Thursday, November 3, 2011

Tips for writing a series

If you didn't already know it, I'm planning an entire series about Ruby Ransome and her adventures with vamps.  I already have ideas for future books, and I need to sit down and brainstorm one of these days to flesh some of them out and come up with more ideas — the first book takes place in 1923, so I need to see how many books I'm going to want to cram into the remaining 10 years of the decade.  Some of the ideas I have take place in specific years — one of them in 1929 — so I really need to get an idea of all the books I want to have in the series before I get too far along.  Initially I thought of doing a book per year, but most will cover fairly short periods, so maybe I should plan for more.

Anyway, Barnes & Noble's PubIt Facebook page linked to a very interesting article today, on dealing with continuation issues in a series.  (The title is somewhat misleading — the article isn't really about continuation issues to avoid, but how to deal with the issues.)

I've already come up with ideas for my covers that I think will create a strong brand, so I'm good on number 4.  I also have a very good idea of the overall story for the series (Ruby and Victor fighting vampire-driven organized crime in the 1920s), so put a check next to number 5.  I also feel good about Ruby's character arc throughout the series, so we're good there too.  And number 7 deals with what I was just talking about: planning out the series ahead of time, so that I can make the time line work.

Numbers 1, 2, and 3 are more about keeping the details straight.  I'm actually not sure 1 and 3 aren't the same thing — 1 talks about getting character details right, and both 1 and 3 talk about rereading prior books to make sure you're remembering the details correctly.  Personally, I keep an "outline" (loosely defined as such) with character information, and I try to add important details as I think of them.  I may develop this to include more detailed character sheets for each one.

Two is a very interesting issue.  Do you make each book a standalone?  Do you repeat information in each book in order to bring up to speed the readers who are just now coming into the story?  While I agree that books need to bring readers up to speed — for those who read the last book or books a while ago, as much as for those who have never read them — I think too much of this really bogs down the story, and in my books I'd like to keep it to a minimum.

I've written novels before (though never published), but writing a series will be a new adventure for me.  I have to say I'm looking forward to sticking with these characters for a while!

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