Category Archives: Gama Martinez

Plotting a Series

A guest post by Gama Martinez

How do you approach a series? How do you make sure that you’re not setting yourself up for difficulties because the rules you established for your world in book 1 make the ending of book 6 not work? One way, naturally, is to outline the whole series, but that can be an equally daunting task. Like outlining a book, outlining a series is not for everyone. In fact, I’ll go so far as to say it’s not for most people, and you won’t really know if it’s for you unless you try it. Here’s the method I use.

A number of years ago, I was talking to Brandon Sanderson, and I told him that the second book in the Stormlight Archive, Words of Radiance, felt like the end of act 1, and I asked him if that was deliberate. He said that it really was. Books 1 and 2 are act 1. Books 3 and 4 are act 2, and book 5 is act 3. That completely opened my eyes to plotting a series.

The traditional three act structure has a number of parts. What I realized in my conversation with Brandon was that many of these could be applied to a series. It’s not as detailed as can be applied to a novel, but the major parts still apply. The first act is a setup. The second, which can be longer than the others, is the protagonist taking a more active role in their journey. Generally, halfway through, there is a shift. We learn that the world is not what it appeared to be. This act ends when things are pretty much as bad as they can possibly get. The third act is recovering and clawing your way toward victory. Fair warning. I am about to be giving a lot of Harry Potter spoilers, because that series illustrates this beautifully, but given that that series ended ten years ago, I’m going to assume that if you want to read it, you have. If that’s not the case, just skip over the next paragraph.

For Harry Potter, books 1-2 are act 1. Books 3-6 are act 2, and book 7 is act 3. Books 1 and 2 are basically “Harry goes to Hogwarts and something happens.” We’re introduced to the characters, and they start to come into their own. Sure, a couple of important plot details happen, namely, the destruction of the first horocrux, but it’s mainly getting to know the setting and people. In book 3, there is an immediate change. Harry starts off with a specific goal. He wants to kill Sirius Black. From then on, Harry is a more active protagonist. The shift in tone happens at the end of book 4, with the death of Cedric. Someone has died. They weren’t a monster. They were a friend. This is no longer a story for children. The low point, obviously, is the death of Dumbledore. Hogwarts has always been a safe place. Sure, dangerous things happened, but it was home. Harry was always happy to get there and sad to leave. Now, “father” is dead. Home belongs to the bad guys, and Harry cannot return.

I applied many of the same concepts to my Pharim War series. I changed how long each “act” was, but having these points in mind allowed me to outline the entire series fairly early on. I knew what had to happen in book 3. I knew that in book 4, there had to be a shift. I knew where to put the catastrophe. I never follow my outlines exactly, so book 2 didn’t end where I planned. As a result, I had to make minor adjustments to the outline of book 3 before I started, but I knew where the story was going, and that let me jump fairly easily from one book to the next. The ultimate result was a seven book series released entirely in the space of just under a year and a half. Try it out. See if it works for you.


Gama Ray Martinez lives near Salt Lake City, Utah. He moved there solely because he likes mountains. He collects weapons in case he ever needs to supply a medieval battalion, and he greatly resents when work or other real life things get in the way of writing. One of his greatest accomplishments is getting Brandon Sanderson to give him a cover quote for his book, Shadowguard. He secretly hopes to one day slay a dragon in single combat and doesn’t believe in letting pesky little things like reality stand in the way of dreams.

No man is an island

No man is an Island

(Guest post by Gama Ray Martinez)

“No man is an island entire of itself.”

John Donne wrote those famous words almost four hundred years ago. With very few exceptions, they are as true in fiction as they are in life. Keep in mind that most stories are from the point of view of the hero, and for the vast majority of stories, you know the hero is going to triumph in the end. That’s not why you read the story. We read the story to find out what the hero is going to have to go through to get that victory. what price are they going to have to pay? Usually, the very first price is who they are. The character at the end of the story is not the same as the character in the beginning. They’ve often lost their innocence. They have changed, and they have changed those around them. No here is this most apparent than in their closest friendships. There are a couple of ways to do this. The one that I’ve found the most success with is finding what your main character lacks.

In my recently completed Pharim War series, the main character, Jez, has two strong relationships. The first is Osmund, one of the first people he meets when he goes away to magic school. Throughout the first book, Jez discovers strange powers inside of himself that indicate he may not be entirely human. Osmund, an exile because of his own partially inhuman heritage, has already been through that. By the end of the first book, the pair are inseparable. By the end of the second, not only have they accepted their inhuman side. They have embraced it. Through the rest of the series, their conversations with each other often inspire awe and fear in others, not because they are not entirely human, but rather because of the adventures their inhuman side has led them too. What they can casually discuss with each other, no one else can understand. That leads to scenes like this, if the fifth book of the series.


“Fine,” Jez said, “but the question still stands. Can’t we just go and face Sharim’s army ourselves?”

Fina smirked. “And how many demon armies have you faced?”

“Two,” Jez said without hesitation. Then, he glanced at Osmund. “Do you think that time in the beast men’s valley counts? I mean those animals were possessed.”

“True, but we didn’t really fight them. That was all the beast men. You did battle that giant lake monster, though.”

Jez shook his head. “That wasn’t a demon.” He smiled and looked at Fina. “Just two.”

Lina groaned. “You two are hopeless.”

For a second, Fina just stared at them. Then, he threw back his head and laughed. “For a moment, I forgot who I was talking to.”


The air of casualness with which they speak of something so amazing is a quality that characterizes their relationship throughout the series.

Jez’s second important relationship is with Lina. Lina actually started as an antagonist, of sorts. She was the rich spoiled daughter of a noble, and she hated Jez, essentially for being a commoner. It was only in the second book when I explored the noble class of the world of the Pharim War that I found the depth of her character. Throughout the series, she, more and more, represented Jez’s link to his human side. The more he had to embrace his other half, the more precious his human side became to the point where he makes sacrifices for her that he would make for no one else. Of course, it works both way. Just as she is Jez’s, and to a lesser extent Osmund’s, link to humanity, their relationships with her serve as a catalyst in Lina’s life that allows her to see that just because someone isn’t noble doesn’t make them of less value. In short, she helps them be human, and they help her be humane.


Gama Ray Martinez lives in Salt Lake City area and collects weapons in case he ever needs to supply a medieval battalion. He greatly resents when work or other real life things get in the way of writing. He secretly dreams of one day slaying a dragon in single combat and doesn’t believe in letting pesky little things like reality stand in the way of dreams. He has recently completed the Pharim War, a series about angels and is working on The Nylean Chronicles, a series about unicorns.

Write Like the Wind

A Guest Post by Gama Martinez

I have a rather ambitious release schedule this year. This Tuesday, March 29, Beastwalker, the third book in my Pharim War series gets released. After that, I’m releasing, on average, one project a month until the end of the year. Seven of those will be novels, and three will be short story collections. When I tell people this, the look at me like I’m crazy, but there are a couple of things I’m doing that make this much more bearable.

One of the most wonderful things the internet age has given me is the ability to write from anywhere. I save my manuscripts on my dropbox, which I can access from my computer, my tablet, or my phone. If I have thirty minutes in which I’m not doing something, it’s a simple matter to pull out my phone and add a hundred words or so to my latest project. It’s not the easiest thing to do on my phone without a keyboard, but a hundred words is a hundred words. They add up. I generally set aside at least three hours a day to write, usually at night, and during that time, I tend to write about twice what I did during the little chunks, but think about that for a second. A full third of my writing is done outside of my “writing time.” Doing this, I end up with a first draft in roughly a month.

That brings up an important point. I’ve learned to write in small time chunks. This took me a long time to learn how to do. Some people need time to make the mental transition into writing mode. It can be difficult to learn. There is one thing that really helped me overcome that, and that was realizing that it’s okay if my first drafts are terrible. They are full of plot holes. I frequently go five pages with nothing but dialog. I have major reveals that weren’t foreshadowed at all. I might have as many as thirty problems like that in a manuscript, though it’s rarely been that many. It’s the first draft so it’s fine. None of those things, by themselves, are that big of a deal. That’s the key point. Once I get to my revision phase, each of these problems might take me a day to fix. Most won’t actually be that long, but for the sake of argument, we’ll say each takes me a day. That means if I have my hypothetical first draft written in a month with thirty day long items to fix, I can have a viable draft in two months. It’s still not ready for submission, but 85% of the work is done. After that, its proofreading, beta readers, and editors. Each of those take time, but if you’ve made it this far, you probably won’t have a problem with that.

You also need to find what time works best for you. There have been cognitive studies that suggest the two halves of your brain fall asleep at different times. It varies from person to person. Some people write best early in the morning. I do late at night. Frank Herbert wrote part Dune in one hour chunks, sitting in his car during his lunch break. Multiple other have done similar things. Find when works for you.

Regarding writer’s block: I’ve already partially addressed it. Like I said earlier, it’s okay if your first draft is bad. That’s what the second draft is for. There is another school of thought on this that I don’t follow but that may be of use to you. Orson Scott Card says that when you have writer’s block, it means you’re subconsciously detecting something fundamentally wrong with what you’ve already written, and that you need to go back and fix it. I can understand that view. If there is something fundamentally wrong, your story could go off in a completely random direction, however, I am an outliner, and I always know where my story is going, that keeps me from getting too far off track. If you don’t outline, and you find yourself with writer’s block, you may want to go back and see if there’s something wrong you can fix.

There is one more thing I would like to point out. My process, the habits I’ve outlined above, work for me. It’s taken me a long time to reach this point. I started writing seriously nearly eight years ago. You probably won’t be able to read this post and churn out half a dozen books in the next year. It will take time to find your process, and that’s okay.

Gama Martinez:

Gama Martinez lives in the Salt Lake City area and collects weapons in case he ever needs to supply a medieval battalion. He greatly resents when work or other real life things get in the way of writing. He secretly dreams of one day slaying a dragon in single combat and doesn’t believe in letting pesky little things like reality stand in the way of dreams. He is currently working on the Pharim War, a series about angels as well as The Nylean Chronicles, a new series about unicorns.