I love to lose myself in a good historical fiction novel (must be why I’ve read every Phillipa Gregory book!) but writing one is even better.
Any excuse to watch Downton Abbey and re-read Gone with the Wind, Of Mice and Men and many others — right? Getting in the mindset of my 1930s detective requires immersion in the media of the time, and a lot of research into what was happening in Europe and the rest of the world.
Writing in a series is very different than writing a stand-alone novel. A stand-alone has its own benefits and issues – like that you have a limited time to tell an entire story and getting people to fall in love with your characters over a mere 80k words.
But when you’re writing a series there are definitely things to keep in mind – check out my latest One Fictitious Moment above to find out more!
I’m working on a new episode of One Fictitious Moment (check out the first four episodes here) and the topic I’m researching is how to write a series.
Here are some of the tricks I keep in mind when writing a story that is part of a series:
Always remember there is a larger story-arc and try to keep pushing it along at regular intervals.
You have to give people a reason to read the next book. It doesn’t always have to be a cliff-hanger, but there has to be a reason to come back.
You don’t have to retell the stories prior to the one your writing right now, but you may need your characters to ‘remember’ certain events if they are significant to the current story. A flashback or a quick memory written on the page can work.
Remembering all your little details is really important as is all the foreshadowing you need to drop in so that by book 4 your reader smacks their head and goes “Ohhhhh!” – thanks for these two tips Amy from Inkcouragement!
What are some of your best tricks for writing a series?
Creating and maintaining tension is a skill that is taught for all kinds of writing – from journalism to detective fiction to wedding speeches. You as the author are tasked with keeping the attention of your reader between long but necessary paragraphs of backstory and dialogue that can span pages and scenes. I’ve read a lot of tips on varying your pace and ‘upping the ante’ at regular intervals, but here are some of my favourite ways to keep heartbeats rising through the story.
If you’re a curious person like me, you live for a good whodunit. You’re someone who actually times themself while watching an episode of Monk/Bones/Elementary for how long it takes for you to solve the case (personal record: 8 minutes in). You might even be the type who when reading a mystery novel skips ahead to the back to confirm your deductions, too impatient to actually read through all the way to the conclusion.
Ok, maybe that’s just me.
But, if you are in that minority of humans who enter into otherwise normal conversations with an unnatural suspicion about hidden motivations then it might be time to channel all that into a really good detective story.
Besides the usual advice for writing genre fiction – for example to voraciously read/watch as much as you can from the genre you’re trying to…