Today, I have invited Louise Blankenship, to my site to share with us, how she developed her series, "Disciple". With the recent release of Book IV in the series, I believe Louise has an abundance of insightful knowledge and experience to share. Please make Louise welcome and I hope you will benefit from her valuable knowledge.
About this author
L. Blankenship started writing animal stories as a kid and it's just gotten completely out of hand since then. Now she's out publishing her gritty fantasy and hard science fiction adventures. L grew up in New Hampshire but currently lives near Washington, DC.
Developing a series: plotting plus pantsing
Whenever I'm asked "Plotter or pantser?" I can honestly say: plotter. I have a daily writing habit, and I need to have the night's scenes planned out and prepared before I sit down to write them. Likewise, I have a fairly detailed outline of the book on hand which gets filled out with even more details as I work my way through writing it, day by day.
However, when it comes to developing a six-book series like Disciple -- I was much closer to pantsing than to plotting. On the macro scale, at least. Development is an organic process of story growth, for me. Not trying to chop it down to fit a mould. Not trying to bend it to my will until it breaks.
When I started Disciple, Part I, I knew these things for certain: there was a war, there was a love triangle, and they were entangled enough that they'd follow the same tension rollercoaster right to the end. I knew that I wanted my characters to be proactive and capable enough to put up a good fight against the enemy, and that the enemy would be powerful and ruthless enough to beat them down in spite of that.
Most importantly, I wanted my heroine to have prime agency in her story. My betas said the same thing: she has to make a choice, to resolve the love triangle. If one of the two boys were killed, or randomly turned into an asshole, or was otherwise removed from the equation, that would not be her making a choice. That would be the author wimping out on having to write a potentially devastating scene.
What that scene was, I had no idea when I started Part I. I only had a sketch of what would happen at the end of Part II, of Part IV, and a vague idea of Part VI which I pretty much tossed once I got to #4.
In my experience, it's not unusual to get half or three-quarters of the way into a story and realize the sketched ending won't work. What's important then is to listen to the characters, both heroes and villains, about what needs to happen. I was worried about getting my big, dramatic ending for Disciple but once I sat down with my love triangle and the villain, and worked out the details, I realized that the drama would be a quieter moment than I expected, but it still had power.
As I worked my way through the beginning of Disciple, logical consequences and reactions to events began to sprout in the future outlines, like stockade forts on a moving frontier. Those became integral structures as the story caught up to them. When I faced that re-planning of the ending after Part IV, those landmarks became especially important.
I worked out the general shape of the climactic scene of Part VI while I was writing Part IV. Doing that helped me sketch out the path that would be needed to get there. The exact details proved difficult to pin down -- as my betas can attest, by the structural changes that happened to #5 and #6 in the revision process. Things got a bit messy with all the red ink.
But it all came together. That potentially devastating scene? Wrote it. That big dramatic climax? Wrote it. They weren't what I thought they would be, but the betas gave me a thumbs-up. So while I'm mostly a plotter who works out everything in advance, there's something to be said for pantsing your way through a series too.
Back cover of Disciple, Part IV
Kate can’t avoid the simple truth any longer; as much as she loves Kiefan, he’s now the king and his duties leave him precious little time for her and their newborn son. Kate’s husband Anders, the ne’er-do-well knight, is the one who kisses her cheek every morning and soothes the baby to sleep on his shoulder.
Kiefan’s protective jealousy still casts a shadow over her life. He would gladly throw Anders to the wolves if it will keep alliance negotiations from collapsing. Their homeland desperately needs these allies against the invading Empire. The kingdom barely survived the first wave of the enemy’s monstrous army and more is to come.
But Kate can’t stand by and let Anders become a victim — or let Kiefan suspect she’s falling in love with her husband.
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