Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Serial Killer: The Complexities of Writing Serials.

So about a eighteen months ago, I had the great idea that I'd write a seven book series. I mean, after all how hard can that be? I'd completed the Knight Trilogy, and woefully suffered the grief of ending a series that I'd lived and breathed for nearly five years. It was around a third of the way through book three of the trilogy, 'Star Fire' that I really began to regret calling it the Knight TRILOGY. Yes, I could have gone all Star Wars and ignored the fact that trilogy normally means 3, but not me - I like things in numeric order or else I fear the universe might implode.

So seven books, right? I mean the original plan was that I would bash out at least two of the series in the first year in 50,000 word sized novels and then maybe three in the next. I'd given up the day job after all - what could be the problem?

Well the problem is that the first book, 'Witchcraft' ended up being 120,000 words of carefully crafted, edited and rewritten novel - oh and it took almost a year to write. The second problem was that I fell far too in love with the characters and the world that I had built to let myself just 'bang it out' without much care.

The second book, 'Vengeance' has come in at 100,000 words, and I'm more in love than ever. Even if nobody else ever reads it, I have created a story and characters that I am pleased to spend my days living with.

Now I am in the last few thousand words of Book Two and for  some reason, those last 3,000 words are my nemesis. I mean, it's all planned - of course - but some strange, almost supernatural force is stopping me from getting on with the damned thing.

So I stopped. I realised the reason I couldn't end it was because I wasn't absolutely sure of the details of Book 3, and by that I don't really mean plot; that kind of has a way of working its way out, but I wasn't entirely sure of all my characters' motivations, emotions and relationships. I needed to see the characters as their future selves so I could fully craft their present.

During the 6 hour round train trip from London to Paris and back again, armed with a lot of notepaper, a half bottle of champagne and a handful of hope, I plotted out the character development of Book Three, which allowed me the clarity I needed to do re-writes in Book 2 - when I've done those (Hopefully in some crazy two week binge of inspiration and creativity), I will write the epilogue.

You see, I'm a stickler for narrative details, and even more so for character development (building people is hard, both as a parent and as an author)  - and more importantly when it comes to sticklers, so are readers. Inconsistencies between books in a series are jarring and highly irritating, especially if like me, you consume a series in the space of a few days (weeks at most). This of course flags up any kind of plot or character horror that may have somehow occurred during the annals of time that it took the author to write the epic saga. 

Approaching it by creating a beautiful chaotic map of all that might happen, and more importantly why it might happen, has flagged up some serious but entirely fixable issues in the earlier part of Book 2 and I am so pleased that I have worked through them now rather than have to face them in a tangled mess of strings half way through the writing of Book Three. (There's a lot to be said about writing the whole series before pressing the publish button - but seven years is a long time not to eat!)

So, to all of you serial writers out there, I'm really interested to see how you approach the writing of a serial. Do you grow organically from one book to another? Or, do you plot out the whole epic saga on the back of a napkin? Or are you one of those gifted individuals where everything is worked out when your asleep, coming through as lucid dreams?

Drop a comment in the box and share x


  1. Goodness - I'm finding it hard enough at the minute to write a trilogy! But I have found that plotting the main events in each book, while still writing the first, has helped me a lot. Sometimes I'll have an idea for one book, and then I'll make notes on how it can progress throughout the series. I would love to do a larger series though - but I'm not brave enough to tackle a project that big yet! Good luck with your series :)!

  2. Thanks for stopping by Rachel. Good luck with your trilogy. I'm in a really funny place at the moment, somewhere between excitement and slight terror. What's your trilogy about?