Starting a Series from Scratch

by Gail Z. Martin

Nothing is more intimidating than a blank screen or an empty page. I don’t care how many books you write, I’m not sure it ever gets any less scary to sit down and stare at that vast expanse of empty whiteness waiting for your words.

After you’ve got a few books under your belt, you do come prepared to face your fears with foreknowledge. You know it’s going to be difficult to get started, so you spend time mentally crafting your opening scene so you can jump right in. Or maybe you console yourself with the knowledge that you’ve done it before and you can do it again.

Of course you have an outline, and when you wrote the outline, it seemed like a good idea. The publisher signed off on it, so they thought it was a good idea too, and so did your agent. But then you sit down at the computer and that outline suddenly seems anemic. (I can’t speak for the authors who are said to write outlines of the same word count most authors write books. Maybe it’s easier for them, but that’s kind of like writing the book before you write the book, so cheating a little.)

For me, there are several issues that need to be settled as I build out a new series. They are 1) characters; 2) magic and religion; 3) political/economic structure; 4) climate/geography/history; 5) map and location of story action; 6) technology. All of those generally come to me based on the plot. So I’ll usually get an idea for a particular character with a certain kind of challenge/problem/danger. Then the question becomes: In what kind of a world could that happen? How would their world have to work for that to be an issue? How would those threats arise from that world and what would the ripple effects be?

I majored in history, so I know the importance of all the elements that come to a confluence in order for historical turning points to occur or pivotal leaders to surface. So I’ll think through the political situation and think about the rival forces and their competing visions, the economic system and who stands to profit or lose from the Big Problem. I’ll think about how history, myth, religion, magic and culture either support or pull against those trends. I’ll consider the various internal and external factions, what they want, what they stand to lose, and what they’re willing to do to win.

Geography matters, because it determines where roads and cities are built, where trade routes and money travel, where people will be isolated and where there is a natural crossroads. A map helps me keep it all straight. Then I have to go back and reconcile whether the characters and plot I originally envisioned have what they need to move forward in this new world, and if not, it’s back to the drawing board.

Building the world is as much fun as populating it with characters and writing the story. It’s a little like playing God, but without the mess.

I’m not permitted to say much yet about the new series I’m writing for Solaris Books that will come out in 2017 except to call it the Epically-Epic Epic Fantasy That Cannot Yet Be Named (or E3F for short). It’s my third foray into building an epic fantasy world. I’ve done my best to make all of the worlds I’ve created very different from one another in as many ways as I can. So the magic works differently and comes with new rules and a different source. The politics and the backstory are coming from a very different focus. All new gods and a new understanding of religion. Mixing it up keeps it fresh for me as well as for readers. Even though epic fantasy has its tropes (Medieval, castles, monarchies, swords, magic) there are so many ways to play with the details that it never gets boring. And if I need inspiration, real history is nearly limitless in the ideas!

Let me give a shout-out for #HoldOnToTheLight–100+ Sci-Fi/Fantasy authors blogging about their personal struggles with depression, PTSD, anxiety, suicide and self-harm, candid posts by some of your favorite authors on how mental health issues have impacted their lives and books. Read the stories, share the stories, change a life. Find out more at www.HoldOnToTheLight.com

Here’s an excerpt from my new urban fantasy novel Vendetta set in my Deadly Curiosities world here http://bit.ly/1ZXCPVS

Free excerpt from my Jonmarc Vahanian Adventure short story Raider’s Curse http://bit.ly/12s119H

Don’t miss out! Here’s the War of Shadows book video video https://youtu.be/DgCgrTto9WY

Use your free Audible trial to get my books! War of Shadows Audible https://amzn.com/B00WAFNG6I

DoubleDragonSampler#7 http://www.double-dragon-ebooks.com/sample/DDPSAMPLE007.mobi

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