’ve established limits, now you’re going to establish how magic users try to get around these limits. Is there a way of combining spells that have a similar effect as a spell forbidden by your system? Is there a loophole that you particularly need to be exploited during a scene? This can be as simple or as complex as you’d like, just like your limits.

Now to focus on the price of magic. Magic has to come from somewhere; it cannot occur spontaneously unless you want your system to be flimsy. It won’t hold up without at least a leg to stand on. So establish whether it takes years of study to master magic or whether a user uses a bit of their life force every time they use a spell. Then just as above, is there any way magic users try to get around this price?

Let’s talk about how a user can tap into their magic power. What does it take to do that? Can they tap into their willpower to cast a spell? Is there any type of ritual? Is every spell individually cast with different processes or is it all the same? What’s the time frame on a particular spell? Can spells be temporarily stored for later use in amulets or potions?

An Important Step

I want to digress from the questionnaire for a moment because I want to hone in on a step that I feel this questionnaire doesn’t go into enough detail about. A little bit further down this section, you’ll see a few questions based on the varieties of magic practiced. You see one, maybe two questions regarding this topic and then nothing else.

I feel like this is a mistake that this questionnaire makes; it doesn’t give a young writer or a new fantasy writer enough of a basis to know how to build the varieties of magic they want in their story. Don’t get me wrong, this is the best worldbuilding questionnaire out there, but even the best can make some mistakes.

My advice: stop your progress here and take a few days to write down everything you want to be able to do in your story in terms of magic. Add things later as they arise. Organize it. Make it easy for you to read and comprehend, no matter how complex it may be. If you can easily understand it, your readers will understand it.

Here is a fantastic link to start with. This is an article that comprehensively covers the different types of magic. Be prepared to be inspired by magic you didn’t even know existed, let alone had a name for it.

I think this is a good place to stop for today; I hope I’ve given you a lot to start with. Signing off!

Worldbuilding Questions: Post #4 – History of the World

Welcome back to another post in my worldbuilding series! Today, I’m going to be guiding you through building the history of your world. We’re going to cover both the broad history  and the specific history of the setting of your story, if applicable.

Now why history? Why think about your world in perspective from the past when your story is set in a present time?

Every event that occurs throughout the course of your story is based in something that happened prior. Whether on a smaller or larger scale, the conditions of your inciting incident occurred because the pieces all lined up at the precise moment. While maybe all points and questions don’t apply, many will help you shape your world and your story simultaneously.

Remember that we’re working off of this link.

World History

First, we’re going to start with ancient history. We’re looking at where the beginning of written record began and what kind of old tales and historical legends are available. These will give you a basis of how much time civilization has existed as well as some historical events that impact your story.

Then we’re going to actually backtrack and revisit a little further back in history: the beginning of civilization. This question is more to track the spread of people across an area. Where towns and cities built up and why. Proximity to natural resources would be necessary, but what about magic? Did magic affect the way people migrated and settled down?

We then move on to one of the most intriguing parts of a world’s history: relationships. If you’re working with a world that has different countries or realms or kingdoms, what are their relationships to each other? You will need to establish alliances, rivals, and trading partners. Relationships between entities such as these could be very crucial to the way your story pans out, especially those planning on introducing a war. If wars play a role in your story, what conflicts in the recent past have left hard feelings amongst participants?

Don’t forget to think about what languages people speak! Whether it’s one or multiple, you could potentially create development of various cultures and how they have spread out across your world over time.

Specific Histories

The next set of questions will only be applicable if you’re working with specific countries or kingdoms within a larger universe. It’s based primarily on comparing one to all of the others. How accessible is this area to outsiders? What kind of resources does it enjoy? What kind of weaponry and defense systems are in place? That specific question is important for establishing the balance of power in an area. Where are the closest rivals?

History is made up of important figures as well. Are there any specific historical heroes or villains in your story that may come up? I know that in my story, the beginning of modern day Fae history starts with the sacrifice of an incredibly powerful Fae queen.

The last questions consider resources and trade, which I will go into more detail with in a later article on the economy.

I hope you all have continued to enjoy this series of worldbuilding specifics and will continue to follow the series. Comment below with any and all questions about worldbuilding!

World Anvil: Back to the Beginning

As I have enjoyed my vacation over the last few days, I’ve found myself thinking a lot about where to improve my novel. Of course, the best ideas always come when you’re actively trying to leave things alone for a while. I’ve come to the conclusion that I need to incorporate more worldbuilding into my story, particularly when it comes to magic interacting with everyday life. Now, I’ve had a solid magic system built since I started worldbuilding, but details have either escaped me over time or have been written down across a bunch of documents I have no organization for. Many of my other elements are like this as well: useful but disorganized.

This is why I think it’s time for me to revert back to a tool that I discovered during the process of worldbuilding and experimented with on and off for a couple months.

Writers, may I present to you, World Anvil.

World Anvil is an online set of tools designed for writers, artists, and RPG creators alike and the worldbuilding process. This website has a lot of great components to help you make the most out of your research and efforts.

The site has templates with worldbuilding prompts to help you create your world and explore the relationship between places, characters, and laws. You can connect entries to each other to build complex families and systems. World Anvil also has features for map building and timeline creation (a feature I would highly reccomend; it did wonders when looking at my universe’s history).

You essentially have the ability to create an entire encyclopedia for your world that you can refer back to over and over again as you write.

A free plan will get you all of the basic features you need and a decent amount of space to store things. Of course, if you want to put a little money into it, you can get things like more storage and extra features. But pretty much everything you need is encompassed by a free plan.

So as I head into next week, I have plans to hop on World Anvil again and see if I can’t straighten my world out. It can only improve my writing, right?

Until next time, friends. <3

Worldbuilding Questions: Post #3: Physical Features

Welcome back! It’s been a while since I posted a worldbuilding post, so I wanted to come back to help out my fellow writers! Tonight, I want to talk about building the physical aspects of your world. This is CRUCIAL to any well-written fantasy story for several reasons. Now, the importance of physical aspects should be obvious, especially if you’re covering a wide area of your world through your writing.

If you need a refresher on the link I’m working from, click here!

Now to start off, you need to determine how much ground your story is going to cover. Are we operating in the context of a singular town, or are we traveling all across a realm? This is going to determine the detail of which you craft individual areas as well as the full universe as a whole.

Next, let’s talk about climate. What does the climate look like in various areas of your universe? Is it consistent everywhere (could be an interesting concept to play with)? What areas have the best climate for farming? Which areas have a climate that makes them inhabitable? How do the differences between your universe and our Earth affect your world’s climate (for example, having multiple suns)?

Now for the fun part! Building the landscape. Anything you can think of is fair game. Mountain ranges, valleys, plains, deserts, islands, rivers, oceans, lakes, forests, ponds: and that’s just the tip of the iceberg (ooh, maybe some sort of ice land mass?). What areas have the most fertile farmland? That question is going to be important for establishing economies. Certain areas are going to have economies that are fueled by cash crops and others that have to import those crops to feed their people.

Where are natural resources located? Various minerals, valuable assets like gold and diamonds, industrial assets like oil and coal, where can you find those? What economies are going to benefit by having proximity to those resources? Where are water resources running through? Is it freshwater? Salt water? Is there any sort of water purification system in place for places that don’t have access to the purest water source? What are those water sources used for primarily? Drinking water, irrigation, used to run things like a mill wheel? Think about how that affects the people of your fantasy communities.

Once you’ve addressed the questions above, among a few others in the questionnaire, you’re going to have a really good idea of the physical aspects of your world. Of course, you’re going to need to refine these basic ideas into something a little more detailed. Remember, throughout this whole process, we’re getting you ready to communicate your world effectively in your story through description. Knowing more about your universe is better than knowing less.

I hope you guys enjoyed this week’s edition of Worldbuilding Questions! Stay tuned for Post #4 where I’ll go over building the history of your universe!

Worldbuilding Questions: Post #2 – The World

As promised, I am starting my Worldbuilding questionnaire walk through off with a bang! Today, we’re going to be looking at the first section of questions, which encompasses the most basic questions about the world you want to create. I want to give you just an overview of the questions (because obviously, you can go to the link and read them yourself), but I also want to give a bit of commentary about why these details are important when crafting your fantasy universe.

Section A: Basics

When I started using this questionnaire, the very first question took me a while to think about. You wouldn’t necessarily think about whether the laws of nature and physics still applied as your first step. I actually had to go look up what these laws were (I don’t do science very well. >.<) But believe it or not, your universe could entirely flip on its head (perhaps even literally) due to changes like these. Does gravity apply? Do the laws of motion apply? Where does magic fit in? Are the laws different because magic exists, or is magic limited by these principles? This will start you thinking about the limitations of your magic system, which we will get to in a later article.

Then you need to make a decision about what type of world this is: an earth-like world or not like Earth at all? This not only will decide which sections of questions you look at next, but it is also going to affect things related to suns and moons, shape of the world, and terrain.

Next is the basics about people! Or non-people, if that’s your preference! These questions are meant to establish the main players in your story. Elves, Fae, dwarfs, demons, sprites, mortals, and many, many more magical creatures can grace the pages of your story, and establishing who those are early on can make things easier for you later. Marking the differences between these types in terms of habitats, living conditions, and magic now can also be useful in formatting your terrain, cities, and your magic system in later worldbuilding.

Finally, you’re going to create a very basic outline of the magic system in your universe.

  1. Where does magic come from?
  2. How much magic is available?
  3. What are the long term effects of magic on a magic user?
  4. What are the differences between magic among different races/species, if any?

Very simple questions to start off. No details yet. However, if you look at them, you can see why this author chose to include them in the basics category. The very existence of magic has to have been established somehow, whether it’s during the timeline of your story or thousands and thousands of years before.

Section B: Alternate Earth

Writers who view their universe has being an alternate version of our Earth should take note of this section. Here, you will establish where fantasy diverts away from history. How similar are the histories and cultures of our planet in comparison with yours? What makes them different? Is there a specific point in time where our knowledge of our world ends and yours begins? If not, show where things diverge slowly over time through everyday life changes. If magic exists, how have the inhabitants of Earth been unaware of it this whole time? This set of questions works particularly well for historical fantasy.

Section C: Not Earth At All

Everyone else! Join me! My universe, the Three Realms, falls under this category. You will find that this set of questions is not focused on history and culture (we will get to that later), but instead on the physical aspects of your world. Obviously, we need to establish shape, terrain, and celestial bodies (if any) circling around your world. I didn’t realize it until after I had already built my universe (which only has one sun and moon) how much it would affect aspects like the wind, the tides, and the weather if I had chosen to add something like a second moon. If you set the moons on the same side, the tides would be thrown completely out of whack. If the moons were on opposite sides of your universe, could you create an ocean that stays still? Lots of interesting things to think about.

Comment below with any questions or ideas about your own fantasy universe! I’ll see you next time where we’ll be discussing physical and historical features.

Chasing Fae: A Summary

This website will be more than just a place for writers to learn and perfect the craft of fantasy writing. I want to introduce the world in which my novel, Chasing Fae, will be set: The Three Realms. It’s definitely evolving as I write, but the major pieces will remain the same. I want to bring you, my readers, into the fold of a world that until this very moment, has only been in my imagination and on the pages of a Google Docs document. I am working weaving in a lot of details as I move forward with revisions, but of course, I won’t be able to weave in every single aspect without the writing feeling like a bunch of infodumping (which is something you want to avoid and will be touched upon in a later post).

I want my audience to be absorbed in my world before the book even releases (and before it’s even picked up by an agent). It would be a great indicator if my story is worth telling. 

First, however, I should probably explain what my novel is about. Below is my current query summary. Let me know if it’s any good in the comments below. (Summary Updated July 11th, 2019)

Chasing Fae

Grace Richardson is a young mortal woman whose only concerns are providing for her family, playing her violin, and spending as much time as possible with her brother, Leo. When Leo goes into service in the Fae’s world as a mercenary, she expects him to return with the honor that he deserves.

When Leo suddenly dies in an unspecified accident, not a word, medal, or penny comes down from the higher ups. Suspecting foul play, Grace disguises herself as a Fae and sneaks into the Upper Realm to get some answers. She anticipated being in way over her head, but the Fae soldier who catches her fleeing an angry bar and discovers her identity only a day in? Not so much.

Now Grace is forced to drag Aiden along as she tries to work out exactly how and why her brother died. Along the way, she has no choice but to confront her prejudices against the Fae as she attempts to sort out the difference between the honest and the dishonest. Political conspiracies, demon realm escapades, and family secrets will all lead Grace to the answers she’s looking for… and some that she isn’t.