When I sat down in April and decided to write a novel in four days, I did it simply as a test of my writing ability (and ability to stick to a deadline!).
When I decided to write a sequel to that first novel, from the perspective of one of the other main characters, I started thinking that I could do a whole series this way, plucking out a new character each time and making them the heroine (or hero) of the story.
When I began work on the third book, and started layering in the characters from the first two books, I decided to stick to four main protagonists, who would all be present in each others’ stories, but would have longer arcs of their own.
And when I was halfway through writing the fourth book, I realised that I was inadvertently working towards a dream that I’d had for many years – to write for an episodic drama.
When I was at University, if you’d asked me what my biggest dream was, if I could do anything, what would I do…I would’ve said that I wanted to write for television.
Because that is, in many ways, what Pony Jumpers is doing. It’s episodic storytelling, and the most familiar form of this kind of storytelling is what we see in television drama.
Wikipedia says of episodic storytelling: Multiple episodes are usually grouped together into a series through a unifying story arc. Episodes may not always contain the same characters, but each episode draws from a broader group of characters, or cast, all of whom exist in the same story world.
I suppose that’s why it appealed to me so much – the same story world. That’s a definitive characteristic of what and how I write. It’s not something I’ve even necessarily done on purpose – I didn’t set out saying Every book must intertwine! but it ended up happening that way. Characters I wrote for previous stories kept popping up, wanting to be noticed again. Katy had already showed up briefly in Dare to Dream and Dream On, but she was around in my head a lot earlier than that, as the heroine of another book I planned out but never wrote. (Too much has changed for me to tell that story now, but I can probably resurrect it some day with a different character in the Katy role.)
So then, once I’d committed to my four characters – AJ, Katy, Susannah and Tess – and had written each of their debut books, introducing them and their families and their ponies and their lives to readers, I sat down and started working out what would happen next for each of them. Sometimes it came to me as I wrote, as I realised things about the girls that I hadn’t realised before, as plot threads were woven and began to dangle enticingly. And I worked out what the larger story arcs were going to be for each girl, and how each one would develop, and what kind of A-plots I wanted to give them, and what smaller B-plots, and what over-arching plots, and well before I even started work on Five Stride Line, I knew exactly what I was heading towards.
I’ve held off on announcing this, because I didn’t want to commit to it until I was sure that I could, but I have plots and character story arcs set up for each of the four girls to have five books each from their perspective in the series. So yep, that means that there will be a total of 20 books in the series. (We’re quarter of the way there already!). Although I can’t wholly commit to releasing one book per month – life has a way of taking over – I’m going to try to at least get us to book 8 by the end of this year.
As a result, I think that Five Stride Line, more than any of its predecessors, reflects this. It does, of course, have its own A-plot (AJ questioning whether or not to shoe Squib as she tries to progress through the levels) and B-plot (Harry) and C-plot (financial constraints and the possible need for a new saddle), but it also has several dangling threads that I will pick up later. So if a section of the story felt unfinished, or you read it and thought ‘why was that scene relevant/important/even in there?’ – trust me. There’s a reason. You might not find that reason out until book 13, but find it out you will. Eventually.
Twenty books are a lot of books to write, but I’m confident that I can get it done. I’ve got so much story to tell, and I’m so excited for some of these books. Seriously. Book 8 is going to be great, and I can’t wait to get started on book 11, and as for book 14…
Because yes, I know what happens in all of the remaining books.
Yes, they are going to keep the same order of protagonists, which means Tess will close us out with book 20).
Yes, they all have titles already, and most have cover images picked out too.
And no, I’m not telling you any more detail than that.
For more on episodic storytelling: https://pekoeblaze.wordpress.com/2013/04/29/the-pros-and-cons-of-writing-a-fictioncomic-series/
One thought on “Entering the world of episodic storytelling”
I’m glad to hear that there will be 20 books. It is a BIG story to tell and tell right; 4 books wouldn’t have done it justice. My family and I will be along for the ride! We won’t ask what’s going to happen, but we are hoping for a Michael Matz story line for Jonty!