5 Steps To A Series!
If you thought writing was hard, wait till you get your hands on a series.
The image up there is a compilation of all the handwritten pages in my manuscript of book 4 in the WINDS OF FIRE series (one-side of the paper only because I recycle paper—save the trees and earth, you know.)
Series are wonderful to read… like book after book on the same characters or stories that focus on different characters, perhaps, from the same location. A chilling story maybe about an evil spirit that lurks in a specific place and how it affects different people? How about events orchestrated by a group of people and the mayhem that travels wherever they go (Superhero movies are great because our heroes are always trying to save the universe and end up destroying New York, Hong Kong or Chicago in the process).
Reading and watching works of a series do wonders for the soul. At least for me they do. A series keeps me entrenched in story worlds I love to love. Hogwarts, Hogsmeade and Privet Drive in Harry Potter. The Edwardian mansion, Yorkshire, in Downton Abbey was a treat. I lived with upper-class men and the servants on different levels of the mansion and a wealth of plots and subplots kept the series chugging at full speed. Then of course I remember the first time I read a series. It was a 4-book story, ‘Flowers In The Attic’ by Author, V.C.Andrews and I was hooked. I was about 15 at the time and I couldn’t put down the books.
When I finished the series I asked myself, “How on earth did the author create such magnificent worlds and turn and twist the story so that the roller coaster ride never ended and you kept turning the page? And when I reached THE END, I wanted the story to go on and live with the character some more.
I couldn’t answer the question at the time. But decades later (so now you know I’m not 15) I’ve managed to find a few answers along the way as I’m neck-deep in book 4 .
5 things I’ve learned about writing a series:
- You (the author) can’t artificially grow the characters. Try it and the story won’t hold. The main characters grow/mature by themselves depending on their current goals (not previous) and the current obstacles they must overcome to achieve it. This of course, does relate to his/her accomplishments in the previous book(s). The characters must move forward, not repeat what they did in the past or you’re re-writing the same story.
- You must keep all the details logged somewhere and update as needed. The number of times I’ve forgotten the color of my characters’ hair, height, speech tags, quirks… I could go on. The worlds and homes I’ve created are so huge that I’ve actually got lost in my imaginative world and couldn’t remember if I’m on the east or north wing.
- Research until you have all the information you need. And then STOP. There have been times (months) when I enjoyed the research so much that I forgot about the story I was working on and plunged too deep. However, keep all the notes because the least expected seed grows into a tree and you don’t want to dangle off a branch. You will land on your butt and it will hurt. I promise.
- (technical glitch here)
- If a secondary character is talking or taking on a larger role then s/he deserves – promise her/him a book of her own and move on with the main character’s story. Again, I speak from experience which cost me months and months of extract-and-then-declutter-the-cobweb-filled cupboard.
- Secondary characters and subplots are important because they hold the main plot together. Don’t underestimate their power. What keeps a series interesting and up-to-speed are the mirrors, allies, opponents, their goals in the story and HOW it affects the main character’s story. That’s it—nothing more. If you dive too deep in secondary characters’ stories, please see (4). Not the glitch.
Writing a series takes time and patience. Grit and determination come in handy on days when you just don’t know what to write or how to put down the words. But just knowing someone else out there, like author, Veronica Cline Barton, completed book 4 in her cozy mystery ‘My American Almost Royal Cousin’ series—gives me a ray of hope. Because I’m pages away from finishing mine and when I reach THE END I’ll know if there’s another book ahead. And what you’re seeing down there is the ‘Mr. Men’ series I grew up reading (matching cup and books nowadays from the U.K.) Now, of course there are ‘Little Miss’ in the mix!
What do you think about series and do you have a favorite?