I need to again praise the J.A. Konrath “Guide to publishing”. He gives really valuable advice and I wished I had read it before I started writing my first book. (Mind you, I started writing before he actually published his “Guide”).
One of the things he advises is to write a story line for your sequel-book: just a few sentences that describe what happens in each chapter.
This is something publishers/literary agents want to have when a writer promises a sequel. Before any contract is made, they need to make sure you (as a writer) know what will happen in your book No. 2, or 3, or 7 (if that’s how far you’re going).
But Konrath also recommends to do that for your very first book as well.
Not because a publisher wants to see it but because it’s a very useful thing to do. It gives the author a clear guideline of the story in the novel: which main story questions are asked, and when and how are they answered? Which characters come up in which chapters, and when do they leave? How is the tension built up in the story?
When I started writing my first manuscript, I basically wrote down a memory. It was as if I had seen a movie I liked, and then I remembered the scenes. Those that were most important, I “remembered” and wrote first. Afterwards, I filled in the gaps. Generally, this worked out fairly well.
But, as soon as I started reading Konrath’s “Guide”, I decided to write a story line for the book No. 1. It took me a few days to finish it and when I did, it was a real revelation; it made it clear that I will need to make some changes in the book.
Had I had a story line five years ago when I started writing, it would have saved me a lot of editing, chapter shifting and re-writing, which I‘m currently doing.
Book No. 2 and 3 will have the story line done in advance 🙂