Writing A Novel Series, by Julian Stockwin
Writing one book, let alone a series, seemed an incredibly daunting thought when I first decided to try my hand at writing. Now, double digit books into the Thomas Kydd series, I look back with both pride and amazement.
Taking on a series gives a writer a wonderful opportunity to really develop characters and to grow a readership very loyal to the world you write about, but there are potential pitfalls and things you must think about. Will you run out of steam after just a couple of titles? Have you chosen a subject that readers, publishers and agents will still care about five or more years down the line? Do you have the mental and physical stamina to take on the commitment?
Here are my six tips to would-be series writers:
1. Write about something you care passionately about. For me, this is the sea, which has fascinated me ever since I can remember. My mother embarrasses me by telling the tale of a toddler bringing home a dead seagull because it stank of the sea…
2. Don’t stint on research and organise your resources. There’s a wealth of available material out there. Catalogue and cross reference as you build up your library. There is nothing worse than remembering something you want to use but having no idea where you read it.
3. Character, character, character. Getting the central character right is crucial; you will be staying with the character for many books. Vitally, readers must care about the character or they won’t continue to buy your books.
4. Plan your work and work your plan. This adage is particularly relevant for a series. I have a chart that describes my books in terms of the main variables: time, geographical location, stage in life of the main characters, etc. Then I follow this up with a very detailed plan for each book.
5. Master the art of the back story. A big challenge in writing a series is to produce each book so that a person new to your work can experience a satisfying read, picking up sufficient information of what has gone before to understand the nuances of the text, while a fan of your earlier books is not bored by too much back story.
6. Develop an editor’s eye. This skill is quite different from writing but just as important. A good idea is to put your finished manuscript aside for several weeks before starting on the edits. You will be coming to it with a fresh eye then.
Historical fiction seems to be having a resurgence at the moment – so there’s opportunity aplenty for more historical series. If a series seems too big an undertaking you could always aim for a trilogy, a sort of mini-series.
Julian Stockwin’s author website: www.julianstockwin.com
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