I'm just about done with the draft of The Imposters of Aventil, which turned out to be something quite different from the original outline. A big reason for that is the original outline was written at the same time I wrote the outline for what became The Alchemy of Chaos, and in writing Alchemy, it ended up being something more than I had originally planned. So elements I couldn't have anticipated had to be incorporated into the new outline for Imposters, and then making that into the manuscript has involved even more deviation for the intended course.
This is a good thing, mind you. I deviate from the outline because I think these are better, stronger choices for the storytelling, as well as the long-term goals.
Signing the deal for four more books really forced me to take a good look at my long term plans. Without going into too many details (because, spoilers), I've massively reworked them. Yet the core of the stories I'm telling remain the same. I've just worked out more of what I'm telling, and the better way to tell them.
I've often described the outline-to-writing process as one of first plotting a course on a map, and then actually doing the drive. But that's not entirely correct, because a lot of what I'm doing involves crossing uncharted territory. So it's more like plotting a course using an incomplete map, and as you go, changing direction based on what you can now see in the distance.
But-- to use Lewis and Clark as my metaphor-- I still know the goal is the Pacific coast. Maybe not entirely sure where on the coast, but I know the direction, and know the places I have to go to get there. What I'll find on my way there, though, is still a bit of a mystery.
I also now know that the outline itself is a two-step process. For example, I have an outline for A Parliament of Bodies, but I already know it's going to have to be updated before I start writing it. I have a strong sense of what those updates will entail, having written An Import of Intrigue. I have an outline for the fourth Thorn book, but it's got a lot of changes in store for it. (Though, according to The Plan, I won't get started on that for a bit yet.)
Plus-- and this came with the latest deal-- I am going to have books come out in a different order than I originally planned. And that's fine. First of all, once more of them are out there, people can read them in whatever order they like. I'll suggest a few different "ideal orders" depending on what one might want to get out of the Maradaine books.
Once ting I want to make clear, the changes that come about are ones of making things stronger, tighter and more effective storytelling. I'm actively fighting it devolving into story bloat. Yes, there are characters and situations I wasn't originally planning on being important that I realize now have to be. Which is why I think this process of stepping back and reworking things is crucial-- to make sure that while these new elements are incorporated, I don't lose sight of the plan and endgames.
And so we're clear: I very much have a plan and endgames. When I can tell you more about it, I will. Until then, just know that things are on track, and I'm very happy with where things are going.