Tuesday, March 5, 2013

WHAT I’VE LEARNED TRYING TO WRITE A SERIES!




When I finished polishing my first Medieval Romance, Heartsong, I realized I didn’t want to let the characters go. I fell in love! In fact two of the brothers of the heroine intrigued me. I knew I had to write a story for them as well. So, what about a series? I remember long ago, reading a series by Catherine Coulter, and Joanna Lindsey has been writing the Marlow family for years. More recently, Christina Dodd wrote the Princess series. There are many other authors who have kept their characters alive.

I decided to give it a try and the first thing I learned, was, thank the lord, I’d taken the time to write detailed character interviews for all the main characters of Heartsong. Without them I would have had to spent hours, rereading the book and making notes. Of course, even a lot of the research, clothing, foods, living conditions, even the size of the keep and the rooms in one, had already been researched and I had notes on all of that.

However, here I found I was paging through all my notes looking for little details, the kind that bring a story to life. There had to be a better way! I thought about some of the records I kept for writing and decided – perhaps a spread sheet would work. With my first novel, years ago, I drew my characters out on butcher paper, and that made for easy reference. Why not do the same with a spread sheet?

So, I retrieved my pad of accounting paper, the twelve column kind, and begin to consider what information I needed. After all, the heroine of the new story would be visited by the heroine of the first story. She’d describe what she saw and what she thought of the other woman. The same for others who would also grace the pages of the second book.

Names became a problem as well. You don’t want the heroine of the first book to have a very similar name to a maid or servant in the second book, so I needed names. I also found that I really wished I’d kept a word or two description of each major scene in the first book. I’ve learned a valuable lesson trying to write this series. Keep track of important scenes, who, what, where and why, and descriptions. Recording them on a computer spread sheet makes review much easier.

Without my written record for that first book, I’d be spending hours rereading and recording. I don’t have to do that now. I’ve also learned recording plot devices work well if a series is in mind. Doing it after the fact means a lot more work.

So the third book did not present some of the problems the second book has presented. The fourth book is in process. With luck my editor will like it. We can hope. But no matter the outcome, I’ve come away with some valuable lessons – that work for me. Some of what I learned might help you too, if you’re considering a series.

Allison Knight

2 comments:

Julie Eberhart Painter said...

That is a lot of work. Keeping your passion while sorting the details must take a lot of discipline.

Big Mike said...

Agree on the character descriptions. Saves a ton of time, but I still had to re read Part I to re-sink to the store and all its peculiarities. Thing is, I typically prefer all my stories to stand alone cause I enjoy creating the new fictional world. But once the publisher reviewed FINAL SOLUTION and suggested I create the sequel FINAL TRUTH, hey, you just can't refuse.

Michael Davis (Davisstories.com)
Author of the Year (2008 and 2009)
Award of Excellence (2012)