Hello, everyone! Get ready for some more interesting musings and a few clues about my next series!
I’ve mentioned a few times in recent posts that a big part of why I’m setting aside Eilinland (for now) and starting a new series is because of what I’ve been learning. I felt like continuing in the same world was going to be inhibiting, and I’m going to share why for two reasons: 1) Eilinland fans are skeptical and want to know what to expect from my future writing, B) Teaching is supposed to help with the learning process; writing this post will help cement in the things I’ve learned, and 124) I want to share these lessons with other writers. The better writers there are, the better books we have, so it’s a win-win.
I learn primarily by observing. Most people I’ve talked to who read my book loved my characters more than anything else, and I think that’s because I have been observing people since long before I started writing. That helped me to understand patterns of behaviors, things that make people likeable, how humor works, personality types that clash or meld particularly well, etc.
It wasn’t until more recently that I started applying the same type of meticulous study to stories. Discovering self publishing really pushed me to take writing more seriously, and that was when I really got into studying books at a new level. I started detecting patterns and have learned so much. There are so many elements that I feel like I missed in my first book that I’m so excited to integrate.
Lesson 1: Worldbuilding
The Lord of the Rings universe has somewhere between 800-1000 characters mentioned in Tolkien’s published works. The Harry Potter universe has over 700. The trend followed through several other series I looked up as well as a trend of constructed languages: a long list of them from Lord of the Rings, Parseltongue, Klingon, the Valyrian languages, and, more loosely, the sound design that created the illusion of languages in Star Wars.
What all of these series have in common, I think, is not that they all have a massive number of characters or new languages but that the creators were using their world’s history to drive the story and the setting. I shared how I got down that rabbit hole in my last post. There are successful books that don’t take worldbuilding to that level, but whenever I read one that does, I feel like, “man, I want to be able to write like that.”
Lesson 2: Foresight
I love watching The Prestige or M. Night Shyamalan movies because of the symbolism and hints that are dropped along the way. I was watching a video recently about writing mystery, and the speaker said something about how mystery writing best when the reader is given enough clues to figure out the answer/plot twist/solution but doesn’t because clues are disguised so well. Rewatching or rereading a story like that is always so interesting because the clues stand out when you know the ending and you wonder how you missed them to begin with.
Another contrast I’ve noticed between good a poor writing is the cohesion of plots, storylines, character arcs, etc. Seasoned authors seem to always have a handle on which character is developing in what way, what all of the plots and stories are, and then they build them all together towards a common climax and conclusion.
What all of these things have in common (using symbolism, dropping subtle clues, and the cohesiveness of every aspect of the story) is foresight. They require careful planning which is something I suck at and didn’t do much of for Eilinland. I’ve spent a couple of months now planning out the new series though, and I am thrilled with the result.
Lesson 3: What’s in a Name?
Names are so important. I don’t keep using “my new series” because I’m trying to keep the name a secret, I’m just having the hardest time ever coming up with a name for it. While I’ve seen some series do well with more obscure names, I’ve noticed that most are very easy to pronounce and tend to be words we’re familiar with: Treasure Island, Sense and Sensibility, Maze Runner, Hunger Games, Game of Thrones, Throne of Glass, Lord of the Rings, etc. Even the minority that have words the author developed for the book are relatively easy to pronounce: Gilligan, Gatsby, Narnia, Terabithia, Elantris, and so on.
I’ll put it this way: have you ever seen someone’s name written down and you weren’t quite sure how to pronounce it? If you’re like me, you’re going to try to avoid needing to say it until you’ve heard someone else say it. If you’re trying to sell a book, the last thing you want is for people to avoid talking about it because they don’t know how to pronounce the title. Add the fact that “Eilinland” sounds like “Island Land” when you say it out loud, and you have a pretty confusing title! I definitely learned my lesson the hard way on that one.
Lesson 4: #goalz
The books that are the most satisfying to read have a very clear objective that is introduced early on and doesn’t change throughout the course of the story: defeat Sauron/The Empire/Voldemort, escape to Witch Mountain, or find Nemo. For Eilinland, it was to find and rescue Keillis. The problem was that it ended there. There were a few hints that eluded to a bigger story that could be continued, but for the most part, the goal was accomplished. This is probably the biggest reason why I wanted to start something new. “The new series” takes place on a group of islands, and the main antagonist is a seamonster that lives in the surrounding oceans. Trying to defeat him is a very clear goal from early on, and while a lot of other things will be happening, that is the common thread that will tie the series together.
Hopefully that helps some of you get at least 1/86th as excited as I am about “the new series,” hopefully some writers took away some helpful takeaways, and hopefully no one got super annoyed at my bizarre numbering systems. I don’t know why I’m finding those so freaking funny today.
That’s it for now. Stay tuned for the grand reveal of the map I’ve been working on, some short stories or poems in the Klar Filvath language, and a series title when I have one!