Writing a Series!

Writing a series can boggle a writer’s mind before you get things figured out. If you plan to write multiple standalones with overlapping characters and world-building, then you have more freedom with plots. But if you plan for your series to be one massive story with shorter installments in each book, then you need to think carefully about how to start.

Here’s a quick list of things to consider. See below the list for more thoughts.

  • Plan ahead in plot and world-building.
  • Don’t reveal too much.
  • Don’t hide too much.
  • Multiple POVs can keep things fresh.

Trust me, I’ve drafted a pentalogy, and book 5 was the deciding factor in things that I needed to play on as soon as book 1. I strongly recommend you plan the whole thing, even if book 2 and onwards is more of a rough synopsis or scribbles of world-building that only make sense to you. It helps you see where you want the series to end so you can get the journey right.

Consider carefully what elements you play on in book 1. You don’t want to reveal everything and repeat yourself in the rest of the series. At the same time, you need to hint at things you’ll need for later. Ideas that come out of nowhere can annoy readers depending on how you’ve played the possibilities prior to the reveal. This also helps with keeping things fresh in each book. 

One idea, and hear me out, is to switch protagonist in each book, or at least alternate. My Starlighters saga alternates female protags with their respective love interests as the 2nd MC. I still give the others a POV so readers don’t get disappointed if they fall in love with my 1st protagonist and her love interest, but they take a back seat in book 2 and 4 to give a fresh perspective on the ongoing story. 

I also have alternating minor POV for a couple of short scenes to give a fuller perspective throughout the whole series. You’d be surprised how much a POV switch can spice things up. 

There are so many things to consider when writing a series, but if I’ve learned anything while outlining and drafting multiple series, is that you have to account for future possibilities. 
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Writing Is a Business!

Writing is a business, especially if you plan to self-publish. You need to start thinking like a business owner as well as a writer. Make time for the various writing tasks the way you would at any other job.That’s if you want to make an income from it, otherwise, write however you want. Or write how you want anyway.

I want to publish my work, but I’m very realistic about how I can’t live on my writing. I love my teaching job and have time for writing, too. It’s like I have two jobs but only get paid for one. Most people who work at home or run a small business from home have the luxury of choosing their hours and managing their own time. But for some, managing their own time is a chore.

Here’s some helpful things to think about when structuring your own schedule to help make the most of your writing and grow it like a business.

  • Writing is your main task, so allow blocks of time to get as much done as possible.
  • Allow time for things like planning, researching, and finding inspiration.
  • Use a calendar to plan and remind yourself of tasks. I use different colours for different tasks.
  • If you use social media or blogs to self-promote, think of that as a presentations for potential clients.
  • Investing in things like writing books or courses or writing software is no different from investing in a startup company. There are things you need from day one, and things you can save up for as you make more progress. See my “Writing on a Budget” post for more on that.
  • Critiquing and sharing your work is like a meeting where you all discuss your current projects and help each other make the best of them.
  • Editing can be fun or boring as hell depending on how you approach it. I like to think of it as making sure everyone else is doing their job properly, and if not, you deal with it. I recommend outsourcing to a professional just as some businesses would with aspects out of their skill set.
  • You could think of querying agents as offering your fantastic services.
  • Then you sell your final product to shops for purchase while keeping up with marketing and designing your next products.

Running a small business can seem like a daunting idea until you realise that it’s just structuring what you enjoy into something you can make money from. Just don’t quit your day job.

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Unravelling Writing Advice – Every Scene Must Move the Story Forward

I completely agree with this. But there’s often some misunderstandings as to what elements are capable of moving a story forward.

Most people think of plot movement, which is like the skeleton of a story. It’s the structure that holds everything together, otherwise your story is just a mass of flesh and gooey gross body fluids of conversations and thoughts. These things are just as important unless you like a skinny book. Not me. I love a fuller story. But as in life, too big can be… unhealthy. Long, repetitive conversations to fatten up a book are not entertaining.

As with all elements in a story, balance is key. Plot points need to be clear and often enough to keep a good story flow. Having several chapters of characters talking and thinking can be hella boring. Trust me. I’ve read my fair share of boring chapters that lead to nothing. I love character building, but there’s a limit.

On the other hand, a character has to realise something before they can make their next move in the plot. That means dedicating a scene or two to the characters where “nothing” happens. But in actual fact, it does. People process a lot before they come to a decision or realisation about their life or situation that leads to action. This needs some attention in your story for their actions to make sense.

There’s also internal conflict in characters that inhibit their actions. Their fears and insecurities might hold them back from doing something. Without establishing these insecurities through character building scenes, their lack of action makes no sense.

These are all valid things that move the story forward as long as they don’t drag. Sprinkling some well-placed character-building scenes can give your story the meaty parts to satisfy hungry readers.

Unravelling Writing Advice – He Said, She Said.

Another installment from Unravelling Writing Advice series.

I find there’s a huge divide when it comes to using said/asked as a dialogue tag and when to use a synonym. I’ve read books that are extreme one way or the other and feel strongly that limiting to said is boring while overusing synonyms gets too much. I’m going to breakdown reasons for using or not using synonyms of “said”. They’re short lists, but I think they make the point.

Reasons for sticking to “said/asked”…

  • It’s simple and easy to process who is saying what without distractions.
  • With a good description of the character’s tone or expression, you don’t need another verb.
  • You can easily avoid repetition of this verb with a quick beat or inner thought.

Reasons for using other verbs…

  • It’s less repetitive and boring to use synonyms, especially with short and quick dialogue or a group of characters having an important conversation.
  • It saves words on describing tone if you define the tone in a single verb or can add to a tone with a short action.
  • You can attach a verb to a particular character and make it a trait.

So there you go, some reasons for and against using “said/asked” in dialogue tags. Honestly, the best way to avoid this conundrum is to write more beats, but again, that can be distracting to have lots of little actions purely to establish who’s speaking.

My best advice is to use moderate your tags and beats so nothing appears repetitive or overdone.

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Unravelling Writing Advice – 1st POV Isn’t Automatically Closer Than 3rd.

Another installment from Unravelling Writing Advice series.

This is something that bugs me when so-called “experienced” writers claim that 1st POV is more effective emotionally than 3rd. Well, yes… but no. Let me explain.

1st pronouns might make a POV feel more effective depending on the reader, but if you want to make that emotional connection to readers in general, you can’t rely on the pronoun. This may seem obvious so some, but you’d be surprised the number of times I see other writers default to 1st because they assume it’s a closer and tighter POV.

As I said in my What’s in a Pronoun? post a while back, it’s not the pronoun, but the description and how deeply a writer delves into a character. 

1st and 3rd POV are only a pronoun apart. Let’s break down some key things to consider when choosing between 1st and 3rd POV.

  • You can have multiple POVs in both and have the character’s name as the title if it’s 1st POV.
  • Or you could have a single POV in 3rd.
  • You choose how far into a character’s mind you want to go, even in 3rd.
  • Swap the name for 1st pronoun, and you could have the exact same narration.
  • 1st pronouns might feel automatically closer to some readers.
  • Sometimes the lack of character name can actually make 1st POV feel more distant to some readers.
  • You can flip POVs more easily in 3rd, like from scene-to-scene.
  • 1st POV is limited to chapter-by-chapter. At a push, you could title the scenes, but I’ve never seen that done.

The closeness of a POV is not defined by the pronoun, but by the writer’s ability to invoke emotion through their prose. It’s up to us to choose the best option for our story, and maybe ourselves. My novel in 1st POV just felt natural to me as a writer because it was more personal. The 3rd POV novels are all close, but not as close to me, so I automatically started writing in 3rd.

So maybe the POV is more about the writer and not the reader.

Image by Pexels from Pixabay 

Writing Has Ruined My Reading!

Warning: This gets ranty. But since this blog is about ranting…

Also, shout out to my writing buddy T-Rex who prompted this post. How he puts up with my rants, I’ll never know. 

As I mentioned in First Chapters Are the Worst, I’ve found more and more books go against what I’ve learned as a writer. Two of the books mentioned in that post were self-published (the two with the shorter lists) while two were traditionally published. All highly successful.

With the help of my CPs, I’ve honed my skills, taken the time to become what I thought was a good writer so that I could find an agent who’ll give me the best chance at becoming an author. I could self-publish, and I will if I get rejected by all the agents I’ve queried (It’s ben almost 5 weeks). But I want a good agent who can get me a great publisher, who knows the market, and can sell my book better than I could on my own. 

In theory, with the right marketing, anyone can sell a book. I follow a few successful self-published authors. And if you have just enough good elements to catch those hungry readers, then your success will only grow. As I said in my post on first chapters, success isn’t just down to us as writers. It’s down to agents, editors, publishers, and readers.

Many of the CPs I interact with warn against too much world-building, uninteresting protagonists, and character overload. But I’ve read so many bestselling books that go against this advice along with more specific prose issues. I skimmed some of my favourites from recent years and was surprised at the “writing donts” in them that I didn’t notice before. I was pretty shocked to see so many 5-star ratings and praising reviews compared to the low percentage of those who I agreed with in my new mindset. 

 One in particular was riddled with issues. The world-building was overdone by far, like multiple paragraphs of “what the fuck is this?.” As for the romance… It barely registered when it actually mattered. I mean, the protag slips into bed (sleeping only) with her “off-limits” bow,, who’s she’s kissed like twice. Like, lady, this guy risked a ton for you, is totally into you, and you deny both your feelings. Again, what the fuck?

I don’t mind when couples dance around one another for a reasonable length of time before things get physical. Or when things genuinely keep getting in their way. But when couples share feelings, have opportunities to be together, even if just for a fleeting moment, and don’t properly act in it until like book 4, that’s when I get annoyed. 

As for world-building… 🤬 It bugs me when my CPs tell me certain things are vague from what I’ve shown, because I REALLY like to show what I can and save the “telling” for emergencies. So I drop a short and sweet two or three-line explanation (selective telling) to clarify, and the next CPs deem it an info dump. THREE LINES??? And this is another confusing issue since my recent reading involves so many heavy info dumps from bestsellers. What is a girl to do?

New thought. I need to find a better balance for my work based on the books in my genre, especially those whose readers are my potential readers. Knowing the market is half the battle, and I realise I got my market a little off. That’s not to say I’m going to rewrite all my books to emulate these authors. I like my voice and how I can vary it for my different writing projects. That’s another thing that leaves me bored with authors is when all their narration sounds the same, even in different series.

Adapting is not the same as sacrificing. We all adapt as we learn and grow, or we get stuck in our ways, leading us nowhere. I choose to adapt.

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Unravelling Writing Advice – When to Hire and Editor!

Another installment from Unravelling Writing Advice series.

I’ve never hired an editor, and there’s a reason for that. Let me explain…

When it comes to hiring editors, I’ve discovered there are three types of writer.

  1. The writer who gets an editor before they’ve finished their WIP or pays an editor even though they plan to traditionally publish their work.
  2. The writer who thinks critique partners and beta readers substitute a professional editor.
  3. The writer who does all they can through CPs and beta readers before hiring an editor or waits for an agent/publishing house to arrange that for them.

Let’s look at number one. Hiring an editor too soon is a waste of money, if you ask me. Sure, you might get frustrated with feedback from fellow writers and want a professional opinion on your WIP. But I’d do as much as you can with your CPs and beta readers before shelling precious money. 

If your heart is still set on getting professional input, a developmental editor would be your best bet. They’re there to help with plot holes, character arcs, common prose fails, and other big picture issues. Think about what this would do short term and long term. Do you think one editor can do a better job than multiple CPs on your WIP? I’m not saying don’t hire one if you’re struggling. I’m saying consider carefully if it’s worth the cost. Multiple CPs can pick out a lot of big-picture issues between them, and it’s free. 

On the other hand, I would never suggest anyone skip a professional editor in favour of using CPs as editors. Not all writers have great editing skills and vice versa. Editor is its own profession for a reason. Whether you self-publish or go via an agent or publisher, you should always have at least a copy editor go through your work for spelling and grammar mistakes before you finalise your printable book.

In my opinion, the best time to hire an editor is when you’ve done all you can based on your skills and feedback. Either hire an editor yourself if you self-publish or let your agent/publisher handle this for you. Ideally, editing is the absolute last stage as far as writing your manuscript before it gets made into a pretty little book or ebook. 

The reason why I haven’t hired an editor is because I had great CPs and beta readers to develop my story. I also hope to traditionally publish my book, so I’m not going to pay for something when a possible agent will organise it and foot the bill for me. If I get rejected, then I’ll pay an editor to do a final polish of my MS before it’s publishable.

Money doesn’t grow on trees, so don’t spend it until you actually need that professional editing service. But you WILL need it to give your book a more professional look.

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