Dear Author, Are You Writing a Series?


Through the months of November and December, some fab writers would take over Daily (w)rite. I still have a few slots open for December, so I would welcome guest posts by writers who have something to say about the art, craft, and business of writing. Write me a mail at atozstories at gmail dot com to discuss this.

Today, I welcome Rick Gualtieri. He has a great blog, and his latest offering, , Sunset Strip is on my TBR pile (Just look at that gorgeous cover!). It is a 60k words of paranormal fantasy with attitude, and is now available Kindle, Nook, Kobo . If you haven’t already, I urge you to check it out. Take it away, Rick!

Sunset Strip: A Tale From The Tome Of Bill

Sunset Strip by Rick Gualtieri

Surviving a Series

 I’ve just released the fifth book in a horror/comedy series I’ve been writing.  I’m lucky in that it’s been well-received by readers and has developed a bit of a following.  There’re few better feelings for a writer than receiving a message asking when the next book will be coming out. At the same time, it’s not all wine and roses. It’s very possible to suffer from series burn-out. There’s also the ever-present fear of ‘jumping the shark’, where everything afterward doesn’t quite reach the highpoints that came before.  In short there’re plenty of challenges for series authors. In between writing mine and reading others, though, I’ve come up with some suggestions that hopefully you might find useful.

 -        Know where you’re going.  A series should have a destination in mind.  Even if it’s not an ultimate destination, there should be a culmination to story arcs in mind before starting anew.  Closure is good and gives readers a sense of satisfaction.  Without that sense of direction, your multi-book epic adventure could start to seem aimless. Treat your series like a singular story, except each book represents a chapter.  Make sure you have a coherent beginning, middle, and end when it’s all viewed as a whole.

-        Change is good, as long as it’s not for the sake of change.  Mix things up, kill characters, introduce new ones, and have the survivors grow as a result – as long as it makes sense for the story.  The same thing over and over again is comfortable, but can rapidly become boring.  Just make sure when you change it, you know where you’re going with it.

-        Don’t milk it.  While you wouldn’t be the first writer to throw a few extra books into a series to keep the old cash cow alive, remember that readers aren’t stupid.  If it’s filler, people will realize it. Go to that well too often and don’t be surprised when readers react to the announcement of the next chapter with apathy rather than excitement.  If your series is reaching its end, go for it and go big.  Don’t put off the inevitable just because you hope to squeeze people for a few more bucks.

-        It’s okay to take a break.   You may get some grousing, but it’s perfectly okay to work on a different story in between series volumes.  You need to respect your readers, but that doesn’t mean they should dictate what must come next.   No ideas for a different world? Consider a side story for a sub character. This can be a great way to mix things up and keep them fresh for you, while at the same time expanding upon your universe.  My latest falls into that category.  It was a nice breath of fresh air to help me recharge my batteries, while still treading familiar ground.

Writing a series can be an awesome experience in extended world-building and storytelling.  But much like a long road trip, it’s easy to get lost. If you can avoid doing so, though, you may find it personally rewarding as well as potentially lucrative.

————–

Rick Gualtieri

Rick Gualtieri

About Rick: Rick Gualtieri lives alone in a dark, evil place called New Jersey with only his wife, three kids, and countless pets to both keep him company and constantly plot against him. When he’s not busy monkey-clicking out words, he can typically be found jealously guarding his collection of vintage Transformers from all who would seek to defile them. Defilers beware!

———  As a reader, what are some of your favorite series, and why? If you’re an author, what’s your take on surviving a series?

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28 thoughts on “Dear Author, Are You Writing a Series?

  1. I’m working on a septology, and am convinced that I would be creating a disaster if I didn’t plan it all out before having started book 1. Additionally, I know that I must keep revisiting my plans as time passes. Invariably, something in the writing of each book (or even section) may convince me of a new plot change. When that happens I make myself stop writing and return to the drawing board. This may sound tedious and even dangerous, but it’s always better to plan then execute rather than execute an ill-conceived idea.
    Daniel

  2. Pingback: Dear Author, Are You Writing a Series? | Fernweh Productions

  3. We have too many writers saturating the space…But we have a very few who can strike the right chords…You seem to be doing the perfect job….Thanks for being around :)

  4. My favourite series is The Dresden Files: Jim Butcher. I think the character progress is phenomenal in the series! Also, I found the use of “lazy plot points” like no communication between two characters or the use of time travel devices, minimal in it.
    I haven’t seen your series in India, Rick.
    Could you talk a little more about mixing comedy and horror genres? Maybe in a separate blog post, maybe as a reply to this comment?

    • Hey Anish!

      I would agree on the Dresden File…with maybe the exception of the last few books. But we can debate that another day. :)

      As for Comedy/Horror, well I’ve always been a fan of movies like Big Trouble in Little China and Army of Darkness and I noticed that while there were plenty of horror novels with some humor in them, there weren’t a lot where the focus was on it – and those that were, were more slapstick. I wanted to write a series that had some horrific themes, but at the same time had characters who were too busy cracking wise to really notice how terrified they should probably be. :)

      • In fact, with the Dresden files, the first two books were the not nice kinds. I have been liking the progress from then on. Maybe, the last two books, yes. Open to debate.
        I am working on a horror stories anthology. Might, just might have a story or two with a comic element as well. My only question to you would be, how do you terrify the reader while keeping him/her laughing?

  5. My attention is always caught by ‘lives in NJ.’ I do, too, and I ‘know,’ from the internet a small group of others.

    I am a charter member of the Sisters in Crime Central Jersey, and my only published story so far is in one of their anthologies (Crime Scene NJ), but I don’t get to the meetings due to disability – but it is essential in life to have SOME group that you belong to doing the same crazy thing (writing) that you do, just for the sake of sanity. The newsletter keeps me connected.

    Though the novel-in-progress is not a mystery, the finished one and its planned sequels are. I cherish that link to a group of hard-working mystery writers. It’s on my list of things to get back to when I finish the WIP.

    • Alicia, it’s awesome to meet a fellow NJ-ian / writer. Honestly, I only know a small handful. I agree with groups. It’s important to socialize with others who do what we do.

      If I may suggest, an awesome online place is kboards.com and their Writers’ Cafe. Tons of awesome people there willing to share all sorts of advice.

  6. Rick, I especially appreciate your advice about taking a break in between volumes (I always fear I’ll never go back to it). I have a hard time not writing series, though publishers seem to prefer books that can stand on their own. My first novel, due to be published next year, is like that, yet I do hope to turn it into a trilogy someday.

    Thank you for all of the helpful tips!

  7. Favourite series of all time: Tolkien’s ‘The Lord of the Rings’
    Second favourite: Suzanne Collin’s ‘The Hunger Games’
    Third favourite: Philip Reeve’s ‘Predator Cities.’

    Also I’ve just published my first novel, a science fiction space opera called ‘Empress Fallen’, and it’s the first in the Through Darkness trilogy!!!

  8. Then there are series like Elvis Cole–who could imagine it has gone on so long! I’m amazed Robert Crais has kept it so fresh. I am so hoping he makes a series out of Maggie (the dog in the last novel).

  9. Thank you for this very inspiring post! The points raised about a book series are very accurate, either as a reader or a writer. Two examples of series (written by the same author(s) until the end) I particularly enjoy that come to mind are the Young Jedi Knight series in the Star Wars EU, written by Kevin J. Anderson and Rebecca Moesta, as well as the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling.

    While I have no original fiction published so far, as I have been focusing on academic work for the past years, I realized over the last while that a book series will probably be what I delve into, in the future. I tend to like my world and my characters so much that it is hard to let go after a single project. To avoid fillers, I have been working on blending together a few different universes/plots I had created as to make a more consistent world which would allow for better build characters and stories down the road. At least, I hope it will work that way the day I return to original fiction.

    • Thank you for all the advice! As a young teenager I always tried to tackle novels in series, and that is what killed my ideas. I was going too big for my experience. But now that I’ve written more, I’m going at it again! This time I have more organization, and I’m doing my research (like reading this article, for example). As a reader, I love series because there is so much more connection possible with the characters. That is why I love series as a writer, too; I get to know the characters like they are real people, and hopefully so will my readers. They have the chance to accompany me for a long time.

I love comments, and I always visit back. Blogging is all about being a part of a community, and communities are about communication! Tweet me up @damyantig !

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