When you write a series

Forty-nine weeks after the second day of the new year

You know what Author is doing these days: she is checking the ebook format she prepared for her next book for you and is working on what is the bulk of the work that requires most of the attention in the formatting of the print layout, typesetting each page of the manuscript in Indesign. This will take time, and in the meantime Author wants to note something that is specific to this book, which is the second one in the Oracle series. With the work on it to be completed soon, this does seem to be the last chance to touch this point.

Writing a series is different than writing a standalone book. When you finish a standalone book you simply move on to your next one, your next idea. You should keep some sort of an organized record of the main elements of your works to avoid a repeat of a plot or characters in your future stories, but other than that you leave that book, that story, behind.

With a series—and by series Author doesn’t mean two or three or even four books, but a number of books you’re not placing a limit on—from the very first book you need to keep in mind that the story you’re writing is designed to continue, that additional chapters will follow it, each with its own plot and embodied in its own published book. You might not know how many books or what they will be about, but you do know the direction in which you intend to take the series and you know the main characters who will star in all its plots. Some of the locations, too, and likely quite a few other details that you intend to leave consistent throughout the continuing story. Of course, even those elements in the series that you will keep can evolve, and you have the freedom to add others as you go along—a new plot, a new character, a new location. Within the confines of the direction of the series and its genres, of course, and all depending on what it is that you are writing, that you are planning to keep alive in the years and books to come.

You might think that the first book in your series is the introduction and that beginning with the second book all the ones following it will be the independent chapters of the continuing story. That the first one establishes the entire basis on which the series will stand, and the next ones will be a line of individual chapters. Just get that first one done, create the people, the places, the concept underlying it all, and then you’ll be free to roam the reality you’ve created in as many books as you want. And you might be right. But then again, maybe not quite.

At least, that’s what Author has found with the series she’s writing. The second book in the Oracle series is closely connected to the first one, Oracle’s Hunt. A full introduction to the series is no longer needed, the first book did that, but Author still wanted—and needed—to complete some information for the series’ readers, to supplement the background she has provided in Oracle’s Hunt. Yes, the new plot is completely different and independent of the first book’s, but the building of the characters’ background and that of the reality in which they live needed to continue. And this placed certain restrictions on where Author could take this second book. She wasn’t free yet to run forward with her plan for the series. And so this book isn’t just the next chapter in the story, one in the line of chapters that follow the first book, the introduction, but is in fact an important link between the beginning of the series—Oracle’s Hunt—and the next books that Author is planning for its readers. The idea is that after reading the first two books of the series, its readers will have in their mind enough of a notion of the main characters, the backdrop and the concept behind it. Enough of a notion for Author to be able to bring to them the next books in which she will continue to build what she has in mind for it, for them.

And a word here, a fitting place, Author thinks: she has enjoyed writing these first two books in the Oracle series, Oracle’s Hunt and Oracle’s Diplomacy, which you will soon see. And she can’t wait to write the third one. It will be interesting to see what that will be like. But first, after this one is published there will be another book, one outside the Oracle series. One that Author expects will be no less engaging to write.

This week’s tip is actually Sister’s, and it’s the same one she gave Author:  Writers, if you want to write a series, release its first two books consecutively. Even if the first one does provide the readers with all the introduction they need to the series, release the next one, too. Not only will this show your readers that you really are creating a series, it will also let them get to know it and make it easier and more enjoyable for them to follow the next chapters you will bring to them in its future. And don’t delay in bringing them these books. By all means, write other books, other stories. But once you have launched a series, remember that your readers are waiting for you to continue what you started.


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