Thursday, July 30, 2015

Writing A Series

About two weeks ago, my book King Stud was published, and for about an hour I was just like this:


Yeah, I was just that excited. Sadly, though, the euphoria didn't last. I mean, book promotion can be fairly time consuming, but it is fun to get out and meet new readers. No, there was one thing that brought me down to earth faster even that writing an unimaginable number of blog posts. You wanna know my biggest buzz-kill?

The sequel.

King Stud is the first in a five book series about the O'Connor family. I know which O'Connor kid will star in each book, who they'll fall in love with, and the order of their stories. I even know the book titles!

King Stud  -  Loose Cannon  -  Same Love  -  Rock Solid  -  Queen Bee 

The problem is the writing. I can think of ways to make a series out of every book I've written, but I've never actually done it before. (So if you're looking for a post where some real experienced writer with seventeen series under her belt tells you exactly what to, sorry. I'll make it up to you. Promise.)

We've all read series where characters or events morph from one book to the next. You know, that, "wait a minute" feeling you get when something bumps you out of the story and you have to dig through the previous book to figure out if there's really an inconsistency or if you're just crazy.

Probably you're not crazy.

Rather than talk about How I've Done It Before, I came up with the top three things I'm fretting over as I approach writing the next book, and how I plan to deal with them. 

1. The Details

When I finished King Stud, I knew that Ryan's eyes were blue and Dani's were hazel/green and Ryan drove a black Ford F250 and Dani drove a white Mini Cooper. Those are pretty important details, but there were others - minor characters' names, dates in the timeline - that got a little bit foggy in the time between finishing the project and getting it published. And now that I'm starting book two? Foggier still. No one can keep it all in their head, so here are some strategies for maintaining continuity between books.

  • The series bible  I learned how to put together a series bible in a class by Lisa Wells through the Lawson Writing Academy. (Jump HERE to see the course description.) For my series bible, I'm using power point. I started with a list of all the main characters and another list of key locations. Each book has its own section, and each character has their own page(s). I've got notes about story lines that are particular to each book, and lines that cross over several books. I've got pictures of the characters, because I like to work from an image. My goal is to have as much information as possible in one place. 

The cover of my series bible for The Seattle O'Connors

  • Detailed character sketches  I know this kills the creativity for some people, but I like the character outline I use. It's basically something I cut and pasted together from a couple different authors' outlines, and it helps me get to know the characters as I write them. I save these sketches to my thumb drive in each book's folder, and put summarized versions in the series bible. If I know Maeve is going to feature in a scene in book three, but I haven't written her in a while, I can take a glance at her sketch to make sure I get it right. I can amend the doc as I go along, if I discover new things about the character, but the hard details - height, weight, eye color, basic personality traits - are preserved.

  • Consistent beta readers I know if lose track of something between the beginning of a book to the end, my beta readers call me on it, and I'm hopeful that a few of the people who read King Stud for me will be willing to take a look at the subsequent books. Hopefully. Right guys?

2. The Energy 

So how many times have you picked up the fifth book in a series and thought, "yeah, they shoulda quit at number four"? Because not every premise/character/theme can sustain an endless number of books. Once an author tosses a story out into the universe, it belongs to the readers, and their affection for the characters can motivate an author to keep writing. Authors love their characters, too, and that can keep them pushing past the freshness date.

So how am I going to sustain the energy for the five books I have in mind? There's a couple plot lines in King Stud that won't be entirely resolved until book five.  Each book will stand on its own, with storylines that reach a satisfying conclusion, and some lines will carry over two or even three books.I don't want to give the big ones away yet, but if I get it right, readers will keep coming back to see how it all works out.

And then, that's it. Finished. Done. I can see a couple possible novellas involving side characters, but there are only five O'Connor siblings, so when they each have a book, I'm on to the next project.

3. The Writing

And here's where the irrational terror sneaks in. I've done a fair amount of planning already. What if the characters insist on taking the story in a completely different direction? What if my ideas don't work? What if? What if? What if?


The only strategy I have to deal with this is simple. 


Butt In Chair, Hands On Keyboard. Get the words on the page. Which I'm going to start doing. Any minute. As soon as I'm done hyperventilating. 

I expect to learn and grow as a writer, so my approach to book five, Queen Bee, will be different than when I wrote King Stud. It's all a process, but in the end, I expect to be as happy as Johnny Karate down there. Family is important to me, and so is acceptance and open-mindedness. I've got four more books to explore how those themes work in the world of The O'Connor Family.

I know there's stuff I haven't thought  of yet, so if you know what you're doing with series writing, feel free to leave me ideas in the comments. Cheers!

If I've whetted your curiosity, here's a peek at King Stud's cover...

Buy Links's A LOT cheaper from Evernight...don't tell...


  1. Good luck, Liv - Great titles for the series. I say let the characters do what they want for awhile and if you need to rein them in, so be it. I'm sure all of you can come to a compromise :)

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