Friday, April 16, 2021

The Rest isn't All Downhill

It was not very long ago that I didn’t think I’d ever write a series. I didn’t have anything against the idea. I just hadn’t even finished one book yet so a whole series sounded beyond daunting. That was nearly fifteen years ago, which people younger than me might suggest was a long time ago. But this isn’t about my age.

Having written several series now, I have enough experience to see the advantages to writing related books. The most obvious plus is the shared setting. My current series already has a small town with a couple of local businesses and some minor characters to populate it. That is material I can use in the other books. It means decisions I don’t have to make again. That’s very helpful.

But the downside is that I have to be consistent with those decisions. Even the little ones I don’t always remember. (Still not about my age.) In the Romance Arts series, the one I’m currently writing and others should be reading, I knew Audra said in Book 1 how long she’d been in her apartment. I had to check her exact words to make sure she didn’t say anything in Book 2 to contradict that. Cameron only came up a few times in the first book as a minor character so I couldn’t remember if I’d mentioned his eye color. I had to skim each mention of him to remind myself which details I’d established. A particularly frustrating memory lapse involved Logan’s last name. I knew I gave him one, but I couldn’t remember it. After failing to find it in the first book, I had to go back to my notes. I had trouble finding my notes. Then I discovered that I didn’t like the name I had picked out for him, and that was probably why it hadn’t yet appeared in print. It was a way of delaying that decision. He’ll get one that sticks in Book 2.

Another thing that can be difficult about a series is knowing how much to involve future main characters. I want readers to get to know them a bit while they are minor characters without introducing significant plot points. I have occasionally read books where a major development occurs in the last chapter, and it’s clearly been put in to get me to buy the next book. I do not like that. Cliff-hangers and I are not buddies. But it can be a tricky balance to hint at something going on in a character’s life without setting it up as though there is a huge decision that everyone has to wait until the next book to read about. Of course, my readers know I don’t dish out major drama to begin with. Maybe in another fifteen years, but I doubt it.