Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Roadblocks Encountered When Writing a Series

I've now written and published two complete series with several more in various stages of publication. And one thing that is becoming clear to me is that I will always, always agonize over the last book in the series. The one that wraps it all up.  That last book of the series is - pardon the expression - a bitch to write. If you are writing your first series, or considering it, here are some of my key learnings to possibly keep in the back of your mind.
Wrap It Up
With the other books, you have the option to  mysteriously refer to something coming in future books. Really fun to do. I love laying those breadcrumbs. But with the last book, you actually have to wrap everything up with a big, red bow. Which means no more bread crumbs and ending things satisfactorily. If you can (I'm talking to you fellow pantsers), keep track of ALL breadcrumbs laid as you go. Also, when you lay them, have an idea of how you'll wrap them up and how they tie to other things.
You now have the other books published, which can paint you into corners. Not that corners are a bad thing if they get you where you want to go. But I'm the kind of author who writes fairly loosey-goosey. I have an idea of direction and some key plot points, but, beyond that, I can go where the wind blows me. But not as much with a final book. My path for that last one has to be fairly straight and narrow. So, again by keeping the series end-state in mind when writing those first books, you might save yourself some pain.
Known Characters
Typically, my main characters in each book are "known" characters. They are people already introduced in previous books, often with large roles to play in all those preceding books. This makes it harder to "reveal" something about them that we don't already know or, for example, take a goofball and make him a charming Alpha male. It also means readers have previously set expectations about that character and their voice, so you'd better get it right. Make sure to keep track of every detail of those characters in the previous books.

Starting From a Tough Spot
One of my roadblocks when writing Black Orchid, the last book in my Svatura series, was getting Nate and Adelaide back together when he'd been brainwashed and she'd been...well...broken. I'd known since writing Blue Violet (book 1) that I was going to rip the two of them apart, and I knew exactly how I was ultimately going to solve that issue. What I didn't know was the journey in between. (Note: It ended up taking four or five rewrites of Black Orchid to get there.) I don't have great advice for the pantsers out there on this one, other than try not to do that to yourself. Lol.
Upping the Ante
This part, I'll admit, is kinda fun. Each book needs to be a little bigger and have a slightly different approach from the others. I love coming up with ways to make the love unique, the fights bigger, the conflict escalate, etc. I tried to have most of that mapped out when I started the series. But - loosey-goosey remember? - the journey often gets me there in unexpected ways. Both fun and completely nerve wracking for me. Having a series map before you start can help, even if it's fairly high level.
Pressure Cooker
I tend to put a lot of pressure on myself to end each series "right" - in other words, in a way that I would want to read without being disappointed or chucking the book at the wall (that's my barometer). These are characters and a world that I have come to love, sometimes over years. I want to send them off in style for me and for my readers. Granted, this is pressure of my own making, but it's definitely in the back of my head all the while. I think it's a good thing, so authors, let yourself feel that pressure.

Despite all the roadblocks and moments of learning, I'm very proud of the series I've finished. And I can say with confidence that the next series will also end the best way I can make them. Here's hoping it gets easier as I continue to write more of them. :)

Shameless Plug: By the way...I've just released a boxed set version of my first series--The Svatura Series--at 50% off the individual book price totals. Get started on this award-winning series today!


Maureen said...

Fellow panster here, so I can already feel the pain without having had to wrap up a series. I am in the draft of book 3 of one of my series and thought it was the last book but already have begun to think, well, maybe one more? lol. Probably to avoid the dreaded wrap up!

Nancy Gideon said...

Oh, I hear you! I love leaving a trail of loose ends through a series but that weaving them all together is a real LABOR of love. If you miss even a tiny thread, some eagle-eyed reader will surely call you on it. Still, I adore working with the same cast of characters, adding depth and complications as the story grows, but am also at the sad spot of resolving all those ends into a final happy trail with my next two books. Sigh. Here's to hoping I took good notes!

Diane Burton said...

The sad thing about writing the last book in a series is leaving the characters and the world you've built. As Nancy says, you have to pick up all those loose ends and weave them into that last book.