Monday, April 6, 2015

THE PERILS AND PLEASURES OF WRITING SERIES - By Kathy Ivan

I've been doing a ton of writing recently.  In fact, I released three books in March, all at the same time.  (Insanity – trust me, doing marking and promotion for three releases at the same time is the definition of insanity.)  But through it all I figured out I really like writing series.

There's a lot to be said for staying in the same world you've created.  Then again, there are also a lot of headaches at the same time.  I thought I'd share just a few of the things I've noticed about writing series.

THE PERILS
1.  Keeping the world you've created straight.  For example, I've set my series (New Orleans Connection Series) in and around New Orleans.  A lot of the places are real actual places and tourist destinations which are familiar to the readers as well as the people who actually live there.  But it's also my world in that I've created certain things which are unique to it.  Theresa's New Age shot.  Max's PI office.  The police department division/station where Remy works.  The DEA office where Branson, Macie and Carlo do their jobs.  These places that I've created have to be the same from book to book.  I cannot change the street where they're located.  I can't say at one point something is in the French Quarter and the next book say it is in Downtown New Orleans – because they aren't the same place. 

2.  Keeping your characters appearances consistent from book to book.  You can't have somebody start out with brown hair and brown eyes and suddenly two books later they've got brown hair and blue eyes.  Readers are sharp and they catch things like that—especially if it happens to be one of their favorite characters. 

3.  Timelines.  This can be tricky especially if your characters carry over from one book to the next.  For example, Remy Lamoreaux has been in all of the books in this series.  I needed to make sure that he wasn't engaged or married before we got to his actual story (Relentless Pursuit).  I've learned to keep a chart on the computer that I can easily access with each main character and their characteristics like hair color, eye color, body type, profession, which books they show up in, and who they are with/dating/seeing in each book until they get their own story.   It's also good to keep track of secondary characters, because you never know when they're going to turn up in another story or demand a book of their own. 

THE PLEASURES:
1.  I love having characters I've written about in one book show up in other books in the series.  It's like visiting with old friends, because I've already told their story and we get to see how life is changing around them.  Although each one of my books can be read as a standalone story, characters do show up from book to book, which I think makes for an interesting mix.  For example:  Relentless Pursuit introduced the readers to our heroine, Jennifer "Jinx" Marucci and her brother, Giancarlo "Carlo" Marucci.  This was Remy and Jinx's story, but Carlo plays a part.  So the next book (Ultimate Betrayal) became his story.  And in his book, you'll see appearances by Remy and other characters mentioned in previous books.  I think the readers enjoy having a feeling of knowing these people already, and it grounds them into the book in a way they wouldn't normally get from a standalone, where they're being introduced to characters they've never met before. 


2.  In a series you have the freedom of familiarity.  A reader can plunge right into the book, especially when they've read the preceding one, and pick up pretty much where that left off.  It's like watching your favorite television series – a new book is like a new episode with the people you've come to know and love having that episode focus on them.  Let's take Castle for an example.  One week the story might focus on Castle and Beckett.  The next week it might focus on Esposito and Lanie.  The next week about Ryan and his wife.  (I'm not talking serials here which are continuing sagas usually with the same people, but rather series where in every book I do has a different hero and heroine and they find their happily ever after, but the crossover characters keep the readers reading and happy.) 

3.  With a series you can bring the reader closer to the characters they love.  I wrote a short novella (Keeping Secrets) where I sprang a surprise wedding on the heroine (of a previous book) and had the heroes and heroines from previous books all there and taking part in the surprise.  Readers loved, loved, loved finding out what happened because this short book let them know the couples they've rooted for and agonized over got their HEA and are still together after the end of their respective books. 

There are lots more reasons, too numerous to mention in this post alone.  So, for all of you who read or write series, tell me what you like and/or don't like about writing them. 


Kathy Ivan is currently hard at work on her next romantic suspense in the New Orleans Connection Series.  You can find her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/kathyivanauthor and on twitter at www.twitter.com/kathyivan 

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

Great post Kathy, and something I've been very interested recently. I only ever wrote standalones, but at the end of last year started the With A Kick series. Readers certainly seem to like following the same characters and settings!

jean harrington said...

Kathy, A thoughtful analysis of the pros and cons of series writing. For me, in my Murders by Design Series, the pros far outweigh the cons. I enjoy seeing my heroine grow and change from book to book, and having secondary characters reemerge from story to story. And having one city, Naples, for the setting creates a familiarity for the reader that can be enhanced without the need to reinvent a new atmosphere for each plot.

One con, though, I gave a troublesome character a name that a brand new baby in the family now has. Hope she--yes she--realizes some day that I wrote the book before she was born! Ah well. . .

Rita said...

WoW! Super congrats. And can i say i think you're a bit crazy and plenty brave to do this. LOL! Wishing you huge success.

Anne Marie Becker said...

I love writing series, but keeping the bible so I can keep everything straight was hard work. ;) I just wrapped up a 6-book series and started a new series, and while it's thrilling to have a blank slate, I can see the appeal of knowing my characters and locations already. It's been hard work building something fresh from the ground up.

Kathy Ivan said...

Writing the series has definitely been an eye-opening and learning experience. I would definitely recommend anybody thinking about it to definitely go for it. It's thrilling and rewarding on so many levels. But definitely keep track of your characters and their quirks as well as your locations. Our readers are sharp cookies and they notice the smallest details. LOL

Cathy Perkins said...

Three releases! Whew!

Wonderful suggestions, Kathy. Readers have contacted me asking about a followup for my stand-alone stories. I'm dipping my toes in with the planned first in a series story and since I'm making up a town, I can see that your suggestions will prevent a lot of headsmacking. :)