Welcome to Ravenna’s Monday Mumblings!
Today I’m going to talk about keeping it all straight when writing a series. When I recently posted the cover for the last book in my 12-book series, The Weathermen, I was asked how I keep everything on track when writing such a long series.
This isn’t even my longest one, to be honest. As Tara Rose, I have a 15-book series called Racy Nights, and technically it didn’t end. I could go back to Racy, Indiana, pick up where we left off, and continue the series from there if I wanted to.
When I start a new series, I don’t always have an ending book, or a specific number of books in mind. For The Weathermen I did, because from the beginning there were twelve men. Each man got his own book, so I knew there would be twelve books.
The planning for this series, therefore, was a bit more structured than the way I usually plan a series. But the process for all of them is the same for me. I’ll say right here that this may not work for everyone. Each of us is unique, and we have to find what works best for the way we write and process information.
I start with the idea for the series, and by that I mean the overall arc. Who are these people? Where did they come from? How and why are they connected? Why is it important that they are? What will happen if they’re not? How does their connection affect the town, etc. where they all live? What are their relationships to one another?
These are only a few of the questions I ask and then answer when making my notes for the overall series. In the case of The Weathermen, I knew I had to resolve The Madeline Project gone rogue one way or the other, so I also knew I needed to give my readers clues and progress toward that resolution in each book.
I will admit a few of the plot twists and turns the series took were complete surprises to me. My characters revealed them as I wrote. If you’re an author, you know exactly what I mean. That’s half the fun of it for me. Seeing where the heroes and heroines lead me, even when I think I already have a clear plan of where the story or the series is going to begin with.
Once I have my questions answered and my series notes in enough order where I feel I can begin to write, I give the series a title if it doesn’t already have one. This involves searching the Evernight Publishing website to make sure I haven’t inadvertently chosen a title already in use, or too close to someone else’s. I do this BEFORE I become too attached to a given name for my series. I also do this BEFORE I title my books in that series, for the same reasons.
I usually title them ahead of time, but sometimes I change a title when I get to that book, as a better one presents itself while I write. Sometimes I’m asked by my publisher to re-title a book, so it has a better chance of catching the attention of readers.
I keep detailed series notes as I write each book. For The Weathermen this included details on buildings, restaurants, etc. for each town. It also included keeping track of things like who lived in which town, what their company names were, and who knew which other men from when and where. The longer a series goes on, and the more intricate the plot and overarching story lines are within it, the more detailed your notes will need to be.
Not enough detail, and you will make consistency errors that readers will spot. Your timelines will be off. You’ll have secondary and tertiary characters that will change names, or their purpose and role in the story will change from book to book. I’ve even seen heroes and heroines change names or roles from book to book if authors aren’t careful. You have a lot of details about all your characters, including your town, to keep consistent. The only way to do that is to keep track of them somehow, and then refer to that system as you write.
I keep series notes and notes on each book in Word documents, but again, find what works best for you and then stick with it. Some people love Scrivener for this reason. It allows them to categorize and sort all those details, move scenes around, and create templates.
The more I know about my characters as people, the easier it is for me to write about them, and to keep all those details straight. Some authors find it easier to do this by way of pictures, some prefer to simply write all it down.
The trick is to find something that works for you, and then keep doing it, no matter how many books end up being in your series. Even if you stop it for a while and return to it, those notes or whatever you’ve created to keep it all straight will guide you toward seamless writing as you add more books to the series.
Until next week, happy writing!