Wednesday, April 8, 2020

A Word Of Caution When Writing A Series

I often see in query letters authors writing about how they know a series is the way to go and their book is going to be part of a series. While this is true in many ways, when I do see this, I am immediately worried that I will see a flaw in the writing. 9 times out of 10, that mistake is there.

Here is what I see...

Because authors are thinking about that series, instead of the individual project, the focus for that first book is not there. Instead, the author spends the majority of the time trying to "set things in place" for the later books. They keep those secondary characters in play for way too long. They spend time developing sub-plots that will be used for later plots. And the end result is the focus is just not there.

There is nothing wrong about thinking ahead, but remember that if that first book does not sell, the later books, that you spent so much time prepping in book 1 will not sell.

The solution is simple.

First of all, bring in those secondary characters and use them ONLY as support for the primary characters in book 1. Give us enough of a glimpse of something that makes them interesting and then get them out of the picture fast. Bronwyn Scott does this with her historical romances. For her, she simply gets those characters out of town so they are not likely to walk in later on the main characters. They often don't return until the end of story if she wants to create a bridge to the next book.

If you want another author to study, check out Andrew Greely. He takes it to a new level by connecting characters from different series. He does the same thing Scott does, he brings the character into another series, quickly serves as a plot device to advance the other series and then disappears.

Secondly, those sub-plots for the later books are not inserted at all. Putting those plots into the wrong book often confuses the reader.

My simple recommendation is focus on one book at a time. Jot down notes for those future books and keep those in a journal AWAY from that central storyline. It is good to think ahead, but don't ruin your chances with that first book.

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