Saturday, January 23, 2021

Writing in a series, and finding a good surprise

 Writing in a series has at least one basic difference from writing a standalone:starting with book 2, you have to allow for the reader not having read book 1 in a while, or even never having read book 1 at all. Therefore, you may need to explain things from time to time. The tricky part is, you don't want to bore the reader who has read book 1 recently (or who read it a while ago, but has an excellent memory). If a story keeps telling the reader things he already knows, he will get bored with it. It's basically a balancing act between  the need to move the story forward and the need to make the reader understand what's happening and why.

Another big difference is, in a series you can follow one character for years, if you can keep coming up with interesting things for them to do. That's a real plus if you have a character you want to grow and change with time.

Readers who fall in love with one or more characters tend to love reading a whole series about them. This can be a problem for the writer, who wants to move on. Personally, I've never sat down to write a book that hadn't already sprung  to life in my head. My first published work is 2-book series set on the panet Haven , I have another 2-book series (not yet published but coming soon) called the Nameless World series. They are very different in the way there were written. I thought of the Haven books as two stories while I was writing them; there is a nine year gap between the two books, for one thing, and characters who were secondary in book 1 come front and center in book 2 for another.  Ergo, I ended book 1 before I moved on to write book 2.

The Haven Series

The Nameless World books were written as one story but it was so damn long (240,000 words!)  that I eventually decided I had to cut it into two books. I found a place where a few months elapsed, and added a little additional text to give the book some resolution, I  made that the end of book 1. I also had to add some text to the start of book 2, and I had to edit the rest of the m.s. carefully to allow for the non-reader of book 1 (see first para in this post).

Cover at for Nameless World, Books 1 and 2

My three-book series set on the planet Wakanreo was kind of an amalgam of the other two series. I saw it as two books, one about the relationship between a human woman and a Wakanrean man, and another one about their children. However, on writing it, the "second book" turned into books 2 and 3. 

The Wakanreo series

I usually end a series because I have no more story in my head for that setting and those characters. That's not a problem until readers express a desire for more books in that series. This has happened more than once with the Wakanreo books in particular. I remembered starting  a fourth book, but as I recalled, it was only a few chapters, more of a short story than a novel. I published Alien Bonds in 2018, but I wrote the first draft more than 20 years ago, using a DOS-based software called XyWrite. I went looking for those few chapters and discovered to my surprise that the file was actually 56,000 words, nine and a half chapters! Luckily, I had transferred it into MS Word so I could read it. 

Now I have to decide if I want to return to Wakanreo with a book 4. But first I have to remember how I planned for the book to end! 

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