Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Planning Sequels Before Finishing The First Book

"I heard that editors and agents love to hear that authors have a series for the book they are pitching." This is a common statement a lot of authors make and one that, unfortunately, lead many authors into some pretty bad writing.

Let me first say that yes, a series is great, IF, the premise is good an IF the first book sells and IF... in other words, there are a lot of ifs here. Sure, there is nothing better than having your readers get hooked on the characters or theme of a first book and want to read more and just keep coming back. But in reality, writing a series can be extremely difficult to do, and yes, a lot of writers mess this up.

One of the biggest mistakes authors make is the way book #1 is plotted out. Instead of focusing in on the characters and the events of the first book, they spend far too much time "laying the seeds" for the characters and the events in the second and third stories. Yes, we do need to see those characters show up, but if they are infringing on the story of the main characters in book #1, they are there too much.

Those secondary characters need to make "cameo appearances" and that is all. They need to buzz into the room, make a quick impression and get the heck out of the room.

In many cases, a series will often show up by accident. As you are writing and focusing your attention on the book at hand, you will notice that some of those other characters got interesting. Great! Jot down a few notes and get back to work on that current book. Don't obsess and don't start planning those other books yet.

Now, if you do want to start with planning a series, you can take several different approaches. The one most people try to do is the family series. They grab three siblings and let it rip. The nice thing about this approach is that a lot of the ground work can be set up and planned in the first book. You don't have to reinvent the wheel. Please note, this does not mean you ignore it in the later books. You will have to bring it back up in every book. Remember, your readers may read the books out of order. You simply do the planning early on.

The other approach you can take is to think of it thematically. A good example of this would be the latest series by Bronwyn Scott. In this case, she grouped it all together around the idea of The Grand Tour. 4 guys on the tour, and all experiencing different things. Yes, they showed up together in the prologue, but after that, they were on their own.

For me, I personally recommend that new authors work on one book at a time. Sure, think that a series might be there, but skip it for now. We can always tweak something along the way if the series idea comes up. But for now. take it one step at a time.

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