Friday, July 20, 2012

Tips for Writing Multiple Series

by Elizabeth S. Craig, @elizabethscraig

Juggler in front of the Natural History MuseumI always hesitate to post on these kinds of topics, knowing that not everyone is as crazy as I am and writing several series at once.

I’m just figuring it out, myself. I usually juggle two series, but this year I decided to make it even more complicated and continue writing Myrtle Clover books in addition to the others. Why not? It’s already nutty around here.

Here are some ways I’ve found to make it work:

If you have any control over your deadlines at all, try to make sure that your deadlines don’t hit at the same time. It’s just very stressful. Get your agent onboard with that if you can and if you have one. I’ve done it this year and I did manage to get the deadlines 2 months apart, but it was still tough.

If you do get the deadlines that close together, try to deliver the first deadline earlier than promised, if you can. That will give you more time with the second and will also give you a little leeway when your edits for the first book come back in (if they come back early.)

The ideal situation is different for every writer, but I usually like to be drafting one book when I receive edits on another. I get the work done on both, but I’m using different parts of my brain so I don’t get that burned out feeling. That’s just how it works for me, anyway.

If you have time, consider skimming over the previous books in the series before writing the next book. At least enough to pick up the character voices and remind yourself of the tone of the books.

Develop a style sheet for your series. This has been the most helpful tool for me when writing my series. Penguin has been great to send me style sheets for each book, which I’ve downloaded and refer to often. These sheets include character names, descriptions, and ages; business names, connections between characters—all the little things that we can forget but shouldn’t forget. Sort of a little cheat sheet to get yourself going in the right direction.

If you’ve written a few books in the series, review the storylines for the previous books. It helps to keep from accidentally writing too closely to a previous storyline. Or to a similar storyline in another series you’re writing.

One other thing I like to do is review my Word file of copy/pasted notes from reader emails, reader Facebook and Twitter messages, and reader reviews on online retailers. This way I can remind myself what readers liked about the series…and didn’t like. Then I can deliver more of what they liked.

Write quickly. There are, obviously, a few reasons to do this. One, you don’t get frozen—worrying about how to approach the next book in the series. Jump in, write it, fix it later. Also, the next book for the other series is waiting on you to work on it.

Keep a Word document of each book you’ve written, in each series. And back them up. You need to have a searchable document on hand. Many times I’ve been busily writing in a little detail that I think belongs to one series, frown, do a search on the book I believe the detail comes from, and find that the detail/minor character is from a different series. I know that sounds ridiculous, but when you go from book to book and series to series it happens. And it’s hard to search a paperback book for a small detail. I’m keeping Word docs from years back just for the ability to search them.

This is what I’ve learned so far about juggling series. I’d love to hear from others who do the same. And I’d aslo love to hear from those of you who write a single series— your tips for keeping series continuity without repeating the same formula for each book.

Image: vpickering