I should have realized writing a series wouldn’t be all wine and roses, but I didn’t expect to panic during the process.
There are several times I’ve had novels with characters I thought I could spin off into a series, but it never quite happened. Then I wrote a book and proposed a series to my publisher. That was something I’d never done before. Usually, I write a manuscript, and then submit it. This time I submitted one book and indicated I had ideas for two more. As a result I received my first three-book contract—complete with deadlines for two novels that were still in the “vague idea” stage.
Was I game? Uh, yeah—no-brainer. But, easy? Let’s just say I’ve been through a learning curve.
As an author, I normally start a book with character outlines for my main players, a sketchy outline of the primary plot and—in the case of my Point Pleasant series—a lot of research. Then I write and pants.
That doesn’t work so well with series writing, and honestly, I’m not sure I’ll ever attempt one again. At least not while working a full-time job. I think the cons may be outweighing the pros at this juncture, though I love the project and am committed to it. It’s just those %#@& deadlines, you know?
Let’s take a look at a few pros of series writing
These are great for both writer and reader. As the author, I know this group inside and out. I’m currently writing book three of the series (the last one) so we’ve had two previous novels to become acquainted. The same for my readers. When they pick up the second or third book, they’ll be rejoining characters they already know and are (hopefully) emotionally invested in. Kind of like getting together with old friends.
My series is set in an actual town (Point Pleasant, West Virginia), so I already had established boundaries before I began writing. Even so, I’ve taken liberties with the town, adding my own fictional businesses and streets. By books 2 and 3, my characters are roaming around in places I introduced in book 1, so again the familiarity is there for both reader and writer. From the Parrish Hotel to Doreen Sue’s hair salon, Suzanne Preech’s Early Start eatery and the Riverside Café (among others) I’ve created my own little world. That part is fun. 🙂
Not Starting from Scratch
Backstories have been established in previous books, so by the time I sit down to write book three, I don’t have to think through a lot of hurdles. I’m not recreating the wheel, which (should) make everything work that much easier, and the process of writing that much quicker.
Now a few cons:
The big one. This is where panic sets in thanks to that looming monolith smack in the middle of the path. Deadlines are relentless and seem to grow larger as the clock ticks down. If I didn’t work full-time I probably wouldn’t mind them so much, but facing them while juggling daily life and a career is a lot harder than I initially imagined. It’s easy to think “oh, I’ve got time.” But time has a habit of slipping away faster than expected.
I don’t mind this one, but it’s something to be concerned with when writing a series. If I mention something trivial in book 1, then need to address it again in book 2 or 3, I better be certain of the accuracy.
I find myself jotting down the most mundane things….what was the name of the waitress at the Riverside Café in book one? What kind of car did I say Katie Lynch drives? What was the name of the street two blocks over from Eve’s house? What color hair did (insert name of random third-tier character) have? I find myself jotting notes constantly for it’s important to be consistent throughout.
The Siren Call of Other Projects
Don’t get me wrong. I love my characters and this series, but other projects are starting to whisper incessantly in my ear. Sometimes it’s hard to stay focused when being wooed by other ideas. I keep jotting notes on those. Keep thinking about “when I finish…” but the noise level is growing as those ideas funnel into a bottleneck. I’m in this for the duration, but I also like shiny new plots. For now I’m keeping a lid on those, but it’s distracting.
I don’t know of any writer who actually enjoys writing a synopsis, but this one is a killer for me because it’s due in advance of the book. Given I proposed a series and got a contract, it should be easy, right? Not really. Because now I need to provide details of that “vague idea” that suddenly requires concrete shape. I always breathe a huge sigh of relief when I can put this one behind me.
How do you feel about a series? Have you ever written one? Do you think you ever would? Do you see them as confining as a writer or comforting by sinking into the familiar?