Good morning and Happy Saturday. Already the 2nd weekend in February. And it is not any warmer than it was last week. If anything, this week has been one of the worst this season. Freezing rain all day Tuesday, snow overnight last night, and expected again on Sunday. I will be glad to see winter end. I know, I’m a Canadian girl and I should be used to it by now, but the older I get (I’m a young 42), the harder the winters seem to be. However, it makes for some writing hours! *g* The silver lining, right?
Which brings me to this week’s post…writing that first book in a series. I have many series on the go. I LOVE to read them, think that Harlequin/Silhouette got me hooked many years ago (at the age of 14) when I found Nora Roberts, Joan Johnston and Debbie Macomber. I have 7 series on the go. Yes, 7, and none of them are fully complete. Now, in my defense – and the writer brain working as it does – after I write a story set in one world/series, I have to move away from those characters/the world, and move on to something else. As a reader, I don’t mind the wait for the next book in an author’s series, as I understand the writer’s mind has …well, a mind of its own. As much as I know readers would prefer I finish up one series before moving on to the next – and I know many authors who CAN do it this way – I can’t. I have to give myself a break from those characters and the angst, adrenaline of each story, the energy of it all. I’m unsure why exactly, it’s how it works best for me.
I am sure it hurts my sales, and I do dislike that believe me, but if I push myself too far and go against the norm of things, then I’ll be hurting myself as well as doing an injustice to the characters/story. Should the time ever arise that I can immediately move onto the next in a series, then trust me, I’ll be all over it. I WISH it happened for me like that. But all isn’t lost, as I will come back to those characters/the world…in due time. And when they want to.
But what goes into a series – that first book? A well-rounded posse of characters. To me that is first and foremost. I start with the characters and then build the world from there. For me it makes sense, I can’t build a world without knowing who the characters are – what they do, the baggage/wounds they carry, what drives them, what they want out of life, who they are as lovers, partners, best friends, children, parents and/or siblings.
Book 1 should introduce everyone essential to the series – unless a character pops up in a later book that comes from nowhere and matches one of the primary characters, of course. And when I say introduce, I don’t mean pages of pages of history for each individual, work all that in through the story a bit, but leave a lot of the secondary characters information until their own books. Book 1 should introduce the friends, etc., but book 1 should be all about the hero/heroine of that story. Weave their information through the story as well, build the first book around who they are, and bring those secondary characters into it as need be. They’ll show up, trust me. *g*
Through book 1, reveal the series arc that will be sustained through however many books you perceive the series to be. When it comes to a series, outlining is quite important. I use spreadsheets with all the information – character name, occupation, physical traits, what happens to them in each book, who they are to everyone within the story, etc, etc. I suggest every author use one for a series, that way you will have the information throughout the series readily available to look back at without having to re-read every single book each time. Even though, that too is a great idea. I have done that with every book as I sit to write a new one. But the spreadsheets are easily accessed as I write every book. Saves time as well, when I’m on a writing sprint that is going well and I can glance at the printed copy of the spreadsheet and the info is there.
With the first book of a series, it’s so important that an author make it shine. Even more brilliantly than ever imagined, and take extra time with it. Readers will find that first book, and authors of course want the readers coming back for every single book in the series, so it needs to sparkle like bright lights in a big city. It has to be spectacular. While writing it, even going back to do your self-edits and draft after draft, learn who each individual is as much as possible. You’ll be hanging out with them a lot – most series are 3 books or more – and it’s so, so important to know them as well as you know yourself or your own family. Setting the world for the series needs vivid detail, the deep connections and internal “click” surrounding the characters who are powerful and engaging to the readers. We love series that involve characters who we can identify with, wish were our brothers, sisters, BFFs, etc. While I am nowhere near JD Robb/Nora Roberts’ standard in writing, though I wish to be one day!, she certainly hit it out of the park with series like – In Death, MacGregors, McKade Brothers, Chesapeake Blue, and I could go on and on.
And when in doubt when a series comes to mind, read!! Read other author’s works that have series. Take that first book from each series and learn from it. See how other authors set up their worlds, the way they introduce characters and how things unfold seamlessly through it. An author’s best learning tool is other authors who have done well with their craft. Of course, don’t steal works but learn the tools of the trade to interweave the valuable info through every sentence and chapter, with every character.
Until next week,
Happy reading!! xoxo