History That Never Was

Home of Dawn Vogel: Writer, Historian, Geek

Writing A Series

Stack of booksI didn’t set out to write a series with Brass and Glass. But when the editors finished reading it, they asked, “Is there a sequel?” And by that point, I’d realized that I’d inadvertently written the first book of a trilogy.

I’ve just finished writing the first draft of book 2 of this series now, and I’ve learned a bit along the way. So here are some of my tips for writing a series.

  1. Start your character/world bible early. If you’re going to be writing a series, you’re going to need to know what color hair or eyes you gave a character, or what their personal background is, or a million other tiny details. People call this a character bible (and/or a world bible, depending on what details you include in it). If you start a character bible early on, you’ll have that information at your fingertips, and hopefully neatly arranged. For Brass and Glass, I have character pictures for some of the details, but I also have a document that talks about what the characters did before they all met, and how they know each other. Sometimes, I add new things to this–like when I finally give one of their parents a name, or realize an interesting twist to their backstory. (And, as a note, even though I have a good mental image of each of the characters, I still go back to look at their pictures more often than I’d like to admit. Particularly when trying to remember which eye Svetlana wears her monocular on.) Chuck Wendig talked about character bibles a long time ago, but the advice he gives is still useful!
  2. Plan on keeping the final version of the previous book(s) close at hand. For all of those things that you tell yourself that you’ll remember, but don’t add to your character or world bible, you’ll need the final version of any previous book(s) in the series. And then, if you’re smart, when you look up some minute detail in the previous book(s), you’ll add that to your character/world bible. I’m bad at the follow-through on this, so I’m constantly going back to check book 1 for details of what happened in what city, since a lot of cities get passing mention.
  3. Expect that you’re going to find plot holes. It’s pretty much inevitable that when you spend a lot of time looking back into things you’ve written previously, you’ll notice something that escaped your attention, and your editors’ attention, and (hopefully) your readers’ attention. Sometimes, you can fix that as the series continues. Sometimes, you just have to gloss over it and hope no one else notices. (No, I’m not telling you the plot hole in Brass and Glass. It’s really tiny. And I’ll fix it in book 2 or 3.)
  4. Listen to what your fans are asking and saying. You may have plans for where things are going to go, and that’s totally fine. But after Brass and Glass came out, I got the same question from SEVERAL friends and family members. “Is [minor character] going to be okay?” Said character was, in fact, going to be okay, but I hadn’t realized how much people were going to latch on to that specific character. It told me that perhaps they needed a bigger role in the next books. As a note, some authors prefer to not let their fans influence the direction of their series, and that’s a perfectly valid response as well. But for me, knowing what people like makes me want to give them more of what they like. And in the case of the character in question, I like them too, so I was more than happy to give them more screen time.

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