What's hot in books? I'd have to say the answer to that question is a series. Even if you haven't planned on writing a series, readers frequently ask about secondary characters in a book. And if there's one thing I know about resurrecting a setting and characters after a couple of years, it's that you forget all the little details. That's what I'm doing with my current WIP, and I'm constantly having to go back to the original book (published 3 years ago) to verify facts. It's a complete pain in the butt!
So, here's Jannine's #1 tip for writing a series and not making yourself crazy in the process. PLAN AHEAD! Last spring it occurred to me that some authors were doing very well with series, so I decided to write one. Being a fairly organized person, I created a strategy.
#1 THE CONNECTION: I planned all three books in the series using a trio of friends introduced in the first book. Each of the three girls would be the heroine in her own story.
#2 THE SETTING: I mapped out my fictional town of Ravenswood, adding businesses, neighborhoods, street names, and landmarks as they were used in each story.
#3 CHARACTER LIST: Every time I used a character, no matter how minor, I put them on the list. Who knew that the first grade teacher Sam waved at on the street in book #1 would pop up at a party in book #2. Certainly not me, but when she did, I had her name and a brief description on hand.
#4 HOOKS AND CONCLUSIONS: This is key. Based on other blogs I've read, it seems readers really don't like it when you end a story but don't really end it. They feel they have to buy the sequel to find out what happens, and it makes them mad. So, each of my stories has a plot with a conclusion guaranteed to satisfy. I've had several reviews where the reader thanks me for this. The hook is the next friend in the series getting one scene with a snippet of her upcoming situation. Just a hint to make the reader curious about what is going to happen to this character, but not enough to make them frustrated that it isn't wrapped up in the current book. No one has complained yet, so I'd have to say this is a good technique.
There you have it -- Jannine's hot tips to writing a series. If you're planning one, I hope they help. Even if you aren't, implementing steps #2 and #3 is an excellent idea. You never know when readers will take to a secondary character and ask for his or her story, and these simple steps will save you huge headaches down the road!
Since you've patiently read through my whole post, I have a reward for you! Book #1 of my Secrets Of Ravenswood trilogy is FREE on Amazon today and tomorrow only. Please download We'll Never Tell by clicking HERE. Enjoy, and tell all your friends. That's my Hot August Tip of the Day!
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I like your hook to set up the next book. I, too, have planned series for my Greycliff's Chronicles. To track and keep continuity, I have created a spreadsheet, a timeline of major events, and a guide to the world (its a medieval fantasy series). Every person, city, country, animal, landmark, heraldry, and even unique food & drink is entered. I include birth & death dates, physicals, spouses, parents, ranks, titles, preferred weapons, colors, associates, books appeared in, and other information.
The files are tripled backed up.
I can tell you which character has been in short story (on my web blog or in a book). It makes a huge difference, especially if the plan is a long-term series. The best part. it's expandable and on-going.
Could I still make a mistake? Sure, but it is less likely this way.
I for one can vouch for the Tales of Ravenswood series. Three excellent reads with fabulous characters you want to cheer for at every turn!
Diane - you sound way more organized than me! I tend to keep most of my info in a notebook. Guess I like the hands on approach! Thanks for stopping by.
Thanks, Margo. I did love writing these characters!
I love series...I love being able to revisit characters from previous books...which is why I wrote one myself. I started the same way you did...with introducing what would be the three main characters in the first book. In my case it was the first heroine and then the next two heroes. I wish I would have done a character list like you suggested for minor characters. When I need to find one, I wind up paging through the first two books to remember a name or an occupation! Thanks for the tip...I will definitely keep it in mind for next time.
And thanks for the freebie...like I said...I love a series and will definitely look forward to the next two books in yours!
Debra, I'm doing exactly what you said - paging through a book to find descriptions of minor characters on my current WIP. All because I didn't plan ahead and know I would turn it into a series. I'll keep better notes on all my books in the future. Hope you enjoy We'll Never Tell.
Good advice. Every detail can be important in a series.
You're right about that, Barbara!
Wow, Jannine - this is so valuable and timely for me! I'm about to plunge into a series, and after reading your post, I feel I'm at least not flying blind :-) I'm reading We'll Never Tell right now, and it's a keeper!
Thanks, Glenys, and I'm glad I could help. In fact, that made my day!
Great tips, Jannine, especially since I do have a series I'm working on! lol Thanks for the experienced wisdom share. :)
Great tips on keeping track of characters for future stories!
Calisa and Mariposa, thanks for stopping by. I'm learning from my mistakes. Hopefully others can get ahead of the curve!
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