I love reading, and as a writer I like to broaden my scope by reading outside of my comfort zone, so that I can learn more about my craft.
I’m a terrible person for taking notes. Sometimes, for a story, the only note I have on the entire plot is one sentence. Sometimes it extends as far as the 44 pages of notes I have for my erotica/BDSM college romance, Unaffected. And that’s without clarifying character backgrounds, full conversations and details about actions and places. It may even be turned into two books for all I know right now.
My biggest problem is that a story pops into my head and once I settle into it, I start getting attached to the characters I create. Then it’s almost impossible to stop. I end up writing a lot of series or serials because I fall in love with my characters and as long as I have ideas for those characters to enter another story, then I’ll keep writing them. I will stop when it seems appropriate and there are no more stories to tell.
I’ve read a lot about whether people like series or serials or not. I think it’s a matter of not whether you should/would read them in theory, but whether you enjoy the characters and story in the first book/series enough to keep reading about them.
My plan with writing is to never write a story with continuing characters unless there IS a story. There is no way I would write a book into a series just to milk the situation.
However, the same can be said for writing the characters in the first place. The notes might be fine, but when it comes to writing the novel, it might not work.
A lot of the time when I write, the characters take me in a whole new direction than the one I planned. For the story The Trade, my plan was simply:
“Straight college guy is struggling in his classes. He ends up trading sex with openly gay classmate in return for good grades.”
That was all I planned to make the story. But once I started writing it, it grew into so much more. They ended up falling in love sooner than I had planned and there were a lot of obstacles that I haven’t even considered that crept into the story.
The most important thing I’ve learned since I started writing is that the characters lead the story. NEVER fight them. That only leads to disaster. Let them guide you and show you what they want. They’re just the same as real life people, who choose their own destiny. You might have created them and you might be deciding their future, but they will always choose their own path. They’re like children in a way: you birth them, raise them and love them, but they will always do whatever they want when you’re not there to see it happen. Your characters are the same. You give them life, you choose what you want to happen to them in a simple way (they start dating this person, they go to this place, they meet this person, or something happens to them) and they guide you as to how they want to get there. They may even argue with you about where they’re going. It’s their right. It’s their life and they deserve to drive it.
No matter what notes you write, how many pages you have or what you plan for your characters, you are never going to be in complete control of the story. The characters are.