Connect the Dots: Outlines for Sequels

“One! Two! Four!”

“Three, sir,”

“Three!”        – Monty Python and the Holy Grail

I have a difficult time with math. Maybe it’s because there is only one right answer, and if you can’t find it, you are wrong. Or maybe it’s simply uninteresting to me, (when I finish this problem, what have I accomplished? It’s just a lot of numbers that don’t amount to anything. Whine whine whine, complain complain complain. Can’t I read a book instead? – excerpt from Jennifer’s childhood-through-college). This dislike somehow got transferred onto following story outlines: something about needing to follow it step by step (because that’s what it says and I’m an OCD list follower, to my detriment sometimes) really irritates me.

On the other hand, I do like puzzles, and I have always enjoyed taking information and rearranging it, or expounding on it. I love it best when all the pieces come into place, leaving you a little awed that all those minor parts created something really cool. If you combine the two emotions (extreme dislike of following outlines, but a desire for all arcs to flow correctly and all details to connect with something), you will have my sentiments on outlines. Good things to have, irritating things to follow.

When I take breaks from editing my current project, I spend time developing the plot for the next book in the series. Writing outlines for sequels is a little different than writing one for a fresh story. First of all, there are details that have already been set by the previous book. If it’s a tightly knit sequel, then there are characters that have already been formed, settings that have been introduced, etc. Since this outline is the birth of the third book in this series, there is a lot I have already created that just needs to be plopped in conveniently. There are also extending story arcs and cliffhangers that I know need to be addressed. However, there is also an inconvenient side to sequels. “Didn’t this already happen?”

Coming up with new subplots for this is a real drag. “Just how many times could I have a situation like that occur without it being too repetitive? I could do this…oh wait, I’ve already done something just like that…I could write something like X…but I’m not too confident in my writing skills to depict that…grrrr.” Truly a drag. The fastest remedy to this is the Who Wants to Be a Millionaire option PHONE A FRIEND. A bantering brainstorming chat is just what I need to get myself out of the empty-hat empty-mind doldrums and on the track to fresh ideas.

Once I have a few ideas of what is going to happen in the story, I starting listing them off on paper. Once I have them all down, I start linking them together in a probable timeline. It feels like playing connect the dots: “this goes here, and this would come after that…oh, that could fit here.” The end result (7 times out of 10) is a loose outline that will serve to give me an overall picture of the story. Nothing too tight or nitpicky (to ease that math/list following part of my mind) but clear enough to point me in the direction I want to take.

Now, onward to write….oh, I still have to finished editing the previous one, huh? Sigh.

1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Laurie
    Apr 30, 2011 @ 02:31:58

    Hmm, plot lines for a sequel? That’s always enjoyable – but kind of hard when the “sequel” is really the first story! After spending many hours of writing out THE BOOK TWO – which is now like what book 5 or 6 Jen? – being able to keep the basic plot is a good thing.

    I do like the Phone-a-Frend option, and it tends to help with the creative process, and side tracks, and inside jokes, and late nights….need I go on?

    I love the blog keep it up!


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