Sometimes the best advice is the telling off you give yourself
Don't Start with a Blank Sheet
Okay, I admit that this sounds a bit stupid; if you haven't written anything yet then the sheet will be blank. What I mean, however, is do not sit down and say "I want to write a saga, here is a piece of paper, what happens?"
Sagas in real life are always the result of something else. A war starts because of someone getting shot or someone else is hungry. A long running family feud starts with a family. A journey starts because someone needed to leave one place and go to another and so on.
What happens before your story is directly proportional in importance and detail to the length of the story:
- With a Short story you may only need to know a character's name and what they did yesterday.
- With a Novel, you will need to know where they live, how they live and what they have thought about it for most of their life.
- With a Trilogy, you will need to know what their country is like, what the living conditions are like and something of the family history.
- With a Saga, you may need to know what has happened over the last couple of centuries!
This detail may or may not ever make it into your book, but you only need a character to mention history once, and suddenly it is there to trip you up; if your saga is a million and a half words long or so, the opportunity for falling flat on your face is huge.
So, I had invented a character called Johnson Farthing. I had already decided that he was poor, annoyed with his life and was pretty sure that a) he wanted change and b) was resigned to that never happening. Goody! But if I wasn't going to have a problem with a blank sheet of paper I better work out WHY he was who he was and WHY someone like him would be fed up.
Now, I have to confess to something rather important. I didn't do any of this. Why? Stupidity, mostly. Oh, that and I only knew about planning for a novel. I had sort of assumed that it would fall into place as I got on with the series. Indeed, so idiotic was I that I didn't do this process properly till part way through book two and I ended up rewriting some of book one. But, as I said, this was me learning, so this happens.
Once I realised my mistake, I started on a two stage planing process using two bits of paper. Oh, alright, I used OneNote and there is a tutorial here, but the principle is the same.
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