Writing the Long Game

As both readers and writers, so much of our focus when we read is on the now. What’s happening in your world now, where are your characters going, what dangers do your characters face around the next corner. This focus, I think, is more than justified. It’s what keeps the reader reading and, sometimes, what keeps the writer writing.

But as writers, especially if we’re writing a series/serial, we also have to keep the future in mind, or “The Long Game.” What’s going to happen in a year? How will the chapters that you’re writing now affect your next book.

This falls, somewhat, on the “Plotter vs Pantser” discussion. A Pantser is going to be more focused on the now and the next, rather than the “and then” or the future. But as a 80-85% plotter, the future is always at the forefront for me.

For “now” writers, foreshadowing things is going to be off-the-cuff and may not survive the first drafts of an edit. Plotters have the advantage of knowing, with relative certainty, what is going to happen down the line and can plant the seeds early. It’s not all roses for a plotter though. Sometimes we think an idea is grand, so we plant the seeds in Book 1 or 2, but by the time those seeds should come to fruition, say in Book 3 or 4, the idea is not as appealing, or it doesn’t fit with where we want to take the story. So we either have to abandon the foreshadowing, or force it into the story (never a good idea if your heart isn’t in it).

One of my absolute favorite “long game” writers is George RR Martin. While he is a “gardener” (as he refers to pantsters), he is able to foreshadow events early in his series and then carry through with them later. It’s a wonderful thing reading his stories and wondering exactly where he’s taking something.

Myself, I’m looking forward to taking a secondary relationship I’ve established in Book 2 (The Hydra Offensive; now in edits) and make it into something in Book 3 or 4. And revealing a secret that only a few of my characters know about.

What about you? When you’re reading, do you look at the long game and wonder where the author is going to take a particular event? As a Plotter, do you take as much joy out of it as I do? What about the Pantsters? How do you handle foreshadowing in Book X when the events won’t take place until Book X+?

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One comment on “Writing the Long Game

  1. Nice post! Thank you! As a reader, I love to watch the threads of a story come together as it progresses. George R.R. Martin is a wonderful example. I have no idea how he does what he does as a “gardener” as he puts it. I’m a plotter, but still leave room for the magic that happens, and adjust my outline of the book and future books as I go.

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