First and foremost, there aren’t any hard and fast secrets to a successful series, there are only ideas that, through hard work and passion, can be plausible avenues to propel your private manifesto into a story that is wildly embraced by readers the world over, or in the least hopefully your mother will like it.
Keep a journal to store all of the details of your new story world or open a new Word doc and organize that way. Bottom line, have all of your info available and easy to access while writing. The benefit to doing it on your computer is that you can back it up. And please back up even if your backing up method simply consists of emailing the doc to yourself, do what you have to do, but make a copy in the event things go south with your hard drive.
It all starts here. Do not pass go. Do not write two hundred words without this vital key ingredient. At the nexus of any series there is one common denominator, the author. It is the author who decides what world this series will take place in, develop the rules, and breathe life into each one of its inhabitants, so the first task at hand is to sell the idea of the series to yourself.
If passion is key, then how can you be sure you have it? Well, let’s be honest, a writer is not in love with every aspect of their story at all times, not with their plots, not with their characters. There is always room for improvement. However, there must be some element that excites you about the project. When I started Celestra, I was gung-ho on writing a young adult series that had paranormal elements. I spent countless hours envisioning, planning—even labeled myself a resident of this fictitious world because I felt I had logged so much time there, and best of all—I never wanted to leave. I was in love. I wanted to marry Celestra and have little book babies. Still do.
It’s important that you as the writer feel an enormous amount of excitement and exuberance when it comes to your newfound series. Nothing will kill your books faster than your own lack of enthusiasm. Your best scenes, your best books,are going to be the ones you had the most passion to work with. So, as easy as it sounds, become enamored with your idea, and all of the tender loving care you put into it will translate to your readers.
It sounds so incredibly simple. Just write a good story, enough said, we’ve all heard it before, common sense, right? It’s not that simple. First, in a series, story takes on a whole new meaning.
Usually there is a series arc. For my Celestra series, the long arc was the faction war that would help Celestra maintain control and get out from under the stronghold of the evil Counts. Fortunately for my readers, the war did not span all nine books in the series. Each book had a plot of its own, with its own arc and achieved its own goal. So, to complete a series with the right amount of story, you need to know at least roughly how many books your series will be and plan accordingly to move the story and pacing along to achieve your arc at the right time. Subplots however are a much more lenient and don’t necessarily need to be resolved right away. The nice thing about subplots is that they offer continuity and familiarity to the storyline through to the next several books. It keeps your readers involved on an intimate level and the resolutions seem more natural rather than tying everything off in a neat little bow with each book.
“We must not see any person as an abstraction. Instead, we must see in every person a universe with its own secrets, with its own treasures, with its own sources of anguish, and with some measure of triumph.”? Elie Wiesel
Okay. Let’s be honest. There are dozens and dozens of series out there that have a writer with passion penning each word, and great stories with unbelievable characters that you either want to slap or drag to bed—so what makes a series really stand out? Marketing.
touch with them as much as possible. So, if you’re a people person, I really recommend getting to know your readers because if they’re anything like mine they are the most amazing people.
A lot of great tips here, Addison.
I have loved watching your career grow and grow over the past few years. Congratulations!
Loree!!! It’s so nice to see you! *warm hugs* Thank you for the kind words~! This has certainly been a wild ride! #lovingeveryminute
Loved this, Addison!! I’m currently mapping out #2 in the Mindspeak series, and I couldn’t agree with you more about being super organized about your story world. I think I thought I would remember every little detail about my world when I wrote a book. I mean, I wrote it, right? Not true.
Also, thank you for the tips about blog tours and marketing. I hear so many say that blog tours don’t work, but I’ve gotta wonder… If you’re a mostly unknown, new author, you’ve gotta get the word out somehow. And though Mindspeak is off to a great start, I worry that the momentum will die w/o more exposure. Maybe a blog tour would feed additional life to the word-of-mouth campaign I started with the launch? And I so love the amazing passion of bloggers of young adult fiction – well, all fiction, really. Thanks for giving me something to think about.
I heart you Heather! I’m so happy to see you off to such a terrific start!!!! xoxox Congrats on all your success. I know you deserve it!
Great post. Marketing is such a big key to selling any book (or anything for that matter) and staying organized is the only way you’ll be able to keep a successful story :).
Have you ever tried running a free promotion?
Hi Froze8! Thank you. And I agree, organization is key. As for the running free promotion, I do have the first book in my series currently free on Amazon. It’s a nice way for readers to try the series. I also have the next book priced low in the event they’re still undecided.
I also taught meditation and part time taught centering and meditation to mental health clients. I am writing now because I needed a change. Are you also writing now after having worked with mental health clients?
Hello WisdomsSpark! Yes, I used to work in psych as well. Writing has always been something I’ve enjoyed doing. I think working with people helped season me and I’m glad I had the experiences I did. It is a nice shift. Good luck with your courses! Writing classes are always fun. I hope they stretch you and you glean lots from them!
Thanks for the wealth of information. Spending a majority of my time writing being that I am back in college for a new career challenge. Currently, I am an English department student taking professional career writing classes. I am gathering a bit of basic information on Indie Publishing for a class project, so this conference is quite timely and beneficial.
Congratulations on your film option! How did that come about?
Thank you Christy! Actually the people over at Fox contacted me after I had my second book in the series out. So it’s nice to know that indie books are read everywhere!
Addison, I really enjoyed this look at writing a series from an author who has completed one. I think you are so right about the passion. I don’t think anything else will carry you through a series:) I also really appreciated what you wrote about characters and how they need to grow. Congratulations on the success of your Celestra series! Nine books is awesome!!!!
Thanx Heidi! The best part about writing my series is the fact I enjoy it. I’m penning the final book now and although I’m thrilled that my characters are going to finally meet their goals I’m sad to see it end. Perhaps that’s why I’ve decided to move my MC on to another series. I just can’t seem to leave that island. 😉
Thanks, Addison. Very insightful post. Like Heather, I’ve found the simple way for me to keep track of characters and/or place names is by using Scrivener. I cut and paste key descriptions that I’ve written to remind myself who these people are.
Debra – Oh I’m going to try it! I hope its Mac friendly. I’m all for organization!
Addison, Scrivener was originally designed for Mac. Us PC people had to wait much longer to get a copy, or were in the beta like me.
I recommend watching the 30min program overview video they have on their site. Really shows you how to use all the awesome things the program provides.
Thanks for your awesome post and great information, Addison! Do you plot the arc of each book as you write; or the entire series first? And do you try to keep the word count the same for each book so they’re all the same length? I want to make a series of my mid-grade novel I’m working on, where the main characters are the same, but the plots are different for each book – do you think that’s a good idea? Thanks again for your time and generosity in helping us writers – this is a great conference! ~ Julie
juliecatherinevigna – I plotted the overall arc, so I knew the beginning the middle and the end. When I wrote each individual book I plotted those out at that time. And some things I let surprise me. It’s always fun to have an organic experience in writing. 🙂
A way to help you get organized, their are many tools that allow you to do texting, or text grouping, these tools are wonderful useful and amazing. Notepad++ does folding, Basket notes is another open source option to help with your grouping and your organizing. Microsoft came late to the train with onenote, which has some wonderful note taking features. Don’t forget that you can also go to sourceforge, look for great opensource software to help you on your mission. Their is a great mindmapping software their that is available to you and this can help you put together disparate ideas in a map so you can visually make sense of things quickly. Hope this helps your friend luminosity.
Scrivner has become my best friend for organizing character/world info, especially since it’s all pre-labeled form me. I just have to change the names. 🙂
Luminosity – Awesome! I’ve been using the notepad on my phone when I’m out and need to jot something down. It’s nice to know I have it all in one place. I’ll have to check those out. I’m always looking for better ways to do things!
Scrivener is the best! I use it for everything now. It’s like a whole writer’s office in one computer program.
Love these tips, Addision! Thank you. Your experience in mental health helps explain your rich character development. I really appreciate the idea of character sheets. I am curious how you initially connected with bloggers for your tour. Any advice for making new connections?
Thank you so much for your time! Jennifer
Hi Jennifer~! Glad you found this useful! Here are just a few blog tours: http://www.xpressobooktours.com http://atomrbookblogtours.com http://supagurltours.blogspot.ca During my tours I would try to stop off each day and respond in the comments section. Bloggers and readers are the friendliest people on the planet.
Thanks for the tips. I have 2 books out in a epic sci-fi series and your post is a steady reminder of how important it is to keep everything organized. I am also getting ready to launch a small serial in March.
Side note, this online con is great. Thanks to everyone who works behind the scenes.
Mike – Congratulations on your series! I really can’t stress enough how every detail should be recorded right down to the physical landscape. It’s too easy to forget details and digging through old manuscripts can be a pain. I know! lol!
Thanks Addison. You mention so many important elements to a series. The point about character really drives home. I’ve heard readers say they’ve stopped reading a series they loved because a character never grew. It aggravated them so much they put the book down!
Tricia, thank you for sharing this insight, I am certain we can use it.
Tricia – Yes very important to show character growth. If it’s arced over the length of the series I can see how this can be frustrating to readers. Perhaps a few stages of growth would be best.
Excellent information, Addison, thank you.
Did the Celestra series start out as a hard copy book, or did it go straight to e-book?
Hi Jane~! Celestra went straight to e-book and I’ve yet to print a hardcopy. That’s my project for this year. 😉
Another great post, thank you! One question: is there any particular knack to finding blog tours? Do you just email around or are there places to find blogs that do this?
I googled blog tours, and I came to find out that they are bloggers and reviewers that write an article, or keep an add for you for about a week, or a month of intensive activity. I hope this helps.
I’ve noticed bloggers using their own blogs, FaceBook, and Twitter and asking if anyone would be willing to host them as part of a blog tour.
Ooh, thanks! I think I need to make a new bookmarks folder and start adding these blogs to it for future reference! 😀
Hi Lisa! Here are a few recs for blog tours: http://www.xpressobooktours.com http://atomrbookblogtours.com http://supagurltours.blogspot.ca I hope this helps! I know there are others but I’m most familiar with these.