Here on Anxiety we share a lot of writing rules, whether it’s directly in posts or on our social media pages. Some are ones we’ve heard a million times from a million sources that we either agree or disagree with, or fall somewhere along those lines.
One I’ve heard a few times from a number of sources is: If you’re writing a series, write the first one, write a few chapters of the next one, and just do an outline for the third.
The idea is if you were to go beyond writing that first book, then get edits back requesting you change really paramount parts that are foundational for your next book, you’d have wasted a lot of your time and energy. Of course, you don’t have to make those changes, as long as you want to get dropped by your publisher (a worst case scenario, but one to keep in mind). Indies definitely have more freedom in this regard, and who knows which would make the better book faced with the same story.
Logically, this rule makes sense. No writer wants to waste their precious time. Have I listened to this rule? I thought about it. Then said screw it.
I’m about halfway through writing the second book in the series I’m working on. I don’t know if it’s a mix of feeling unburdened because the world building is largely taken care of in book one or I feel more confident writing it because I actually completed a book from start to finish –something I’ve never done before.
Part of me is glad to have ignored the rule because I’ve learned things about my main character in book two’s situations that I hadn’t even thought to wonder about in book one. And these realizations actually need to be hinted at in the previous story to make the first richer. I’ve also let myself show more of my character’s daily grind and introspection –I’ve finally let myself wander!– which also needs to be showcased better in book one because it adds so much to the world and character.
The other part of me is dreading the work I know is coming my way. I’ve got a lot of extra writing to do, not to mention backtracking, and I’m certain there will be much more in my future since an editor hasn’t even gotten involved yet. Still, I wouldn’t trade any of what I’ve learned.
I highly recommend listening to rules laid out by those who are extremely successful and know what they’re talking about. But until you have solid understanding of your process -I’m definitely still a clueless beginner struggling through learning- just do what you need to do and keep the “rules” in the back of your mind.
Writing is all about finding out what works for you. We’re two and a half years in here and I still feel like a fish out of water. Practice. Practice, practice, practice. Just keep writing. That’s all I can tell myself, and you.