by Heather Silvio
Many readers and writers alike adore series. I count myself squarely in both groups. However, despite reading various series for literally decades in some cases, I never thought I would write my own. This wasn’t a deliberate choice (I don’t think, lol) of avoiding what seemed more difficult than writing a single standalone novel. But, as a member of several writers’ groups, I can type with certainty that the perceived difficulty of the task keeps some writers from even attempting it. And, on the reader side of things, I’m often asked at book signings about how much more difficult writing my Paranormal Talent Agency series was than my standalone fiction and nonfiction.
Given the fascination on both the reader and writer sides, I decided that providing my process in writing a series might be illuminating. The story thus begins back in 2017. I’d been reading two series I’d just discovered that already had a few books out each, alternating between them. I loved them, but never thought about writing a book like them. Until the day a new character started talking to me, explaining that her story would kick off my first series. She showed me that the story would be a paranormal mystery with sweet romance, set in my current hometown of Las Vegas, featuring the entertainment industry. That was all very exciting, truth be told. They say, “write what you know” – and if I knew anything, as an actress living in Las Vegas, it was the acting industry in the city of Las Vegas!
For those not familiar with the terms, I have always been a plotter, as opposed to a pantser, meaning that no matter how the first kernel of a story appears (character, scene, etc.) I *always* develop the major plot points before sitting down to write the first draft. Now that I knew I was writing a series, that seemed even more important. Otherwise, how on earth was I ever going to keep track of everybody?
My first consideration was whether my series would consist of standalones in the same universe or continuing stories with the same characters. There are pros and cons to both, namely that readers could jump in with any book the former way, but really should read the books in release order the latter way. My decision was a kinda hybrid. Each book would feature a new couple and new mystery but, with each book, the prior characters would remain involved. Thus, although readers could start anywhere, they’d get the most out of the series by starting at the beginning.
When I sat down to write, I remembered the advice I’d seen in several resources, to maintain a story bible. This would be a living document in which I would record every character, location, and important physical item. If you are a writer reading this blog and interested in writing a series, I cannot stress enough how important it is to keep a document of this type. I don’t have the best memory to begin with, but attempting to keep track of dozens of characters, their homes, and relationships would have been impossible without my Paranormal Talent Agency bible.
My next steps were pretty straightforward for a plotter. I knew I’d have a mystery and romance, so I developed my plot and fleshed out my characters. How I do this could be a subject of yet another blog post, so suffice it to say that I spent an entire day creating the major plot points (what happens to the characters) and my characters’ desires (what they want). The second day I created sentence descriptions of every chapter that would lead me through my plot and character arcs. With this completed story treatment, I was ready to write the rough draft. One of the benefits of the plotter approach is that you usually have a good first draft from a pacing and technical side. I use later drafts to add layers of detail and tighten up the language before sending it out for review.
I followed those steps for the first three books, and soon had a trilogy. That had been my initial plan. I intended to write a trilogy, completing all three and then releasing them one month apart (to test some marketing ideas… perhaps a blog for another time). What I’d begun to realize during the editing of those first drafts was that several characters wanted their own books – and there was a much bigger picture than I’d imagined. So, I sat down again and crafted what’s called a series arc, identifying and detailing what I wanted to see happen in the bigger picture. Once I had that ready, I returned to my original trilogy and layered hints of that larger story, then repeated the above process to write the second trilogy in the series, which gave those secondary characters their own stories and wrapped up my series arc.
If you like to read series, hopefully this gave you a bit of an appreciation of what goes into creating the worlds you love. If you are interested in writing a series, hopefully this gave you the push to move forward with it. I learned so much from writing my first series, both what worked for me, and what I wouldn’t necessarily do again. And, I learned for sure that I’ll definitely do it again!
Heather Silvio has written fiction and nonfiction; she is also an actress and licensed psychologist. When she isn't working, she channels her inner flapper as a 1920s jazz and blues singer. She lives in Las Vegas with her wonderful husband Sidney and their goofy cat Snowball. To contact her, email firstname.lastname@example.org.