Friday, December 16, 2011

Tis a Writer's Life for me!

People often ask me how to write a series. What even is a series? And why do publishers seem so in love with them?  The really odd thing is that when I got a contract for my very first book, The Redemption, it was a single title, but my publisher asked me for two more books to make it a trilogy.  I had no idea what I was going to write about!!  That's the truth. As a new writer, it was very nerve wracking to have to come up with two additional story lines really quickly. Thankfully, my publisher accepted a couple of paragraphs each since I really had no idea of the detailed plot for either book.

Since then I written three series in all and am now working on my fourth.  Here's my definition of a series: A group of books that either: 
  • Have a common theme
  • Are located in a common place
  • Have the same characters
Simple eh? Not so much.  For me, writing a series, is much harder than writing a single novel.   I think that's because I'm a seat-of-the-pantser or non-plotter. It's hard enough for me to get ideas for one novel, let alone span it over three or more!!!   Sure, I can give my publisher some general ideas, but then when I start having to develop the story lines for all three books. . . well, let's just say you don't want to be within a couple blocks of my house! 

That's what I had to do this week. After finishing the first draft of book one in my next series, Escape to Paradise, I need to come up with themes, ideas, and events that would happen in the next two books  that would
  • Incorporate the entire series theme of Running away from God through all three books
  • Tie in the individual book themes with each other and with the major theme
  • Move each of my six main characters along their predestined path for the changes I want to see in them... slowly until each one is accomplished by the end of the third book
  • Incorporate the exotic locale of Brazil into the storyline in such a way that it seems a part of the plot
  • End each book with a bang!
  • Use all secondary characters to further both the plot and the change in each of my main characters
  • Make it all exciting!!

Before you run away in terror at ever writing a series, let me say that this particular series I'm working on now is the hardest way to do it.  In this series, I have ALL my characters present and changing throughout ALL three books.  In my other series

  • Legacy of the King's Pirates Series had similar characters but different locales and different storys
  • Charles Towne Belles series had different locales, different characters
  • Destiny series had different characters in each book except for a few who popped in now and then

For these series, I didn't even really think about the stories in book 2 until I finished book 1 and the same with book 3.  In fact, I usually got the ideas for the next book while I was writing the book before it. Normally a character in the book will just pop out for me and want their own story. Like Alex in Surrender the Heart. I could tell he was unhappy and searching, yet had a kind heart. I just knew something marvelous was going to happen to him. And Luke Heaton, of course, he was all but screaming for his own story to be told. 

I suppose that's an odd way to do it, but it works for me. Until now. Now, I've got to put my super-creative thinking cap on and force this Non-Plotter to come up with two more storylines for two more books.

But I fear my creative muse has gone on vacation for Christmas. LOL

Have a Great Weekend, everyone!


  1. I'm sure as a pantser that had to have been quite the feat!

  2. Another wonderful post, MaryLu:) I'm working on my first series and OH MY! It's far more difficult than writing stand alones. I loved the first book in the series as it was like writing a stand alone but now, 2/3's through book 2, I have quite a few characters and family dynamics going on that weren't there before. Hmmmm. Prayers appreciated! You have mine!

  3. The Redemption started off as a stand alone book? I would have never guessed! All the books flowed together so well!

  4. Melissa, it is still quite a feat!! I finally gave up and made cookies!! LOL

    Laura, yes.. so you see how hard it is!! I will pray for you too !!

    Emma.. yes. Hard to believe. But I must give credit to God for having those books make any sense at all!

  5. Great post! I'm is hard for me to write a whole series. Because I am also a seat-of-the-pants writer, I often don't end up finishing it or I take a long break and eventually think up more details and connections. You do a great job at it all, MaryLu! I'm sure your new series will turn out just as great as your others!

  6. MaryLu, you make me smile. :)

    You know, that second picture could have easily been me this past week. LOL

    I don't know how you do it, turning one novel into a trilogy. It must be a God-thing; He has given you such a talent. And I love how you are passing your 'talent' on to others. Enjoy your Christmas 'vacation'. *hugs*

  7. Thanks Heather! Debbie!! Not sure how I'm going to do this one.. I feel more like doing what the lady in my last picture is doing. LOL

  8. I know I usually prefer a series to a stand-alone novel, because you fall in love with the characters and want to read more about them! So thank you for giving Alex his own story!! That WAS different, since he was originally the enemy. I loved it :)

  9. MaryLu,
    I have such respect for authors like you and Laura. The creativity that you both possess is truly a God-given gift. And I can see how relying on Him for your ideas really comes into play for every story. I'll be praying for you both, that God will give you the words. :)


  10. Thank you, Angi, You're such a sweetheart!!

  11. Sat Dec 17th,
    "Afternoon, MaryLu."
    Well, finally getting around to reading this post ... I think you should pose as the lady in the bottom picture ... and veg out for the Christmas season/holiday !!! (But, maybe that is because I am just so distracted and side-tracked ... I'd find it difficult to 'focus' right now.)
    Thanks again, for sharing all that you go through and plan, while writing and coming up with stories, characters, plots, etc. I'm quite sure though, that your brain 'requires' a rest !
    Yes, enjoy your weekend, too.
    Take care, and, God Bless,
    In Him, Brenda Hurley

  12. Your books are fabulous, so you can write any way you want. I wish I could write like you do :) :) Love and hugs from the ocean shores of California, Heather :)

  13. Thanks Brenda! I think we are all distracted and side-tracked this tiem of year!
    Heather.. you made me blush! Thanks!

  14. I love the picture of the kitty!
    Nice pictures!--again!
    -Rebekkah xD

  15. I never knew that writing a series can be so hard on all of you authors. Especially with the pantsers. But then, as a pantser, you guys make write the books with lovely surprises happening along the way in the story. Wish I could be more like that. I like to have guidelines, or a timeline, or something to keep me on track (with my essays). Kind of like a reminder of what my final destination is supposed to be like.

    P.S. Love the kitty picture!! sooooo adorable. :D