Series Planning – Subplots and Plotlines

I’ve now sorted through the list of Main Plots. While this is a huge step towards organizing the series, there is still a lot more work to do.

The Subplot list has been patiently waiting its turn, and now it’s rarin’ to go!

The Subplots are the smaller bits of Spice that make books so enjoyable. I didn’t want the series, characters, locations or the conflicts to be static. The spreadsheet is a great place to map all of this out.

Like the other plots, each of the Subplots are named. They can be the name of the character, a romantic relationship (or triangle), the location, whatever is needed.

For example: the changing seasons and the weather in the “Salmon Run” series will have a direct affect on many of the plots. So, one line was named “Weather/Seasons”. If a season, a change in season, or weather had any impact on a particular story, a description of how it affected the book went on that line.

The same with a main character. If during different books they changed, had a personal upheaval, had a conflict with someone in particular, it would go on a line all by itself. The line would be titled by that main character name.


NOTE: In place of “Subplot #1”, type in the character name/description of the subplot. To help organize them you can color-code them.

Column 1:

Book #

Book Description

Main Plot #1

Main Plot #2

Main Plot #3

Subplot #1

Subplot #2

Subplot #3

The bigger picture became clearer. The characters started to feel like real people, as the pattern of ebb and flow of their lives became clear. The seasons changed. Life moved on.

More gaps in both Book Descriptions and Main Plot/Multi-Book Plot rows were filled in. Each addition fed on the other additions, sparking more ideas. I found I had to insert book columns, combine books, or move events around.


The planning stage is all about the brainstorming and foundation laying to the book/series. At the least they are annoying. At the most they can stop the planning cold in its tracks. But, they can be key to learning more about the story and finding out the hidden depths. Just as nature abhors a vacuum, so does a Muse. Especially one that is OCD.

“A blank space? Oh no! I must fill it! Thinkthinkthink…”

Great, more ideas.

And each step gave the series even more life. The books filled out. A column of Subplots inspired book descriptions.

Keeping in mind that these are novellas, if I felt there was too much happening in one book, I could space out the progression of plots a little more. As everything was in the planning stage, there was a lot of flexibility in what happened when. Novellas were brought forward, others were pushed backwards. Entire new novellas appeared out of nowhere…

The surprising thing was that I had a lot more story fodder than I initially thought. So much so that I had basic ideas for eight books at the start of the organizing. As the organizing continued, that inched forward to 10, then to 12, then to 14.

So much for worrying about having enough Novella ideas.

This may sound too methodical, but with all the ideas the Muse was spewing out, I had to have some way to see how each idea was going to affect not only the story, but also the individual books themselves and the other Main Plots and Subplots. What happened in one book would inspire consequences that had to occur in the next book or the book after that. What one character did in one book would inspire a conflict a bit later. Repercussions grew out of all of it.

And it was inspiring. Greatly inspiring.

An Example:

I had the main idea for the first book and a hazy one for the second. By putting all that I knew in a spreadsheet, and then plotting across the columns how each Main Plot and Subplot progressed, I suddenly had a lot happening in each book. And a scene inspired by one point inspired a flash of insight on how that scene might set off one of the other points, or lead into another scene focusing on one of the other points.

Entire scenes and storylines started to appear.

Part way through the process the plot of the second book became clear. The Book description was refined.

The plot of the third book, which had been even more hazy, appeared out of nowhere. I went from one good book idea almost ready to outline to three good book ideas. Novellas 1-3 were just waiting to be outlined and written.

Wow, and all from organizing the ideas. It just goes to show how the planning and organizing stage can be a huge inspiration in itself.

By this point I was rarin’ to write. However, more needed to come first, to set the series on a strong solid foundation.

Having the series spreadsheet readily available is helpful not only for quick reference during the rest of the planning, but also during the writing. Wonderful surprising things happen while writing first drafts, some of them inspiring entire new ideas and character development. With the spreadsheet I have one place to go to fit those new pieces in. As I continue to write the series, I can see at a glance what I have done before. The series spreadsheet already is, and will continue to be, a valuable resource.

Here is a sample spreadsheet in case anyone wants to use it as a base for their own planning. It is formatted in Open Office. I hope it’s helpful!



“The E-Book Experiment” chronicles the business and creative side of an experiment with the business opportunities new technology and creative outlets now afford content producers. Will it fail? Will it succeed? The only way to know is to approach it with a solid plan and try. No regrets!

I hope the details of this journey will be a help to other authors. As the process proceeds to selling the final products I will also share hard data that might be useful in the decision making process of other authors who recognize that only they can take charge of their careers. For a listing of all the posts in this series, please click here.

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Series Planning - Subplots and Plotlines

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