Seeing the Story Trees for the World-Building Forest

Creativity Sessions writing process. Evening Satellite Publishing.

I already don’t like that strained analogy of a title, but we’re going with it unless I can think of something better. The writing part of my brain pretty reliably ebbs and flows between two points. Sometimes, all I can think about is the story in front of me and how I can bring it to fruition. Other times, all I can think of is all the stories except the one immediately in front of me.

I’ve been pretty heads-down on part 2 of The Herb Witch Tales the last few weeks, but recently, my mindset and thought process has started to shift. This is a natural phase for me, but it’s helped me come to a bigger realization about my writing. I need to focus more on the stories themselves.

Allow me to walk through my train of thought on this a bit. As I said, I’ve started to think more about other projects recently, those that are not currently in progress. This hasn’t detracted from my writing of The Herb Witch Tales #2. It’s more like the free space in my mind over the course of the day tends to be occupied by stories other than my current WIP. Again, I’ve come to recognize this as just another part of my thought process.

I’ve spent so much time digging, planting, and nurturing the budding plants of my novella that I hadn’t considered the forest in quite some time. Now, however, I’ve sat back, lifted my gaze, and recognized the forest I’m trying to create around me. (And there’s the title. I guess I’m sticking with it.)

This has helped remember what lies beyond the immediate story, which is incredibly motivating for me. I’ve made some notes about future stories for The Grand Mythos of Úr’Dan. I’ve thought about Herb Witch Tales to outline beyond part 2. In particular, however, I’ve been thinking about The Warden of Everfeld: Legacy.

My primary goal this year, aside from publishing my two-part novella, is to get back to writing WoEL, a sequel to my first novel I left sitting at around 60,000 words to work on other things. As a sequel, or at least a loose follow-up, I’ve had it in my head that it had to be relatively similar in length to my first novel, and its predecessor.

The Warden of Everfeld: Memento clocked in around 204,000 words. I’ve had this vague sense in my head that Legacy had to be at least 180k to be a proper sequel. That was the number I settled on when I started drafting, and it never really escaped my head. It became not just a rough estimate to reach for, but a target to aim at, as if Legacy was required to be 180k words to be completed.

But no one else is telling me it has to be that length. That’s a decision I made and for no real reason have stuck with.

What I’ve decided this week, however, is that I need to focus more on just writing the stories I want to write, not arbitrary benchmarks like word counts. Can I use 180k as a guide? Absolutely. Does that mean I should create new plotlines just to pad my word count? Absolutely not.

I really don’t know how long Legacy should be, and I won’t until I’m well into the second draft. All I know is that when I get back to it, I want to re-center on the characters who are most important to the story being told, and let them tell it. Other characters or side plots should make that story feel richer, but not serve to make the book longer. If it ends up being 80k words, then that’s the book I’ll write.

This thinking applies to The Herb Witch Tales, too. When I began writing, I was aiming for two stories of about 25k words each, for a 50k-word, two-part novella. Part 1 sits at 38k, and I have some significant revisions in mind. I, once again, had it in my head that part 2 should be 35k words or more. With 25k words written, that still seems like a fair assessment.

However, I want to focus on finishing the story. Not the word count or even the number of pages written per week. I just want to finish this draft. Whether it ends up at 30k or 40k words, I’ll be satisfied.

I guess this post is a long-winded way of saying that you shouldn’t get too caught up in the logistical details of your story or your writing universe. Write the stories the way you want to write them, and don’t be afraid to take detours away from your current WIP to jot down some ideas or pontificate on other projects.

Steve D

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