Since my last posting, I’ve done a lot of thinking about what writing tips I’m going to share next. I knew one thing: I wanted to expand on issues I’ve learned recently through rewriting and editing A Timely Death trilogy. Then I realized I wanted to talk about that in general: series.
Lots of writers want to explore what it is like to write a series, but they seem to run in to two problems:
1. Where to start
2. Where to end
I think these are really important things to consider before writing a series. I know many authors start off with one book and then stretch it in to more, but I think, if you can, you should plan the series before you start writing book one, because it will prevent later confusion and contradictions if you know where you are going. I learned this through my experiences with A Timely Death and other series I’ve written. My experiences have been very different, and I want to share two of them, hoping that they show a possible path for other writers to consider:
First Path: A Timely Death
What happened: I didn’t know where I was starting or ending. In fact, I wrote Seconds Before Sunrise (book 2) before Minutes Before Sunset (book 1.) This happened, because I realized book 2 couldn’t stand by itself. The world needed to be created first, so I went back. As I was writing book 1, I came up with book 3. Obviously, this was very unorganized, and I had to do a lot of rewriting, not only with the scenes, but the characters. It look me a very long time to get to know my characters, since I got to know them out of order. It caused a lot of confusion, and that made it difficult to add the necessary things, like foreshadowing, symbolism, motifs, etc.
What I learned: I tried to take on too much too quickly. I was so excited to start the book that I didn’t even realize I was planning it entirely wrong. I was too focused on one thing to see all of the other loopholes I’d missed. After dealing with all of the issues I created myself, I realized I had to plan–but not only plan. I needed to breathe between planning and writing, take a break to make sure I was planning the correct path. I also learned to take more breaks: a break between planning and writing, a break between writing and editing, a break between writing book 1 and book 2 and book 3, a break when I finished, etc. Take breaks.
Second Path: (I can’t release the name, but I will call it by the primary colors: Red (book 1) Blue (book 2) and Yellow (book 3)
What happened: I planned Red, Blue, and Yellow before I started writing all of them. I drew out the world, charted the characters, played around with ideas, and just rolled around in my mind for months before I wrote down a single word. Even when I started writing Red, I contemplated more ideas and little scenes for Blue and Yellow. The entire time I was filled with excitement instead of confusion. I was never mentally “out of breath.” I went from Red to Blue to Yellow with ease, knowing I had all my time to add the symbolism, foreshadowing, and excitement that I wanted.
What I learned: Planning allowed me to have more time to enjoy the actual writing time. I was never worried about where I was going next–even if I was surprised by a sudden turn. This may seem like a contradiction, because I said to plan everything, but I must remind everyone of a little theory I live by: the characters are in charge, so my plans don’t always work out. That being said, I still insist on planning everything but keeping an open mind on how my plans go.
Basically: I’ve written numerous series, but the lesson that kept repeating itself to me was not to rush it. Even if I have a plan for one book that I know I want to expand, I stop myself from writing it until I know exactly where I’m expanding it too. (When I say “exactly” I mean a basic outline of events–not literally the entirety of the story, because, even if I planned that much, things always change in the moment of writing it.) My advice is simply to have a larger plan for the overall series and smaller plans within the books.
Think of writing a series like a road trip: You know where you’re starting, you probably know where it’s going to end, and you might have places you want to visit in between. But there might be some surprises along the way. Embrace them, and keep going. That’s where the fun is.