Thursday, February 26, 2009

Thinking series



I'm brainstorming today. I need to get started on the second book in my new paranormal romance series -- first books are fairly easy. Second books? HARD. (at least, for me). The first series I did, my vamp one, I never really had a plan for it since I never knew I'd get the chance to go five books with the same characters. This non-planning presented several challenges for me in regards to overall character arcs and other lovely writerly terms. It all worked out, luckily enough, but it wasn't totally easy getting from point A to point Z while keeping each book as stand-alone as possible.

I'm lucky enough to now be at the beginning of two potential series - one for adults and one for teens. The first book is written for both, and my task in the next five months is to write 2 book twos. Basically I want to make things easier on myself by thinking things through up front. But how do you do that? How do you know where your characters might be in five plus books?

I'm basically writing everything down in a series bible -- character motivation and goals, descriptions, potential plot points. It's intimidating! Mostly because I'm one of those people who overthink everything and assume I'm doing it wrong.

So I'm asking my fellow Leaguers -- many of whom have written or are writing awesome multi-book series -- (or any other fabulous person who'd like to answer the question) HOW DO YOU DO IT? Do you have any tips, tricks, or words of wisdom in thinking "series"? How do you approach this specialized kind of novel-writing? Do you take it one book at a time? Do you know how everything's going to turn out or do you let your characters surprise you and take you in new unexplored directions?

Please! Share with the class. I really want to know. (So I can use your tips for my own selfish and nefarious reasons, of course).

--Michelle Rowen :-)

www.michellerowen.com

11 comments:

Jaye Wells said...

I'm still trying to figure all this out myself. I'll be interested to hear what everyone says. Thanks for the great topic.

Heather said...

I try to keep a lot of open questions for me as I write anyway, because I tend to write in a really linear fashion, and I never outline or anything. But I didn't know that my latest book would have series potential until chapter 28 (out of 32). And when I had the "big idea" that would open it up, I had to go back and fix a bunch of little stuff.

The key is to never write yourself into a corner.

Gareth said...

Ah the $64K question. To be honest, look at what you've already done, read it as a you would a normal book. That always inspires questions, and from those questions you might get a good guide of where you want to take the tale in future instalments.

For example if we are talking about Reign and Fire about a Demon Princess, questions that can occur include:
How does she cope with the pressures of having to deal with royal duties and going to school?
How does she deal with suitors?
When your father is a king amongst demons what can you do to rebel?

The thing is, if you can give readers a piece about the tale such as a book blurb etc, they'll ask questions, some of which you'll have dealt with, others which you haven't but it will generate idea's and from that you'll figure out where your going.

Likewise ask your test readers what they'd like to see or what questions they have. It should provide some thought provoking material.

Other than that I tend to relax in bed and think things through and generally let my mind work on it as I sleep. You'll be amazed at the concepts that make it through and steer you in the right direction.

Michelle Rowen said...

Okay, see, I already do those things. LOL.

I'm looking for the MAGIC ANSWER, people!! None of this hard work stuff!!! ;)

Thanks for the replies so far... :)

booklover said...

There is no magic answer I think, and even if you know your write a series from the beginning, well it doesn't mean things turns out as planned. For example, I knew from the start that one of my stories would be the first in a series. It still is, but a wee bit different. Instead of having 3 books with the same MC, I have three books with different MCs. To make things more complicated, I can if I want to, turn them into three different series, since they explore different part of society and the world I have created. *laughs manically*

December/Stacia said...

I have a loose story arc in mind generally by the time the first book is complete. For the Demons books, frex, I have the entire Megan/Greyson story planned out; what will happen, where they will be when the series ends, a few ideas for stories, a few major scenes that popped into my head at one time or another. And the same for the Downside books, really, although that's a much longer arc.

And I have a few basic plot ideas for further books, which means I can make sure I'm not inserting a throw-away line somewhere that will render a later story unworkable or whatever. I don't know everything that will happen in those books of course but I have some thoughts on them.

For me the second book is absolutely the hardest. I started the second Demons book eight times before I had a beginning that worked. The second Downside book was like pulling teeth to write. Not I'm 2/3 of the way done with the third and am having a great time again, and think the third Demons book will be just asmuch fun; the story I have planned will be a hoot, I think. :-)

So yeah, it's just like the first third of a book; leave lots of stuff open, really. And I do think it helps to have the overreaching arcs--the romances, the characters' career developments, whatever--in mind as you go along.

Does that help? :-)

Gareth said...

OK quick magic answer:
Make a deal with the devil so that you'll never run out of book idea's. It will cost you your soul but hey those are the breaks. LOL

Michelle Rowen said...

Thanks for the great comments! I'm thinking it has a lot to do with worldbuilding. The bigger your foundation, the more story there will be to tell. I always think of books in terms of series anyhow. It's very rare I ever get a standalone idea. But sometimes I'm feeling a bit overwhelmed with how sloppy all these bits and pieces seem to come to me.

Gareth...I think that might be the answer. But I already made my deal to get published. Huh. Perhaps I should have been more specific. ;)

talshannon said...

A bible full of potential plots sounds like a good idea. For each plot premise, start with the question, "Where can the character grow next?"

Another thing to do, specifically for book two, is think of an incredible, irresistible, must-write scene that would have to take place at the climax of the story, and then write backwards. Figure out everything that needs to fall in place for that scene to happen. Then when you write all the scenes that lead up to that big one, the big one may end up changing, but it'll do so as part of the natural course of things.

It's rather like sex. You know you want a great climax; the pleasure is in figuring out how to get there.

Nicole Peeler said...

I am anal retentive and so I outlined the hell out of everything before I started. So I have a large outline of all 6 Tempest books arced out, but it still allows a lot of room to play. It just has the major plot happenings. Then I outline the hell out of each book before I start. Then I outline each chapter before I start writing them.

In fact, I outlined this post before I began writing it.

Okay, I didn't, but I thought about it.

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Who the HELL Do We Think We Are?

We're a bunch of paranormal romance and urban fantasy authors who occasionally blog, make filthy jokes and prowl the halls of conferences and conventions with switchblades!

Current roster: Mario Acevedo, Michele Bardsley, Sonya Bateman, Dakota Cassidy, Carolyn Crane, Molly Harper, Kevin Hearne, Mark Henry, Stacia Kane, Jackie Kessler, J.F. Lewis, Daniel Marks, Richelle Mead, Kelly Meding, Allison Pang, Nicole Peeler, Kat Richardson, Michelle Rowen, Diana Rowland, Jeanne C. Stein, K.A. Stewart, Anton Strout, and Jaye Wells

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