Monday, June 18, 2012

"How in the world do you plan ahead enough (material) for there to be a SERIES? I mean, you could change your mind inthe middle of writing the first book, and make it just ONE STORY!"

A young writer recently made this remark, and I got to thinking there are probably other writers new to the craft who wonder about the process of developing a series. For writers ready to take the step of creating a series, please take a look at my earlier posts: Tips for Writing a Series (

But to answer the question, how do you plan ahead -- or maybe it could be stated -- how do you know that what you have is actually meant to be a series?

The truth is that sometimes an idea seems big enough to become a series, but at closer look, it's really only the makings of a single book. Maybe it just doesn't have enough of a plot continuum to make a series compelling. Perhaps what it really has is a single story heartbeat with layers. It could drag on too much if spread into a series.

On the other hand, with time and experience, a writer might shape a series in his or her imagination before a single key is stroked on the keyboard. But for me, a series is more likely to evolve. Here's how it worked for Empire in Pine.

First I had a passion for a single story. If you get ahead of yourself and start trying to imagine a whole series at once, the project is already ripe to flop. You have to be in love with an idea for a single story before you can perfectly visualize what a complete series will entail. It's like the gal who made the first comment said, "You could change your mind in the middle of writing the first book", and you probably will, about many things.

I don't mean you shouldn't let your imagination roam, or that it's impossible to have a general idea for a series in mind. But your focus has to remain finite -- on the project at hand --  or you may be prone to rushing through and not making the book all that it can be. Does that make sense? See, when you've invested your entire creative being into one single story, it's much more likely that it will become full, complete, layered, and able to evolve into something more down the road -- a series.

I invested myself into The Green Veil - Empire in Pine, Book One.It was the story of my heart. Two-thirds of the way into the book, as characters had taken over and my research had run full circle, I started visualizing a second book. I didn't let it run away in my head just yet, but while I finished The Green Veil, I let the seeds settle into the soil of my imagination. Now and then I'd jot a note or two, nothing more.

I began plotting and researching as I wrote the final pages of The Green Veil.In those final pages of book one, I was finally able to lay the ground work for book two, because that's when I knew there would indeed be a book two. During the continued plotting and early writing stages of The Red Fury, I realized a series of three books was imminent. How? Based on the era of my books, the logging boom of northern Wisconsin lasted for about 60 years. If I followed a pattern of each book taking place 20 years apart, the series would culminate nicely in time, location, characterization, and historical context with a third story, The Black Rose, at the peak of the era. The stories are, naturally, generational.

That's how the series was born. But being a new author, I didn't expect a publishing house to look at my proposal unless I not only had it clearly mapped out and conceived, but also had enough of it written so they'd know I was capable of concluding the series. When I pitched my book series to Desert Breeze Publishing, The Green Veil was complete, The Red Fury was nearing completion, and The Black Rose was in the outline stage, but with a basic synopsis fleshed out. It gave me enough to tell the editor what the story line was going to be. That worked.

In short, I didn't have a concept for a series at the outset of writing Empire in Pine. I merely had a passion for one story, and I let that story take on its own shape and plan until it evolved into a series.

If you have the notion that something you're writing is series material, exhaust the storyline. Ask yourself whether or not there's really enough weight in the concept to carry through several books, or if it's best left in one. The time for that kind of introspection is now, before you've written hundreds of pages and are told by an array of publishers that it should only be one book. But if you've very nearly completed a book, investing it with passion, and you see another taking shape, by all means, start the plotting process.

Write on!
The Black Rose - Empire in Pine, Book Three
coming July, 2012, from Desert Breeze Publishing

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