City of the Lords worked out differently. I had the overall idea of the entire story blocked out early, from knowing that it would come in three parts to getting a good idea of why the story would be told by a different person in each segment. The story had fewer changes as I went along than Lord of the City did (though there were still plenty of them as I worked it out), and I think the structure came out better for it. Still, the outline wasn't terribly detailed and while it gave me a "feel" for each character up front it didn't really spell out why the characters were growing as they did.
For this third book in the series, I'm finding myself outlining in more detail than I did before. It's not only events, but also some pretty in-depth notes on how the characters feel about particular scenes and how they react to them, giving me a deeper sense of each character before I've put down a single actual word of text for the novel itself. For the first time each chapter is blocked out from the beginning (at least for the first section where I have the most detail); while I don't plan to stick to the chapter breaks if they don't flow well when I'm writing, it gives me a great guide as to how I can expect the progress of the first part to go.
Here's some examples. Before you keep going, if you haven't read my first two titles, be warned that there may be minor spoilers below. Ready to continue? Ok. From my original outline for Lord of the City, I've got a bunch of notes describing "here's the state of the City, here's some general history, here's how human magic works", and then the story is listed as something like this:
- - Set up scene, say why mission needs to go
- - Ship gets built/tested, crew set up
- - Trip begins, people settle into roles
- - First site visited. Nope.
- - Trip to second site. More bladesmen seen.
- - Second site visited. Nope. Light contact?
- 3 parts. P1: Kenton.
- Humans settle. City landed in unclaimed area between 3 small "nations". Lords rule some, advise others, etc.
- Hear of a City with many (2 dozen?) Lords, "retired" from public involvement. Other nations basically pay for their upkeep so they leave the world alone.
- 3 years after landing, Viala has a son. Soon after, the humans are attacked by a nation who is also at war with another nation the City is working with.
Still plenty of alterations from this original outline, but a lot more detail put to paper (though much of it was still in my head). And now an example of what I'm coming up with for the next title; here's what I have for the equivalent of what would have been one bullet point above:
- Nobody hears from Ikami for nearly a day afterwards and people are getting worried. Suddenly, Ikami sends a message (cross-continent!) and says she needs help. The message is stronger than it should be, even for Ikami - Cord has concerns about what's happening over there. Ikami creates a temporary portal between the City and the research encampment near the CotL where she’s currently at, and Cord/Viala/Ather/Wesnoq/Apashae (taken over training of Human mages since Dural died) go through. Kenton stays behind, needing to manage the crisis in the City. He cautions them based on the earlier incident; clearly torn between going investigating with the rest and staying to do his duty at home.
(chose that one because it gives away the least amount of spoilers; it's clearly partway into the story)
Sure, there'll be changes (there always are!), but I've got a much better idea of how I want my characters to feel and progress through the arc of the story, meaning that I can give a better setup to lead them in the desired direction. It's not just more story detail, but more character detail.
Anyways, it's been interesting watching my own evolution as I gain more experience in completing and publishing novels. Hopefully this small glimpse into my process was interesting for you too!