Series and that pesky muse #TuesdayThoughts with Doris (@mamaD8)

Hello, lovely peeps, Doris here with my thoughts on series and how muses can frustrate not only us authors but also the readers.

I’ve touched on this subject before here, but it bears repeating, especially if you’re a panster like me.

I’m very, very aware that I have numerous series which still need completing, and yet, today sees the release of another new series, and I’ve had the acceptance on….. yep, you guessed it… anther new series.

*ducks the flying shoes*

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I can’t help it, readers, I really can’t. As it happens I’m writing book two of the new series now, and then I will make a concerted effort to get to all my other series and add to them. I’m well aware how frustrating it must be when you, the reader, are waiting for the next one in your favourite series and the author goes off on a tangent and writes something else.

I can only speak for myself, but we don’t do it on purpose. I promise, we don’t. Well, I certainly don’t. I would love to be able to write a series in order, but it’s just not the way my muse works.

If it did, it sure would make my life easier. What I can promise is that all of my outstanding series will, eventually, be added to.

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Now, I best get off here and carry on writing. Contrary muse permitting…

And big thanks to all my awesome readers.

Stay naughty, folks,

D xxx

 

Writing Series the Panster Way #TuesdayThoughts with Doris (@mamaD8)

Happy Tuesday, folks, and Happy Valentine’s Day! Are you doing anything special with your loved one/s? Hubby and I will be going away for the weekend on Friday, and I can’t wait… I digress, however.

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Really, Doris, you do surprise us, I can hear you all groan now but bear with me.

Kacey wrote an excellent post on writing the first book in a series here. I found myself nodding along to a lot she said.  In particular the many series on the go—I haven’t dared count how many series I’ve got—only a handful of which are completed in my mind.

*points to muse standing in the naughty corner*

That same muse rolled her eyes and stuck her fingers in her ears singing tralalalalala when it came to the mention of planning a series, character sheets etc.

Say what?

Oh, believe me, I know that’s an excellent idea and when I find myself searching through previous stories in a series to make sure I’ve got the eye color right for that obscure character, I sure wish I’d at least written that down somewhere, but….you guessed it.

I never do. In my muse’s defense, she does usually remember these details because she will not let me tell anyone’s story until she’s figured this all out in her head, and throws the words at me. Or more accurately bombards me with it in my dreams, so that I have to get up the next day and start writing that story.

I’ve had two series, where I knew how many books were going to be in it. Two, out of thirteen. (Yes, I had to go and count them)

Out of those two, only one I managed to write one after the other, and that was after a long gap between book one and two.

I’m sure it must drive my readers round the proverbial bend, this tendency of mine to flit between series and standalones. It does my head in at times, because the one series I managed to write in order….oh yes, that is so much easier.

*shrugs*

Alas, us writerly types are slaves to our muses, and heaven help us when we don’t do as we are told. A muse in a sulky strop is no fun, I tell you. I’ve been there on a few occasions and the outcome is not pretty.

So, how then do you write a series when you’re a panster like me?

QuestionMarks

Well, you wing it, of course.

That’s all well and good, Doris, I hear you say, but how is that helpful.

Okay, I’ll try and explain my haphazard process. Bear in mind this is the way my mind works and it may well not work for you at all, but here goes.

When it comes to the start of any series, they all have one thing in common. I have no idea at the start of writing that this story will evolve into a series. I simply write, and as the world builds and side characters step forward, I usually get the first inkling that, hang on a minute, this person needs a story, and ooh, I like this world, and what if…

Told you this was going to be jumbled post.

Sometimes the potential for a series doesn’t dawn on me until I get edits. I recall one occasion where my editor commented how much she was enjoying that world and what a shame that it wasn’t a series. So we came up with a series name and that was another series born.

In the vast majority of cases, it comes to me as I’m writing, however.

I’ve learned to listen to that insistent niggle and create a series, even when I have no earthly idea how many stories will be in that series.

I’ve just finished book six of a series like that. The first one was a fun little Romance on the Go story. As far as I was concerned that’s all it was going to be. Then, some time later, I got the idea for a bear shifter story, and as I was writing it, the best friend of the heroine in that little, fun, story I wrote turned out to be the roommate of the heroine, whose story I was writing now.

Say what?

Then came that lightbulb moment, and the rest is history. Like I said, I’ve just submitted book six in that series, and while I have no idea how many more books there will be, I know there will be more.

Again, I hear you ask, how can that possibly work?

Well, if you’re a panster, then you already know the answer to that question. You simply trust in your characters and it all somehow comes together. One of the great joys of writing a series is revisiting previous characters. That little glimpse into their HEA which makes me grin and gels them altogether.

This is where your world building comes in and your timeline. You will quite often find me being vague on things like children’s ages because of that timeline again…

If that heroine was pregnant three books ago, and the events in that series run continuously then she can’t have a baby in this book.

*smiles*

For me, at least, it’s fun to work out these little details, even if I do have to read back, and try and work it all out.

(Yes, I know character sheets would be such a good idea here!)

Really, if you can manage it, then do keep and use them. Do as I say not as I do in this case. 🙂

However, if you can’t, if your process seems completely counterproductive and time-consuming and you have no idea how it will ever work… As long as it does work, keep doing it. This is your process and don’t ever let anyone tell you it doesn’t.

This is, after all, what we’re trying to do here on the Naughty Quills. Give you pointers to help you find your own way.

Hence these jumbled thoughts of mine, because that’s the way I work, and I bet I’m not the only one like this.

I should add here that all my series can be read out of order, as each individual book is a standalone set in that series.

I’m sure I’ve completely confuzzled you all now, as we say in my house. Sorry about that, folks. Welcome to my world.

*grins*

That’s all from me today, you’ll be pleased to hear.

Do stay naughty, won’t you?

D xxx

Writing the First Book in a Series #SatisfactionSaturday (@KaceyHammell)

 

saturday
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

Kacey (2)

Standalones, Series, and Serials: Freaky Friday with Michelle Roth @mroth_author

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… which can mean only one thing. It’s time for another Freaky Friday with Michelle Roth. As promised, I’ll be sharing my thoughts on Standalones, series books, and serials.

Standalones

For me, I’ve always had a hard time with standalones. Four of the eleven books I’ve written have started as standalone novels. They’ve all turned into series. I have this compulsion to keep developing the characters (even the ancillary ones) and world building.

Hubs and I were out to dinner one night about the time I started on The Darkness Calls and he’s just asking me all of these questions.

Do vampires in your world get into the music or media from their timeframe?

Do they eat food?

Do they poop?

About halfway through dinner, I’m spitballing answers and I said, “Well fuck. This is just too interesting a universe to make this one book. Did this just turn into a series?”

Spoiler alert: It did. Just like it always does.

Series

For me, that moment … the connection in my brain, where the idea sparks to life, is the most thrilling part of writing. When you can string those thoughts from one story into a map for an entire series? It seems silly not to, in my opinion.

As a reader, I always got attached to the supporting characters, too. The plucky little sister of the hero has to grow up some time. Watching her find love can be a reward in its own. When it’s done properly, you can get to know a whole town, or a group of friends, or a pack of shifters, etc.

The stories from book to book should be unique. It’s normal if characters that know each other have some similar mannerisms and quirks, but … it can be a bit repetitive if they’ve ALL got the same quirks. If they’re interchangeable, then you’re doing it wrong.

Even worse, is when the series is kind of over, but the author keeps trying to squeeze a dollar out of it. Sexy Sex: The Third Generation: Part 75.

Beware the follies.

Serials

This is a huge pet peeve for me for a couple of reasons.

  1. Not pointing fingers or naming names but when your serial count is in the 20’s for a particular couple… and you’re charging 3.00 a serial, that’s just shitty. I understand getting hooked on a story but $60 bucks is really really REALLY a ton of money to drop on one couple. I mean, fuck. I love a happy ending as much as the next girl, but seriously. I’d much rather read full length books than to shell out for 20 sets of 35 pages. Just write a series of three or four… roughly 350 pages. Charge me 6.99 each. That’s $28.00 which is a ton better than $60. *yay math!*
  2. You run the risk of it becoming cliched in order to maintain reader interest. There has to be a HUGE cliffhanger suspenseful moment at the end of each to keep people shelling out money, so if you ever anthologize your serials into a set, and the back cover blurb reads something like this…

    “The shy (yet plucky) BBW virgin falls for her boss, the crop wielding billionaire alpha  BDSM wolf shifter sex god rock and roll star that’s also in a motorcycle club.”

It’s time to rethink your game plan. Absolutely no one ever needs to read that book. I assure you.

Anyway, those are my thoughts on series (why I love them) vs. serials (why I hate them)  vs. standalones (why I can’t make myself do it). Until next week, I bid you adieu!

XOXOX,

Michelle Roth

 

 

 

 

Finding the Perfect Title for a Story/Series #SatisfactionSaturday (@KaceyHammell)

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Good morning all. Kacey here again to start off the weekend with coffee or tea, words of wisdom and a whole lot of yawning. *g* But let’s just jump on in with things today.

Titles — series or for stories.

It SUCKS when you have outlined your story/series, have notes in the margins, everything is perfect from the titles to plot to characters and the outline is saved to your computer so all you have to do is sit and write your fingers off…and then you learn that another author has released stories with those exact same titles/series names and your dream of the perfect stories is blown to smithereens.

Last week, after being struck with inspiration at 3 a.m., a whole trilogy came to me and I grabbed my trusty notebook and pen from the bedside table — EVERY author should have these at their bedside — and outlined (for a solid hour then dropped back into dreamland like a slam of a door) about 20 pages of plot, characters, turns and twists, and the titles of each book, as well as the brothers’ last name for the series was PERFECT for each and every single one.

Now, normally when I consider a title, I will look at many bookstores for the same title, series name, and google a dozen times. However, at 3a.m., I was in no way going to break my concentration to do so, and to see a social media post of  a series with MY title, books with MY titles on it…was deflating to say the least.

This isn’t a case of plagiarism in any shape or form, absolutely not, but everything was so perfect for my trilogy. It was soul-crushing to discover the usage of the same that I’d thought. My outlines didn’t seem so amazing anymore, the spark for the brothers and the series didn’t shine as brightly and I didn’t want to go back to the drawing board to change anything. Without these titles/series name, it threw everything off kilter because of how tied in the intricacies are. Nor do I blame the other author. I mean, my stories aren’t written yet and the ideas that inspire each author can sometimes cross paths as far as titles and character names go.

But, I won’t give up. NEVER!! I will get back to the outlines and see how I can shift things around, see what is triggered for all the stories. It’s just very difficult to get excited about such details then find road blocks in our way. The right info will come to me again, I know they will. Sometimes in this business we have to suck up what doesn’t work and keep trying.

As I mentioned above, and as far as direct advice goes for my post today — do always check bookstores online — amazon, kobo, B&N, etc., plus Google — when titling books and series. It’s always nice to have that piece of your story (outside of the writing) that is all yours. You’ll find authors who may have the same book title as you do once in a while, but if you can start out with one that is all yours when your book releases, it’s a bonus. A small minute detail to some authors but to others — like myself — I like having that aspect as all mine.

Titles are important, as are the series names an author comes up with, and they can become very endearing to each author. And it’s what may draw a reader in first, along with the cover and blurb, so we all want to have the best ones we can and ones that fit our stories from first to last page perfectly.

 

Until next week. Happy Writing!

Kacey (2)

 

 

That all important Title #TuesdayThoughts with Doris (@mamaD8)

Hello, peeps, Doris here, and today I’m going to talk Titles. How do you choose them, what to watch out for, and that sticky thing called copyright.

 

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Titles can be tricky, can’t they? And there is no denying that an intriguing title can be a great selling point. Who hasn’t looked twice at a title, and either laughed, gone oohh, or rolled their eyes? I know I have done all of the above.

So, how then do you actually chose your title. Well, I can only speak for myself, and I’m one of those odd authors, who has titles first. In fact I need a title on that page before I even start writing.

Sometimes that part is easy. A title pops in my head, and hey presto. Other times I have the idea first and then struggle to find a title that fits.

Other times, a title that seemed to fit great, doesn’t anymore as the story develops, goes off a different tangent. So then, it gets changed.

A word on copy right here. copyright with magnifier

While titles aren’t usually subject to copyright, it is a good idea to make sure you don’t inadvertently use another author’s well-known title, or indeed series title, especially if you’re in the same publishing house.

It’s common courtesy, really, and besides, wouldn’t you want a unique title for your story? One that stands out and means folks know it’s yours? I know I do.

Also, most publishers will have a clause in their contract which states they have the right to change the title of your story, or ask you to change it, if they deem it necessary. Should that happen to you, rest assured that it’s done in your best interest, usually anyway. Not all publishers are created equal, of course, but I’m assuming best case scenario here 🙂

Of course, it’s by far preferable to avoid that scenario in the first place. So, how do you go about doing that? Well, you cannot possibly search every book selling site to ensure that title or series name has not been used, but Amazon is a good place to start.

Most folks will have their books for sale on Amazon, so before you set your heart on a title, type it in the search engine of the Kindle Store, and see how many, or if any come up.

I prefer to have a title that no one else has used before. Sometimes that can be very tricky, especially with a series name. You want it to fit your story/series, and sometimes every option that you can think of has been taken already.

So, what do you do then? Play around with it. See if you can just change it slightly to make it more unique to you. This is easier with series I think, than an individual title.

I know one of my upcoming releases has one that has been used by other authors a handful of times, but it was really the only that fit, so I went with it in the end. However, had it been one of the in-house authors titles, then I most definitely would not have used it. Common courtesy like I said. Besides, I know how much it can irk when someone else uses a title of yours that you really love.

It has happened to me, and, boy, did I rant in private, as you do. 😉

So, do yourself a favour, and don’t be that author. At best it gets confusing for readers, and at worst, you unwittingly create bad blood, and no one needs that.

Which brings me round to how you do come up with that unique title.

Well, mine usually find themselves somewhere into the actual story, and those are the easy ones.

Take His Prize for instance. The heroine was quite literally his prize. Series names, chose something like the  family you’re writing about, or something that tallies them all together. If you look hard enough you find it, and you know, you’re an author. You can come up  with something unique. It might just take a little time, but it’s worth it in the end.

That’s all from me today, folks.

Do stay naughty!

D xxx

 

 

 

How Do You Keep It All Straight?

Ravennas Monday MumblingsWelcome 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.

the-harder-they-fall-evernightpublishing-JayAheer2016-series-evernightbannerWhen 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?

labyrinthThese 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.

fountain penOnce 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.

macbook and wordI 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.

Scrivener_LogoI 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.

Giant-mazeThe 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!