I’m a rather single-minded person, and by that, I mean that I have trouble focusing on one thing at a time. My daughter finds it impossible to not do at least two things at once—she has to have noise when she’s studying, or draw while listening to a podcast. I’m a rather hyper-focused sort of person. I’ll focus intensely on one thing and have trouble stopping working if someone tries to call my attention away.
I’m telling you this because as I’ve been working hard on plotting out my next three interconnected books (and by interconnected, I mean not just overlapping characters, but overlapping timelines), I’m wondering if I shouldn’t attempt to write all three books at once. I know that there are some people who write more than one book at a time. Usually, though, they are in two completely different worlds, sometimes, even different genres.
Writing the three books at once would make them more like one book which I would then separate out into three based on point of view. I really wonder whether writing them this way would work.
The reason I’m even contemplating this is because at least two of the three overlap in time completely. The first two books start on about the same date. The characters go to the same events and see each other there. And events in one book directly affect events in the other. For example, in book 1, the hero needs funding for a business project, the hero of book #2 is going to give it to him but this is fully dependent on a secondary character who plays a major roll in both books 2 and 3 and what he does in book 2 has consequences on book 3!
To say that it was tricky organizing and plotting these three books would be an understatement.
I started out plotting each one the way I start plotting every book I write—I created characters. These characters have goals and conflicts stopping them from attaining their goals. Using those goals and conflicts, I created the plot for each book, as usual, but I then had to take into consideration the actions of characters in each of the three books.
To make all this a little easier, instead of writing an outline or plotting everything on a W graph as I created the plot as I usually do, I wrote each scene down on an index card. Each books’ index cards are a different color so that I can tell one book from another. By doing it that way, I could also shift scenes around within a book.
Once I had all the scenes on cards, I then interspersed the cards together so that they formed one timeline. I then transferred this timeline onto an actual calendar for the year the books are set. It was at this point that I started considering writing all three books at once, merely writing the three stories as things happened along the timeline, changing POV as necessary. I could then rearrange the scenes into their individual three books.
There’s only one problem with this idea—when I write, I get really deep into the head of the POV characters. It’s more than enough for my poor little brain to take on the personalities of two people (my hero and my heroine) and keep those people at the forefront of my mind for the duration of the writing of the book. But could I actually keep six people in my mind like that? I don’t think so! And I’m not going to sacrifice the depth of POV for timeline continuity.
Not only that, but each book I write has its own feel to it, it’s own pacing. If I wrote all three books at once, all three books would read identically because they would, in essence, be just one book that I then split up. I think that would get pretty boring for my readers, especially because I’m hoping my readers will read the books in sequence, one after the other. I like that each of my books has its own feel. Each one has its own theme as well. Writing all three books would change that too.
So, while I really enjoy the puzzle aspect of writing overlapping books, I’m going to write these three books the way I wrote the other two trilogies in this series—writing the books in order, one book at a time. When I’ve got a scene to include in the second or third book that I’ve already written in a previous book, I’ll do what I’ve done before, which is copy and paste the dialogue from the scene and then write it in the correct style and point of view.
Some people find writing a series a little complicated—you’ve got to have a story arc for each book within the series and then a story arc that encompasses all of the books in the series. Taking that concept one step further and having the books overlap in time and events, and actions in one book affecting things in the next book is just taking this idea to a level of complexity that is fun and challenging.
If you ever write or if you have written books that overlap in time, let me know below in the comments! I’d love to hear how you organized your work!