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I have built a world in which to write my fantasy book, and I'm currently writing my first book about it. I have it all planned out and am in the process of writing it. I have plans for a further book that develops naturally from this one, and will end with most things wrapped up quite nicely.

I originally wanted it all as one, until I realized the book would be far too long. So book 2 is essentially the second half of the story that begins in book 1 (neither would be complete without the other).

The second book, however, is not yet fully planned out. I have a lot of ideas, the main direction of the plot, character development and themes, but there are still big chunks of the story missing.

Having spent a lot of time building this fantasy world, I have lots of ideas about what is in it, and have (hopefully) constructed quite an in-depth world.

However, some of the ideas that I have wanted to put into the second book could potentially be expanded upon in much more detail.

I have no plans for writing any further books after the second, but I have had a couple of ideas for what one might be about, whether it is a sequel with the current characters or a spin-off with new characters in this fantasy world.

My problem is this:

Should I use up good ideas within a book that I'm already planning on writing that wouldn't be utilized to their full effectiveness, or save those ideas to use them fully in a book I may never write?

I realize that I am probably getting way ahead of myself in planning book 3 when I haven't even finished book 1, but depending on how book 2 will develop might affect what occurs in book 1 to potentially set up what will happen.

If there are any techniques for reusing ideas/places/scenarios without it becoming boring for the reader they would also be welcomed, but are not necessary. My main question is about best practice for utilizing ideas.

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I totally agree with the answer given by Tommy Myron, but I think there is one thing to add about the way you look at this question. I think whether you decide to use your ideas now depends on whether the ideas concerned are or are not naturally part of your current plot.

If they are, i.e. if they fit harmoniously into the series of events that you consider will wrap up quite nicely at the end of Book 2, then put them in.

Don't worry that you will use up all your good ideas - your supply of good ideas is not a fixed quantity, your subconscious will send you more as you need them.

However, if the good ideas you mention are "worldbuilding" ideas, or are ideas about side-plots or side-characters to your current story, then however excellent they are in themselves, putting them in would just bloat your current story. Make just enough mention of them to ensure consistency with your future books if ever you write them, and leave it at that. It's true that you may end up never writing any future books in that world and never using those ideas. But fear of future waste isn't a good reason to make your present work less good than it can be. Putting it bluntly, all of us could be wiped out by a mutant star goat eating the planet tomorrow. Or less dramatically, any one of us could die by some prosaic cause, or suffer some non fatal but life-changing event that stops us writing before we ever finish whatever we are working on. Then all our good ideas would be wasted. I say "we" because I am currently struggling with exactly the same issue of a fictional universe whose growth has outstripped my original story idea as you are.

(A general question: Would it be possible, and would it be considered good etiquette, to duplicate this post in the Worldbuilding stack exchange?)

  • I did battle whether to put this in Writers.SE or Worldbuilding.SE, but thought for my particular problem, it's already a part of the world I've created, I was wondering more whether I should embellish on it more because I think it's a cool part of the world. I like your comment of mentioning them for consistency, whether I use them or not is extraneous. My problem was that either they would be immersed in the situation or no way near it, but it would at least be common knowledge, so they would definitely hear about it, allowing for consistency in any future work. – Mike.C.Ford May 13 '15 at 10:51
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    I agree that this question should stay on Writers. It's not so much about worldbuilding, as it is about how to include the worldbuilding that's already there, in your writing. – Thomas Myron May 13 '15 at 19:09
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I realize that I am probably getting way ahead of myself in planning book 3 when I haven't even finished book 1

Not necessarily. I would actually recommend that you know exactly how things will turn out before you begin. As to your question:

Should I use up good ideas within a book that I'm already planning on writing that wouldn't be utilized to their full effectiveness, or save those ideas to use them fully in a book I may never write?

A lot of this depends on the ideas you have. Are they worldbuilding details that are 'cool,' but don't really add anything to the novel? Make absolutely sure you need them in the first place. If you do, and they would be squashed down in the first book, by all means put them in the second or third book. If your writing requires something, let it expand to its full power. Don't let your writing suffer just to save on size. (Also, don't let your writing suffer through lack of cutting down on size through editing. But that's another topic.)

So it comes down to this:

1. Know what you are going to write. Get it all planned out now. I know from personal experience, that you don't want to be doing this when you're in the middle of writing.

2. Determine exactly what you need. If the ideas actually contribute something to the novel, or can be made to contribute something, yes, you can use them. If not, mention them as brief worldbuilding details, and leave it at that.

3. Let your writing dictate the size/number of your novels. The writing is what's powerful here. If your writing would be more powerful in one novel, write one. If you feel it would be more powerful in two or three novels, write two or three. It may be a good idea to get opinions from your friends too - as an author, you will naturally be biased towards including everything, even if you don't need it.

  • "If the ideas actually contribute something to the novel, or can be made to contribute something, yes, you can use them. If not, mention them as brief worldbuilding details, and leave it at that." It has positive benefits, too. Brief, unstressed mention of extraneous details is actually a powerful tool to make the world have depth and realism. – Lostinfrance May 13 '15 at 9:56
  • ^ I fully agree. – Thomas Myron May 13 '15 at 19:01

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