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Writing a fiction series: Editor's Notes #253
January 24, 2018

This is the sixth book I've written,
which isn't bad for a guy who's only read two.

—George Burns

In this issue:

1. Writing a fiction series
2. Tickled my funny bone
3. Interesting Web site
4. Writing prompt

1. Writing a fiction series
An explanation: I write issues of Editor’s Notes in advance, and software sends them out at the right time — usually. Last time, I hit the wrong button, and you got an issue that was due today, six days early. Lucky you. You get an extra issue this year. Lucky me, I had already taken my own advice and begun this issue before I completed the last one. Whew! We are back on track. Issues should arrive every second Wednesday.

If you missed it, read the previous issue on the general pros and cons of writing a series. This issue gets to the specifics of writing a fiction series.

Series work best in genre fiction. Consider these examples.
Mystery: The Miss Marple series by Agatha Christie
Fantasy: The Lord of the Rings by Tolkien
Sci-Fi: Foundation by Asimov
Humour: (for children) Captain Underpants by Pilkey and (for adults) The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Adams

Successful series have two or three leading characters who are different from each other in significant ways. Each of the lead characters must be complex. Before taking on a series, be sure you can wrestle with these characters across multiple stories. Beyond plot, you need characters who will stay interesting to you and your readers for a long time.

A word to those who write for children. We have an additional consideration. Will your characters age along with their readers as Rowling’s do in the Harry Potter series, or will they stay the same age as Paulette Bourgeois’ Franklin the turtle who is eternally old enough to count by twos and tie his shoes? Rowlings’ first readers and characters grew up together. Bourgeois’ books sell well to teachers and parents who buy for generations of children.

Consider also Nancy Drew, who entered the world of literature in 1930 and who lived through decades of changes as a young woman. For an interesting look at how she developed, read about her in Wikipedia.

How many stories could realistically fit into your series? Make a list. When it comes to writing the stories, many of these original ideas may not work, but others may come to mind. Just be sure you have somewhere to go before setting out on your journey.

Planning and record-keeping are key. The more you plan ahead, the more likely you are to avoid distractions or get your characters into situations they can’t get out of. Red-headed Susan will not suddenly become blond, and the two-storey house will not turn into an apartment. The dead love interest in book 2 can’t reappear in book 5, and the sickly patient mother in book 1 cannot later be perky and impatient.

Keep your notes digitally, in notebooks, or on bulletin boards, but keep them.

J.K. Rowling planned seven books in detail for five years before writing book 1. Given the way her characters changed, this was likely necessary. Christie wrote book by book. Either way, the series must present a cohesive whole, and that requires a committed writer who takes on a massive project knowing the costs as well as the rewards.

A series can offer you longevity as a writer. How long do want to keep at it?


2.Tickled my funnybone
Red Baby Stroller 30.00 OBO selling for a friend in excellent shape hardly used.


3. Interesting Web site
I’ve told you what to do. This page tells you what not to do.

4. Writing prompt
Write about your ideal friend, real or imagined. Is this someone you could write about in a series?

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