The fun of writing a series – my fellow author and member of Alliance of Independent Authors Francis Guenette’s blog post a few weeks ago inspired me to write about fun of writing a series. Francis had asked whether we as readers were ‘fans of serialised fiction’ – did we enjoy reading or watching a series or prefer one-off, ‘stand-alone’, stories? My response was that I love reading a series and I am enjoying writing one, (the Mullins Family Saga – if I’d known it was to become a series, though, I would have given Max Mullins a more noble, memorable, surname perhaps! Dashwood? Or Mac-something?)
Examining the subject, it is fun, but it also creates its own drawbacks.
For example, November is Nano-month: many writers will use ‘NaNoWriMo’ ( National Novel Writing Month) to scribble down the basics of a novel, in the form of chunks of unedited script, on a daily basis throughout November. Why November? Well in the northern hemisphere November can be the dreariest of all months. After the beauty of October days, with bright sunshine and the trees in their autumn colours, November brings the true end of the year in our gardens and countryside, shorter days, long dark nights, increasing cold. And it is not yet Christmas, so, how to keep going? For writers, hunker down with storytelling.
For a first-time attempt at the long haul of a novel, Nano offers a solution to the question ‘how do I get the first 50,000 words down?’ But for the long-distance series writer, the attraction of ‘just keep going’ will never work. Once you have novel number one published, you have your characters in situ, and they must now develop in believable ways, following up the first story with what they really might do next. You have family history, you have disputes to carry through or to resolve. You have consequences and memories.
And, that’s also the reason to move into a series. Exploration, and taking things further within established constraints. Seeing if they learn from experience, if they cope with new circumstances … That is the fun of it. And, therein lie the restraints.
After Baby, Baby, will Max and Jenny stay married, given the vast differences in their childhoods? And if so, how and why? How will their kids turn out? How do their careers and ambitions develop? What will crazy Daisy do next?
Even though I don’t subscribe to the rather romantic idea ‘the characters tell me what they will do next’, I have found, working on story number three, that there are some threads leading from past events into a future which I had not exactly planned, or planned at all. In The Labyrinth Year, two of the characters are growing closer as the book progresses, and now 10 years on from there, they are still in touch.
This was ‘never meant to happen’. It is enormously exciting to follow and see where it may go. And, it demands a whole lot of research …in unexpected areas.
On the other hand, they look to be making a bid for the centre stage, not where these two were planned to be in this story. Do some characters ‘come to life’ without the author’s orchestrations? Romantic whimsey, or psychologically predictable? What do you think?
Baby, Baby, and The Labyrinth Year (The Mullins Family Saga, books 1 and 2), published by Hodge Publishing, are available in paperback (or on Kindle). Find more about them on the Hodge website: http://hodgepublishing.co.uk/
Read Francis Guenette’s blogpost on being fans of serialised fiction here
I completely agree with you, I am so engrossed in writing my own series and don’t want to leave the characters alone! Call me whimsical, but I do subscribe to the characters “telling” me what to do, and I’ve even had a few characters sneak in that I wasn’t expecting and hadn’t planned for – Billy and Tommy are two of those, and now, by book three (“Murder in the Manger”), they’re regulars. I initially planned seven novels in my Sophie Sayers Village Mystery series, to run the course of a village year, and have already sneaked in an eighth, plus some likely spin-offs (a book in the voice of a character who has died before the action of the first begins). Such immersion is going to make it harder to start all over again once I’ve finished, but I’m also trying to set something alight in my subconscious ready for when I’ve reached the end of book eight, so that I’m not tempted to keep adding books ad infinitum. Always leave them wanting more!
Now I’m off to read Francis Guenett’s post, because I love her Crater Lake series too, and am always so pleased when she announces the arrival of a new addition!