Thursday, June 27, 2013

Cerise's 5 Easy Steps to Writing a Series!

Historical Prequel #1 to my
Knights in Black Leather series!

Writing a series—especially one that spans the past AND the present—can be a huge challenge to a writer's and a reader's life!

Writing my current KNIGHTS IN BLACK LEATHER series, you know I have recently released a historical prequel...with another to come. So I am into this process like a crazy June bug!

Keeping the facts straight is one thing. But keeping the logic straight for the reader is even more important! You want them to stay with you for all the books and you want them informed, pleased and yearning for more!
How to do that without ticking off readers and keeping all your hair in your head?

First you buy a notebook at the local dime store OR your build a file— or maybe you do both—on your computer.

Then, you promise yourself that as you write you will take these 5 "Easy" Steps.

1. First step involves the names of characters. Keep them distinct.
    Always keep a record of your names, first, last and nickname. Excel spreadsheet works best because you can record last names and first in various ways.
    Always make certain that you have no repeats, like Jake or Jack or even Jackson. Merely the look of the first letter on the page triggers the reader's mind to record this as one or the other. You never want confusion in their mind or yours.
If you are really into this process, it is a good idea to also note their eye color, height, hair color, etc. just so you don't confuse one with another.
This also helps when you want to talk about any family characteristics they share!

Book #1, Contemporary in my
KNIBL series
2. Record any dates for actions in plot or dates of birth of characters.
    These are pesky issues that later on can cause you trouble because the facts are buried in the text. Write them down as you go—and be sure to change them if you change the text.
    Remember, too, that if your first book in the series debuted 2 years ago and you mark time in a different way in the fiction than chronologically, you need to tell the reader this. How? Either in the text itself, with such sentences like, "Jake and Susannah had been married for five months when Max came to town. He knew he had little chance of breaking them up. And to try would be so wrong."

3. Keep another record of family events or community events that recur.
Does the town have an annual Memorial Day Parade and is the Sheriff always the Grand Marshall of the event?
Did the local high school burn down in the last book in June?
Was the town founded by renegade outlaws after the Civil War?
You want to record any pertinent facts so you don't have to hunt them down every time you need a refresher.
If you want to also note where these references occurred in which book in the series and on what page, even better!
Most important, if any of these events are significant to this family, town or area for a particular reason, then you want to note how and why it is. Then, never vary only elaborate on that.

Book #2, Contemporary in my
KNIBL series
4. Jot down the major conflicts between your hero and heroine or others in the stories.
You do not want to write the same book twice in your series.
And if you can develop an over-arching challenge among all the characters then this enriches your series.
In KNIGHTS IN BLACK LEATHER, the big challenge in town is that there are fewer women than men. The men, therefore, have learned to "share." Menages and a quatre unions are plentiful!
This makes for a lot of continuity, but it also means I have a lot of potential for internal and couples' conflicts.

5. Draw a family tree or a relationship tree.

Often times in a series, a few of the characters are related by blood or incident.  If this is so in your books, as it is in my KNIBL series, then it is vital that you draw one of these.  Even if it never appears in any of your books, this tree is an easy visual that will keep you on the straight and narrow when it comes to facts about their relationships.

Your readers will love it when you keep them organized.
And they will continue to buy your series of books!
See how I do it by buying all at: https://www.ellorascave.com/index.php/authors/index/author/slug/cerise-deland/


Tina Donahue said...

Awesome blog, Cerise - great advice. I started writing series last year and I can attest to the fact that it ain't easy. Keeping all the characters in your head, along with what they said/did, is murder. I ended up color coding previous books so I could refer to them to see if the character did this or that. I kept cringing every time I forgot something and had to go back to rewrite it.

Your advice is priceless. Thanks!

jean hart stewart said...

Great advice. I've mostly written series and let me tell you can get myself all mixed up. I've got a timeline going in Passionate Pursuits, but I still get confused.

Delicious Romance From Cerise DeLand said...

Tina and Jean, I feel your pain!
I have written lots of series in my time and with others too! (THAT can be a wild ride!)
But Excel is my new friend.
Cuz writing Bibles ain't easy!
Onward, my friends.