I’m currently working on the third in a series of (probably) three books. I envisaged this as a series, a trilogy, from the word go. I love reading series and was in no doubt that I would love writing one. And I do, most of the time. But I’m also finding it far harder than I’d expected. There’s just so much you need to hold together, and I really didn’t realise that when I started.
So, for any other writers out there who are contemplating writing a series, I thought I’d point out some of the things you should do in advance (many of which I didn’t!).
- Make a plan, even if it’s only a rough one, of where you expect to get to in each book and where you want to be by the end of the final book. Make sure there are enough issues left unresolved to keep you going in the final book!
- In your plan, have a rough idea of what will happen in future books so you can drop some clues in earlier ones. Not big, annoying clues that your readers want answers to immediately, but little things you can hook on to later.
- Make detailed notes of characters, particularly minor characters. Major characters are not usually a problem for me, it’s the minor ones you can easily lose track of. I keep a separate notebook for each novel, but it’s particularly important in a series where I may come back to the characters after a gap of a year or (for characters that appear only in Book 1 then Book 3) more than a year. When I say detailed I mean detailed – not just age, name, colouring. They might not be important in Book 1, but they may well be later. So you need to know: why were they there, what were they doing, what was their motivation, how do they impact on the main characters? Write it down now because if you’re like me you may well have forgotten all relevant facts a week from now, let alone a year.
- And finally – make sure you really love these characters. As someone (Teri Terry?) said about any book you write, make sure you love it because you’re going to spend an awful lot of time working on it, revising it, editing it, promoting it … For a series you need to multiply this by however many books there are in the series. So beware!
The series I’m currently working on is # George and Finn. Book 1 (Music and Lies) and Book 2 (Bright Lights and Lies) are already available. Book 3, No More Lies, is close, so close to completion, but as yet still has to be called a work in progress.
So, do I regret having started this series? The answer is no, definitely not (I love the characters George and Finn). Would I do things differently if I was starting again now? Very definitely yes! Although each of the three stories includes a self-contained mystery, the over-arching storyline is the romance between George and Finn and the resolution of Finn’s family difficulties. It is these latter two that I should have planned better so I could control the pace and the revelations.
One thing is for sure, my admiration for writers who do a long series spectacularly well (e.g. J K Rowling) has gone up from great to immense.