Thursday, May 1, 2014

Thoughts on Writing a Series, or a Sequel

I didn’t start out to write a series. I blame a magazine editor. He said he loved my story but it was too long for his format. Unfortunately, I soon learned a novella was too long for most magazine formats. I had another brilliant idea. I’d simply write two more novellas about the same character and peddle the result to publishers as a book-length package.

That worked. Two publishers asked to see the finished product, and then sat on it for a couple of years until my current publisher picked it up and I could happily thumb my nose at the other two.

This is where I learned the importance of keeping extensive notes. It’s either that, or completely re-read the first novella so I don’t do any more things like change the spelling of the main character’s name. What was his favorite food again? He drank what? Keep notes! I know all you extensive plotters out there are shaking your heads. I didn’t plan to write a series, it just happened. Now there are six written, and the first three are out in paperback. Now I have to worry about being consistent in tone. Now secondary characters are re-appearing in later stories.

Because I’m writing about an imaginary world, I have to make certain the rules stay the same as we progress. I have to keep track of all this darn stuff. No more, just let the wisecracks fly; I have to pay attention to what I’m doing! I have been known to change characters’ hair and eye color. Not anymore!

And now sequels are popping up. I just finished writing two for my first published novel. When I started, I had very little idea where I was going. I actually had to stop writing and think about it. This is where my knowledge of the characters came in handy. What would these folks get up to? Who is the main villain of the piece?

I’ve started writing the sequels to my second published novel. At least this project will be simpler. When I finished writing the original manuscript I set down two sentences (one for each projected book) on what the theme would be if I turned this thing into a trilogy. I think it will actually work. All I have to do is come up with 100,000 words built around each single sentence.

I admit I suspect plotters have it easier. You probably know everything about your characters before you set fingertips to keyboard. With me, it’s a case of, let’s see what they are getting up to next.

I write because I want to find out how the story ends, or if it does.


The Dark Lady - February 2012
Dark Days – March 2014
Dark Knights – coming in August 2014

The Queen=s Pawn - April 2013 (three chapters into book two)

The Housetrap Chronicles Volume One - Jan 2014 (working on novella #7)


Julie Eberhart Painter said...

I'm with you, inventing as I go along. You had me at spelling the character's name different ways. In the very first book I wrote, I spelled Munro three ways. The editor never blinked and now it's written in stone but safely out of print.

FYI: The publisher went out of business.

Liz Fountain said...

Very timely for me as I'm working on my first series. But dang it - like Julie, I can lose track in a single book, much less three. The first draft of my first book, my main character's hair and eye color changed. Worse, one minor character was gay. Then he wasn't.

Guess I'd better start keeping some notes...


Big Mike said...

I've written three sequels, two at the request of my publisher, one because I want to experiment with a cozy romantic mystery idea. We'll see if the later works. First release (Distant Obsession) comes out in August.

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