Do you have story ideas that would make a great series?
Lots of us do. It is fun to imagine a string of stories spun out of one group of characters or out of a single, long storyline like Lord of the Rings. On October 15th, my new novel The Red Fury released from Desert Breeze Publishing. It is the second book in my historical series Empire in Pine. It’s been a thrill ride, but I’ve also discovered a few things about writing a book series along the way.
Writing a series involves some preparation and organizational techniques that differ from writing a single book, but for the most part, it’s still just writing a great story . . . or two.
Here are four basic starter tips to keep in mind if you have a series churning up ideas in your imagination.
- Give your all to one book at a time. In other words, concentrate on Book One. You have to begin with One Great Idea before you can move onto the next. But it’s very easy to get distracted trying to plan for the bigger picture.
For Empire in Pine, I began with The Green Veil, a book I’d had mulling about in my mind for years and couldn’t let go of. I focused all my energy on building and writing the story of Colette who married impulsively just before the fellow she’d always cared for showed up. It wasn’t until near the end that I realized another story was waiting to be told, and I allowed myself the freedom to explore its possibilities. It’s easy to get mired down in planning a long chronicle of narratives before you even know if you’ve succeeded writing a great story in the first one, so focus on that and get it down. First things first. Write Book 1. Make it the best it can be on its own, just in case that series never develops.
- Decide if your series is going to be based around a single character whose adventures continue from book to book, a group of people with each person’s story being told in a separate volume, multiple generations, or around an event or theme. For instance, Empire in Pine is generational. I wanted to tell the story of several women’s lives (mothers & daughters) — their adventures and romances — during the rise of Wisconsin’s rich logging era. Book 2 is about the main character’s daughter from Book 1. Book 3 (coming next July) is about the daughter of the main character from Book 2. I have another book series in mind based around different women who come to the United States as King’s Girls, or Casket Girls, from France. Each one would be a separate story. The only relation between the books would be that thread that they are all Casket Girls.
- Get a bird’s eye view of the number of books in your series. This outcome might change as you go, but if you’re certain you have a series on your hands, think in terms of a manageable goal and number. Not too many writers tell themselves they’re going to write an ongoing series like Harry Potter or some of the detective heroes that have shown up in book after book. And as a new writer, your chances of finding a publishing home for a long series is also slim. So be reasonable.
I knew fairly soon that Empire in Pine would span three books because of the timeline I was covering. Each book is set approximately 20 years apart, from about the late 1840s to the early 1890s — the time it took for Wisconsin’s logging era to begin and rise to its peak.
- Use a reliable system for organizing your notes. For each book, I use a separate composition notebook in which I generate research, ideas, character traits, plot, scene, goals & motivations, and structural ideas as they come to mind. Some of this gets transferred to a computer file once I start writing the story. These bits and pieces will be easy to reference later. Each composition book is also a different color for each book I write. I can yank them off the shelf quickly when I need to. They’re cheap, sturdy, and just about the perfect size.
There’s much more to writing a series. I’m going to explore this topic further in the days ahead on my blog. Join me, won’t you? http://www.naomimusch.com/apps/blog While you’re at my site, please stop in and investigate my Empire in Pine series. It’s available as an eBook online everywhere. http://www.naomimusch.com/empireinpineseries.htm
Desert Breeze Publishing
The Red Fury – Empire in Pine – Book 1 http://tinyurl.com/3qkt4c9
The Green Veil – Empire in Pine – Book 2 http://tinyurl.com/3ktb54j