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I am a new writer writing a fantasy series, and earlier today I found myself thinking “Yay! I’m almost done with the main plot of my first book!”

Then I realized I was nowhere near done with the underlying plots, and if I finished the book in a few chapters there would be tons of loose ends.

What are some tips to keep on track of all your internal/external conflicts and plots so that you don’t forget about one and leave a question unanswered?

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Keep rereading your own work, for one thing. You might trip over some untapped source of a subplot, or notice a subplot you began that was never resolved. Other than that, it's really just a matter of what your personal process looks like. Are you someone who likes to outline everything ahead of time? Make a chart or outline listing all your plot points and subplots to help you stay on track. Are you a discovery writer who only finds out what happens when you write it the first time? Once you've got a first draft for a chapter/arc finished, remember to go back and edit things for consistency in light of new information. Revision is your friend.

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Per The Snowflake Method, make a spreadsheet of all the scenes in your novel. Part of that spreadsheet is a scene description. You can write down what subplots are involved, which scene they start in, and which scene wraps them.

If you did an outline, then note down in the outline where each subplot starts, is furthered and is wrapped in that.

If you wrote seat-of-the-pants, then, making a spreadsheet may still be a good idea. Not all the scenes will make the final cut, and it's easier to edit, then re-edit, then re-edit again in a spreadsheet than a manuscript. If you see several subplot scenes get cut then you'll also have a list of places that can also be cut or edited.

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For fast note-taking: I usually use Mircosoft To-Do, and make:

  • A list per book
  • Click setting "Show completed tasks" to make sure you can see what you have completed
  • The Chapter Number(s); One Chapter per point
  • And then the main and subplots going for that chapter, under as sub-points
  • and if I have completed a chapter, outstanding bullet points

For larger-scale note-taking: I use Microsoft Excel(or Google Sheets)

  • One Workbook for the whole series, and many, many sheets
  • One for the Chapter Lists with Main Plot and Subplot, word count, and page count in columns
  • One for the overall series main plot(s) across the series
  • Character Glossary (Name, Talent, Birthplace, Age, Etc)
  • By consolidating the word counts, you can also actually see which chapters 'lack meat', or in anime terms 'filler episodes', and can then think about whether you have missed something out in them, need to add more stuff to them, or delete them entirely(some publishers want to cut printing costs this covid19 period?)
  • Also unlike To-Do list, you can "Ctrl + F" for things, very good for forgetful people, or when you are keeping track of so many things in a series

Draft-01 Chart

Always remember that when you write a series, there's always time to distribute/move subplots to another installment, not just jam everything into book 1. Some agents/pubbers also prefer 'no loose ends' aka no hanging subplots cliffhangers; they want each book of a series to be standalone-capable aka, if a new reader picks up book 04, they won't fell entirely lost, but curious enough to track down books 1 thru 3.

Failed Methods:

  • Whiteboards (untouched since 2017)
  • Notebooks (I have 10 rotting away in a cupboard; not filled up)
  • OneNote (I spend too much time making the flowcharts pretty instead of doing actual work)

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