Almost six months ago, I wrote the blog post Little Moments Versus Big Ideas where I agonized over not having a handle on the big picture plot of Sapling, the second book in the White Oak trilogy. Did I plan a cross-country move in an effort to distract myself from a severe case of writer’s block? Only my deepest psyche may ever know the answer to that question. But after the move and the reno, I ran out of reasons not to have a writing routine. Since mid-January I have been—consistently, if not prolifically—writing on a regular basis.
In the plotter versus pantser debate, I land firmly in the middle. I had the first few scenes for Sapling in my head. I knew I had to establish the emotional repercussions that followed the events of Acorn while charting a path forward for our main characters. Luckily, those scenes bled into five chapters, allowing me time to get back into the cadence of Erica’s world.
After those first chapters, I found myself at the very end of what I knew I had to do, staring down a barrel of nothingness. I had all these subplots that I needed to get to, but still lacked the big, overarching theme of Book 2. So I sent Erica and Xander, my main characters, on a date. Writing these two characters together is the easiest part of this whole project. Their warmth, their carefulness with each other, their need to always be touching—it’s just fun.
Xander had two important things to tell Erica, but for one of them, I kept asking myself, “why?” Why would he be compelled to do this thing? It seemed a bit out of character for him, but then I had a EUREKA moment! Honestly, one of things that drives me crazy about fantasy is how often they use a deus ex machina to save their story. They get stuck and suddenly the answer is magic! But for a supernatural/fantasy trilogy, my books are intentionally low on magic. I was so focused on grounding my conflict in relatable coming-of-age issues that I was missing a huge opportunity.
Erica’s arc over the series is all about figuring out what she really wants and going after it. But what was Xander’s motivation? With the limitations I have given him, what did it even make sense for him to want? I explored that question in my most recent chapter and landed on a concept that’s a game changer for the series. The second most important character in my series finally has an arc!
After finishing this latest chapter, I was able to sit down and do a high-level chapter-by-chapter outline all the way to the end of the book. When I was able to put this together for Acorn, I managed to finish the first draft in about five weeks. Here’s to hoping that the same happens for Sapling!