The real worry of any big three volume (or larger) book series is when it’s in the writer’s head. It’s the massiveness of the thing. The complexity. Most authors are intimidated, really, to attack such a piece and make it, well, actually a written story. So it stays in their head. And in various notepads and computers. A dream without expression.
Yeah, that’s going nowhere.
We attack this problem like every other challenge of the overwhelmingly large variety:
Q: How do you eat an elephant?
The answer is, ONE bite at a time.
So you take your notes and you take your story and you put it in a folder, but you lay out an outline of how this giant narrative unfolds. Doesn’t matter the order, per se, just how you want it to come out to the reader.
There could be a 10 page outline or a 10 sentence outline of the story of Cinderella, depending on what you need in the outline:
A little girl’s mom dies,
Her dad remarries then he dies,
The stepmom is evil and cruel,
A fairy godmother intervenes,
The girl meets the prince,
There is some confusion about a shoe,
The prince and the girl ultimately end up together and live happily ever after.
That’s the 20,000 feet outline.
Boil your outline down to its bare bones and it’ll fit on a page or less. We’ll get into details later.
THEN, and this is the tough part, pick ONE small section of that massive story that’s in your head and just tell that mini-story. Pick a tiny piece of the mini story and do that piece in 3000 words or less. Then let’s look at that. So, you may have many sections that could be their own book. The goal is to make one fully formed chapter from one of those books – not rough or raw – oh, and it needs to be SHORT. 3,000 words or less. Baby steps, so you and your intended reader can get to know each other before you demand a big wedding with seventeen bridesmaids and a family of nine kids and a vacation condo in the mountains.
Next, let somebody read it.
Just the little 3,000 word piece, in case that wasn’t clear. And without any rambling prologue or explanations from you.
JUST the 3,000 word piece.
People will understand that there’s more to the story that came before and that come after; that’s no big deal. They don’t need to know everything to enjoy most of a 3000 word piece, so don’t tell them everything.
I’m no Star Wars geek, but it’s a good way to understand taking a big project and breaking it down into manageable pieces. When George Lucas first wrote what would become Star Wars, it was this entire big saga that he wanted to make as one movie in a few hours running time. It was too big for that (that’s obvious now, six or eight Star Wars movies later). They kept telling him to find a smaller piece and a smaller piece until he decided on what he called “Episode IV, A New Hope.” That became the original Star Wars movie that came out in 1977.
You remember, the REAL one. The one that didn’t suck.
That’s what you’re trying to do. Start with a small piece that can be its own story/book, and then write one fully formed chapter of it.
That may be some hard work but it’ll bear good fruit, I’m sure. And if you make an outline you’ll stay on track for where everything is supposed to go.
You won’t go veering off in new directions all the time. As those particular new idea itches come up, make a note about what a great thing it would be if XYZ happened, and stick ‘em in a file. Otherwise you have 10,000 great ideas and zero books written.
Baby steps. Start small and build. That’s how a massive mansion gets made, or a mighty oak tree comes from a small acorn.
Or how a massively huge intimidating saga in your head gets written.
Resolve to eat your elephant one bite at a time.
Now go get ‘em, Binkie!