I may have mentioned before that I am currently writing a book set in a militaristic magitech fantasy setting. I probably need to work on my elevator speech for it, since the other day someone asked me what it was about and my reaction was basically:
My inability to tell you about my story does not inspire confidence in regards to its quality.
Fortunately, this medium lets me put my thoughts together in a slightly more organized fashion. The plot of my first book is a combination of a Wizarding School story mixed with a missing-persons mystery in the nearby city that unfolds into a much larger threat. The two threads begin to coil together, with our precocious protagonists encountering the law officer investigating the case by being where they shouldn't and have to deal with an unfolding crisis while still attending class at a place that is basically Harvard meets Ender's Battle School meets Hogwarts.
Hogwarts Military Institute.
What has been much less easy, and where I've been stuck until recently, has been my precocious teens. I have general ideas of what sources of conflict should be, but for a while I didn't have any specific path that I had set down. This left me unsure of where to write to or what I should necessarily focus on. This is not an unusual problem for me; I typically build a story in order of Setting->Characters->Plot.
I decided that the easiest (and possibly even best!) way to figure out what should go on was to take a look at what other writers have done. I took three books about Wizarding schools and did a quick plot overview of each: Harry Potter, The Name of the Wind and A Wizard of Earthsea. I ended up junking A Wizard of Eathsea as it wasn't quite as good as I had remembered, but the other two gave me a lot of insight into how I should arrange things occurring and what kinds of elements I should focus on and when. It let me know that I need to design some specific rivals for our intrepid heroes so I could introduce them nowish. It let me know that I needed to get a little bigger in revealing the more magical elements of the setting.
It hardly took me any time at all, and now I feel silly for not having done it sooner. Now I have many more ideas for what I want to do and a path for what I need to do.
Now I just need to, you know. Do it.
Oh sure, I get pissed that everyone is LITERALLY TALKING IN RIDDLES and suddenly *I'm* the asshole.