Writing a series is a big commitment. Deciding whether you and your story are up to the challenge is the very first step in the process. In this series of articles over the next few weeks (don’t you love the irony?), we’ll explore exactly what it takes to create, plan, and complete your own fiction series.
Before you start that first chapter you have to make a very important decision: Do you have enough story? When Wendi and I started the Bonds of Blood & Spirit trilogy we already knew we had more story than could fit into a single book. Volume is never an issue for us.
Not everyone is blessed (or cursed) with an over abundance of characters or ideas. Many writers struggle putting together a single story, let alone stopping to consider stringing together three or more books after that.
You start by knowing yourself, and your story’s, limitations. The last thing you want is to break a promise to your audience. Beginning with a series in mind, you can plan your story accordingly, which is what we will talk about next week.
This week, I’d like you to take a look at your reasons for writing a series. Below are a few of the most common reasons writers encounter:
Too Much Story: We knew right from the start with Loyalties we had a series on our hands. The scope of our vision was much too large to try cramming it all into a single book. When you know this at the get-go, chances are you have a series on your hands.
Fan Favorites: Every story has its dark horse, the character that becomes a fan favorite out of nowhere and people beg the author to tell them more. The Fan Favorite can lead into a spinoff with a story of his own, or in the case of our own Uncivil Wars, that character’s story provides a catalyst for continuing the story in the series.
Spanning Generations: Some stories are so big they span generations of characters. A prime example is Mario Puzo’s The Godfather series.
Fun Characters: I call this the Terry Pratchett style. This type of series happens when you’ve created a fantastic universe of your own and are having way too much fun with all the characters in it. If you’ve ever read Discworld, you’ll notice that you can start reading any of the books in the series, in no particular order, and you won’t feel lost at all. That’s because what binds the characters is the world Sir Terry created, not the characters themselves.
After The Fact: A lot of writers decide to create a sequel or series after they’ve finished their first novel. There’s nothing wrong with deciding after the fact, but you will have your work cut out for you. Writing a first novel without considering the books that will come after it is limiting.
Hell…we even ran into obstacles after having written Loyalties. What obstacles, you ask? Consistency is one. Whether a book starts out as a stand alone or not, you need to check your facts against the first book as you write books two and three. The last thing you want is to do what I call a “Lucas”.
If you’ve ever watched Star Wars, there is a moment in Return of the Jedi where Luke asks his sister Leia if she remembers what their mother was like. She says, “She was…very beautiful. Kind, but sad.” BUT…in the third movie, Revenge of the Sith, Luke and Leia’s mother dies in childbirth.
No matter which reason you have for writing a series, it all starts with a lot of careful planning. This is not a project you want to make up as you go. Next week we’ll talk about the planning stage and the methods we use.
Were any of your reasons on this list? Do you have one you’d like to add? Tell us about it in the comments or join the conversation on Facebook.
Photo: Lucas Films, Return of the Jedi