When I first started writing Johnny Graphic and the Etheric Bomb, I knew that telling Johnny’s story would take at least three books. And now that JGEB is out in the world as an e-book and a print-on-demand book (just click on the sidebar to check it out), it’s time to move on to Book 2.
Even when I was writing JGEB, I knew in a general sense what kind of adventures Johnny would have in the second book. It would involve a terrible outbreak of zombie attacks in the Royal Kingdom, almost certainly due to the main villain of JGEB. (I won’t mention his name, to avoid a major spoiler here.) Johnny, Nina, and the rest would be called to help deal with this infestation of zombies. After all, they had a great deal of experience fighting our bad guy in the first book. Of course, they face many obstacles and dangers along the way. I knew what some of the major incidents in the book would be, and approximately where Johnny would end up.
But unlike some writers who create their books with no written plan, improvising as they go along, I like to have an outline—a road map, you might say. So I wrote down brief descriptions of chapters, from the beginning of Book 2 to the end. Then I used it as a step-by-step guide, writing chapters based on this road map. But the funny thing is that as you write the book, your ideas change and the road shifts directions. So the road map has to change.
For instance, I wrote a couple of chapters from the point of view of Johnny’s sister, Mel. But Mel–a kind of serious personality, as readers of JGEB will know–wasn’t very interesting. So I had to reassign those chapters to the little girl ghost Bao, who’s a lot more fun.
Right now I’ve written 30,000 words of the first draft of Book 2. I’m almost halfway through, and I expect my road map to shift a few more times before I’m done. And there will be much more rewriting after the first draft is finished. (Remember, unless you’re very good, your first draft is just a place to begin.)
So I guess my advice to anyone who’s writing a novel or thinking of writing one is this: Be sure to lay out a road map for your book. It will make writing it much easier. But don’t be afraid to shift course when some new scenery beckons.