Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Writing Series—Thoughts and Resources

The Half Holiday, Alec home from school-- by Elizabeth Adela Stanhope Forbes --1859-1912 When my son gets hooked on a new series, it’s very exciting for me—I don’t have to research YA books for a little while! I’m so relieved to have something he’s thrilled to read that I’ll find the books however it takes—library, bookstore, or online retailer. He’s an avid reader, and a fast one, and he flies through books. I spend a lot of time online reading reviews and finding him books that I think he’ll like.

He read through the first book in about a day so I quickly requested the next two books from the library as soon as I saw that the series was a hit.

The second book? He got halfway through in a couple of hours…then I noticed the book was lying around the house a lot. He read it in the car on the way to middle school one morning, but when it was time for him to jump out of the car and head into the school, he left it on the seat. “Hey!” I said, rolling down the car window and waving the novel at him. “You forgot your book!”

“It’s okay,” he said, with a dismissive wave. Uh oh. Something wasn’t right with the book.

I always like to ask him what went wrong—for a few reasons. I like for him to think about what the writer did wrong…and improve his own writing skills. I also like to know if it sounds like the series is redeemable at all or if it’s hopeless (can I interest him in the next book, or do I need to go series shopping again?) And—I want to know what he thinks went wrong so I don’t make the same kind of mistake in my own series.

It turned out the series was a trilogy and the second book acted as sort of the saggy middle for the series. He said it was too long, repetitive, and had small periods of excitement, followed by long stretches of boredom.

My books don’t extend storylines from book to book in a major way—character development, obviously, is on a particular path. And there are subplots that carry from one book to the next. But the story itself is basically a stand-alone. My concern is usually just not boring old readers of the series with backstory while making sure that any new readers will know what’s going on.At some point, though, I might want to write a trilogy or a series with a continuing storyline.

I thought I’d share some great resources on series writing that I’ve collected. Hope they help:

Character life arcs in series

Time flies—or crawls—in a series

Tips for writing a series

How to write a series synopsis

Sex in a series

Why you should write a series and some lessons from successful series writer Patricia Cornwell

Things to consider about writing series (especially if you don’t have an agent or publisher yet)

The importance of magic and wonder in a fantasy—and why series can ruin it.

What makes for a good series that lasts? (Margot Kinberg)

Series separation anxiety

What do you look for in a series as a reader? How do you handle them as a writer?