I’m supposed to be writing. This was supposed to be my Writer Break, where I get to pretend like I’m a full-time writer. But here it is Thursday already and I haven’t written a single word. At least, not in any kind of story.
My head has primarily been in other people’s worlds. I’ve been a total reading addict the last week or so, with six books (that I can remember – maybe more!) finished. It’s been a struggle to get back into my own world because I’ve had so much fun in these others. My favorite has been The Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare.
Clare has totally sucked me in. Her writing is beautiful, the stories are exciting and I felt like I actually lived in the Shadowhunter world. I decided to finally pick these books up because so many people have said, “If you like The Mortal Instruments, you’ll love Promise and the Soul Savers series.” I can definitely see why they say that. They’re not alike…yet they are.
Having plowed through the three hefty books in five days, I’m starting them over. This time from a writer’s perspective. Since I started writing fiction seriously, I’ve realized that I need to do this with series, especially those I love. Knowing what happens allows me to go back and see how the author built up the story as a whole from book to book. I know this particular series isn’t over, but I love this world so much, that I feel compelled to study it in more depth.
What I have realized so far are the similarities between Clare’s world and J.K. Rowling’s. Not that The Mortal Instruments and Harry Potter have much in common, besides magic and teenage main characters. It’s how the authors have built their worlds. Rich details, languages, customs, traditions, government…etc. And how they have created – and stayed within – their created rules. These are the details that pull us into their worlds, making them feel as real and believable as our own…and making us wish they were real and we could live in them.
Additionally, in a series, each story builds upon events and experiences in previous books, with all of them adding up to one epic story. Although the story of The Mortal Instruments isn’t yet over, you can see how Clare has already done this with the first three books. And there’s no denying Rowling is a master of leading you up to that big climactic scene that is not only the climax of the last book but of the entire story.
These accomplishments, not only made by Clare and Rowling but by countless other authors of fantabulous series, don’t come accidentally. And that’s what makes my heart pound and my lungs cease up when I think about it. Because I am a pantser.
I have an understanding of the overall plot and where I’m going, I make notes when new plot elements and twists come to mind, but I don’t like to outline. It scares me. In the past, whenever I outlined in detail, I knew what would happen and lost interest in the project. With two books in my series out now, I cannot lose interest! So, yeah, I panic a little when I think about this. And I know it’s part of my writing block right now. But I have to do it.
So…I have been. I’ve been compiling my scattered notes from spiral notebooks and the computer into my world’s bible – an organized three-ring notebook that I can easily reference. I have tabs for Alexis and Tristan and minor characters. A tab for creatures, a tab for the Amadis and another for the Daemoni. And each book has a tab so that my thoughts and ideas that I’ve been writing down actually can be grouped together by book (because flipping around the spirals is frustrating!). This is where I can keep notes and keep going back to so I don’t break my own rules. Fantasy writers, especially, need such a bible.
I’ve also been fleshing out my world – its history, its mythology, the characters and creatures, etc. – to make the bible more complete. And, gasp!, I’ve been outlining. I’ve been planning the rest of the series – taking my ideas out of my head and actually putting them on paper. I’m stuck where I always get stuck when thinking about the whole series, but I’m working on it.
I’ve eased the panic by telling myself that these are very general outlines that are not set in concrete…that I can still let the characters tell me the story and it might – and probably will be – different than what I’ve planned. There were many things in The Mortal Instruments that I could see coming from a mile away, but I didn’t lose interest because I wanted to know how they would happen. It’s not about knowing the outcome – it’s experiencing the events as they unfold to get there. And that’s how I’ve allowed myself to view these outlines.
So I’ve made little – okay, none – writing progress. I’ve been discovering and getting lost in other lovely worlds, but I don’t consider it a waste at all. I’ve learned – and continue learning – from others. And building my bible has also reconnected me to my own world. I will write again. Very soon. In the meantime…back to Jace…er, I mean Clary.