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View Full Version : How to approach a series vs. multi-book stories?


Nateskate
05-15-2008, 12:08 AM
All feedback is welcome. My WIP is one story that spans multiple books. The publisher wants each book to stand alone, which changes the chemistry.

With Book Two, I got Beta feedback from people that never saw book one. They loved the writing- storyline, but couldn't picture the characters introduced in Book One. I wrote out a new opening that describes the MCs, and introduced a recap. I'm also trying to make sure each story begins with a hook.

I'm just wondering- from what you've read or how you went about a multi-book story, how you reintroduced data from the previous stories?

Ravenlocks
05-15-2008, 12:16 AM
The series mysteries I occasionally read often do it by reintroducing the characters as if you haven't met them before, which is annoying if you've read the other books but fine if you haven't. The introductions are usually just worked into the text as if this were the first book. I don't recall seeing any recaps, although there's probably somebody that includes them. But wouldn't a recap kind of eliminate the need for people to go back and read the first book?

CDarklock
05-15-2008, 12:35 AM
I would act as though there were no first book.

Essentially, I'd put the detail into the second book that was relevant to the second book. I need to know what people look like now, and what they are doing now, and how they relate to one another now.

I don't need to know what happened to them during the first book. I just need to know what's happening now. It's useful for me to know there is an earlier book, but I've frequently picked up a later book in some series, and it's really just annoying when I keep reading what amounts to an advertisement for the first book.

tehuti88
05-15-2008, 12:53 AM
I reply only as somebody who writes very long series which are connected but can stand alone.

In terms of reintroducing material from the previous stories, I introduce only what's necessary in terms of following the current story. For example, if an incident from Story 1 influences something that happens in Story 2, then I'll give a brief explanation of what happened, but I'll try not to make it look like a summary...I try to fit it in as it relates to the character's current situation and their thoughts/reactions in particular. That way it doesn't sound so much like an "advertisement."

As I said though, mine are series stories that are related but can stand alone, and your own situation sounds somewhat more complicated since the books are more closely connected. If somebody can read one of the later books and understand it without reading an earlier one, I think this method would work safely.

Stormhawk
05-15-2008, 01:44 AM
It's always been my intent for the books in my series to stand on their own (yes, they're published in serial format, but I have to think about the eventual physical copies).

[I originally did them in a much shorter form, so I have a point of reference for how they should go.]

Book 1 has, ever since the first version, had the same ending. There's a BOOM, a fairly significant character death, and a short scene tacked on the end to make it "happy" (with an equal measure of "WTF?!"). My problem is now because I want to expand the plot of Book 2, that the BOOM-happy-WTF ending doesn't quite work. The BOOM still has to be there, but not the rest, as it's explored in the second book.

Book 2 is irrevocably tied to book one, as it deals with the fallout of Book 1's events. I've tried to combine them (doesn't quite work, feels too long and drawn out), tried to chop them down to work (I don't like it, as Book 1 generally has a nice flow). So I'm stuck with two "bookend" books - together, they tell a longer, complete story, though technically they could stand on their own.

After 1 & 2 though, they're a lot more self-contained.

HeronW
05-15-2008, 02:14 AM
I'm doing series too and while each can stand alone, I add things from Bk 1,2,3 into 4 with a light hand to give a better characterization but I don't delve into details.

Nateskate
05-15-2008, 08:42 PM
The series mysteries I occasionally read often do it by reintroducing the characters as if you haven't met them before, which is annoying if you've read the other books but fine if you haven't. The introductions are usually just worked into the text as if this were the first book. I don't recall seeing any recaps, although there's probably somebody that includes them. But wouldn't a recap kind of eliminate the need for people to go back and read the first book?

That's a great point, and one of the reasons why I'm trying to limit this reintroduction to one page. There's a definite trade-off.

I'll do whatever is asked. I'm not really a prologue lover. For a variety of reasons, my mind wants to skip intros and prologues, though I do read them. But it's like "Do I really have to read this- can't I skip to the story?"

And that's why I'm trying to recap within the story.

Nateskate
05-15-2008, 11:28 PM
I reply only as somebody who writes very long series which are connected but can stand alone.

In terms of reintroducing material from the previous stories, I introduce only what's necessary in terms of following the current story. For example, if an incident from Story 1 influences something that happens in Story 2, then I'll give a brief explanation of what happened, but I'll try not to make it look like a summary...I try to fit it in as it relates to the character's current situation and their thoughts/reactions in particular. That way it doesn't sound so much like an "advertisement."

As I said though, mine are series stories that are related but can stand alone, and your own situation sounds somewhat more complicated since the books are more closely connected. If somebody can read one of the later books and understand it without reading an earlier one, I think this method would work safely.

I definitely like your idea of melding the story in, so it seems like a natural flow.

You're intuition is also correct that my story's complexity complicates this. In a sense, I'm weaving multiple stories into one.

Nateskate
05-15-2008, 11:33 PM
It's always been my intent for the books in my series to stand on their own (yes, they're published in serial format, but I have to think about the eventual physical copies).

[I originally did them in a much shorter form, so I have a point of reference for how they should go.]

Book 1 has, ever since the first version, had the same ending. There's a BOOM, a fairly significant character death, and a short scene tacked on the end to make it "happy" (with an equal measure of "WTF?!"). My problem is now because I want to expand the plot of Book 2, that the BOOM-happy-WTF ending doesn't quite work. The BOOM still has to be there, but not the rest, as it's explored in the second book.

Book 2 is irrevocably tied to book one, as it deals with the fallout of Book 1's events. I've tried to combine them (doesn't quite work, feels too long and drawn out), tried to chop them down to work (I don't like it, as Book 1 generally has a nice flow). So I'm stuck with two "bookend" books - together, they tell a longer, complete story, though technically they could stand on their own.

After 1 & 2 though, they're a lot more self-contained.

Sounds like a well thought out roadmap. I'm not quite sure if my books can stand alone, due to the nature of the story; but I'm hoping they are so entertaining that people can't help liking them.

David I
05-17-2008, 09:56 AM
Check out Patrick O'Brian for someone who dies it well.

Check out Robert Jordan for someone who does it annoyingly.

blacbird
05-17-2008, 09:59 AM
Cautiously, with great stealth and silence, and downwind.

caw

VGrossack
05-17-2008, 04:02 PM
If you have to reintroduce the same information, and it's more than a gentle reminder like someone's profession, show/tell it from a different point of view. So, the reader who has seen another book will enjoy going deeper while the new reader will be sufficiently grounded.

A tall order, I know.

NeuroFizz
05-17-2008, 04:40 PM
Cautiously, with great stealth and silence, and downwind.

caw
Good advice here, in a cryptic sort of way. Treat is like you would any backstory that is necessary for the plot, for chracterization, for subplots, or for tone. That means no big clumps, but meted out to bring the reader up to speed gradually without interrupting the flow of the story or the scenes. Backstory can sometimes be brought into a story through subplots, which can flow through a story series. But it is essential that each book be written to stand alone. It's unlikely the reader will open his/her wallet a second time if the first book is used merely to set up the subsequent ones.

JJ Cooper
05-17-2008, 04:50 PM
Interesting. I have given this subject much thought as I write the second book. It needs to stand alone, yet have readers of the first book nodding as if thinking 'yeah I remember that'. I guess it's a balance. First time readers of my second book will get teasers to buy the first. Short, sharp reminders.

JJ

Straka
05-17-2008, 05:30 PM
All feedback is welcome. My WIP is one story that spans multiple books. The publisher wants each book to stand alone, which changes the chemistry.

Hey Nate, did you go the route of querying and agent first? If so did you just have the query letter focus on the single book or did you also mention it was multiple books?

Nateskate
05-17-2008, 08:57 PM
Hey Nate, did you go the route of querying and agent first? If so did you just have the query letter focus on the single book or did you also mention it was multiple books?

I querried what is now the prequel. I'd gotten some interest, but ultimately, it was like selling the Silmarillion. I decided to put that aside and try to market the second series, which is more LOTR-ish, a tale that revolves around a fifteen year old who disobeys his mother and gets lost in an enchanted forest.

An executive movie producer took interest, read two books- fell in love with it- a story I can't wait to tell- which led to the publishing offer.

Ultimately we conversed about movie plans and such. But, I've also been cautioned for future marketing reasons, not to talk in great detail about these things, or at least until the book is near release.

Nateskate
05-17-2008, 09:17 PM
If you have to reintroduce the same information, and it's more than a gentle reminder like someone's profession, show/tell it from a different point of view. So, the reader who has seen another book will enjoy going deeper while the new reader will be sufficiently grounded.

A tall order, I know.


All good advice. I chose to reintroduce a character that had left, and used an urgent threat as the vehicle to recap. It took about four pages double-spaced, but it flows into the first chapter.