The 'Novel Series' Thread

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E.G. Gammon

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I thought it would be a good idea to start a topic on writing a novel series since I am writing one and a couple other writers here are, too. Use this topic to discuss the "rules," post any tips you can give (as a writer, reader or both), or talk about your own novel series (or others already published - granted you post in a way that provides some insight on the writing of a novel series).

I'll jump into the discussion after others start posting because let's face it - my novel series is probably the only thing I EVER talk about on these boards. You're probably sick to death of hearing about it...
 

RosettaStone

Interesting Thread!

The best advice (if you’re willing to take it from a complete newbie) I can give right now is to know your world and characters inside and out. At the moment, I’m plotting out two different (historical time travel with magical characters and the lives of various characters who all have one thing in common…I’m working on the former more than the latter).



The characters split up and go on different adventures in different books. I thought I’d just have to work with the characters who’d be playing a big role in book one…that’s not the case. Even though the characters have split up into different groups, they’re still entwined in a way (especially if they're involved romantically and are debating remaing faithful)...
 

dragonjax

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I think 180,000 words is a lot to ask of a reader (let alone a publisher). If you can't get it down to something under 120,000 words, you may have to pitch the story as a two-volume book.

What genre is your WIP?
 

dragonjax

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RosettaStone said:
The best advice (if you’re willing to take it from a complete newbie) I can give right now is to know your world and characters inside and out.
Absolutely! While writing a series allows room for growth as the author writes more books for the same story arc or characters or world, the first book still has to "ring true" and be a complete world, including socio-political structures, religion, and magic (if appropriate).
 

zizban

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I'm currently plotting out a series of what will probably end up being novellas. They would be published as chap books, which will fir the fact they are pulpish fantasies.
 

E.G. Gammon

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zizban said:
I'm currently plotting out a series of what will probably end up being novellas. They would be published as chap books, which will fir the fact they are pulpish fantasies.

That's the route I'm taking my series, well NOW anyway... I change my mind so much it's pathetic. First it was 9 long novels, then 7, then 6, then 7 again, and now a whole series of chapbooks - 42 of them to be exact (I split up each of the seven books into 6 parts). Sounds insane, I know.

The Green Mile was released in 6 separate chapbooks, each around 20,000 words (about 75-100 printed pages). That's where I got the inspiration to release my series in chapbooks.
 

E.G. Gammon

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zizban said:
Are you going with a trad publisher or self publish?

Hopefully a traditional. It won't be easy and it certainly won't be published if it's my first proposal. I'm working on a novel now to be published first (while I work on the big series) and then if I get that published, I can try and propose my big series.
 

oneidii

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Hi ECGammon, for myself (and perhaps others) can you please explain to me the concept of a Chapbook? This is very interesting to me for a couple reasons...and so I have a couple particular questions for you. 1) are they done often? Do you have any titles of these type of books I could look up? 2) are they (I know your story from other threads but I do YA) done ever for YA?

Please excuse the ignorance, folks, but inquiring minds....
 

E.G. Gammon

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oneidii said:
Hi EGGammon, for myself (and perhaps others) can you please explain to me the concept of a Chapbook? This is very interesting to me for a couple reasons...and so I have a couple particular questions for you. 1) are they done often? Do you have any titles of these type of books I could look up? 2) are they (I know your story from other threads but I do YA) done ever for YA?

Please excuse the ignorance, folks, but inquiring minds....

Well, I'm certainly no expert on this. I'm not a published writer. But a "chapbook," a term I've recently heard of, is "a smaller-than-average book" -Stephen King in his Forward of The Green Mile series.

Yes, they are done often. The Green Mile was made up of 6 chapbooks, one being released a MONTH after the previous until they were all released. I don't know if there have been any YA books done this way, or many regular books other than The Green Mile. I wouldn't be the person to ask. But, that doesn't mean there can't be a YA series done this way...

http://www.cramerlife.com/downloads/books/fiction/web%20books/Green%20Mile,%20The.htm - Read Stephen King's Forward about chapbook, serial novels. He mentions one by Charles Dickens...
 

azbikergirl

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zizban said:
Just out of curiosity, what happens if your WIP is intended to be one book but it comes out huge, like 180,000 words?
That was me a few months ago! When I finished the first revision of the third draft, it came to 181,000 words (by MS Word's count).

I took two passes through, cutting everything that wasn't crucial. I ended up removing two characters and their associated subplots, and an additional subplot. Then I tried to get characters from point A to point B by following a figurative straight line. After that, I cut words, sentences and condensed paragraphs and scenes that weren't pulling their weight. You'd be surprised at how much a word here and two words there will add up over the entire novel.

It's down to 120,300 by MS Word's count.

This is me now: :banana:
 

E.G. Gammon

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zizban said:
I intend to try to get mine trad published as well, and if worse comes to worse, there are actually self publishing chap book places out there.

Yeah, try and get it published by a traditional publisher. Self-publishing should be the last resort. I don't intend on self-publishing at all. God, can you imagine me trying to self-publish 42 books? Now that's scary...
 

James D. Macdonald

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Some chapbooks. Steve and Sharon used chapbooks to keep their series alive and a fan base going between major publishing contracts.

Chapbooks are often self-published. Poets use 'em a lot. They're also used as gifts, or as adverising (given away).
 

Maryn

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James D. Macdonald said:
Make sure the first book is a stand-alone.
I feel uppity, semi-contradicting Jim, but I'd say to make every book in the series stand alone.

I doubt anybody'd be reading Sue Grafton or Robert Parker if readers had to locate and read these large series in order.

Say, this uppity stuff is fun!

Maryn
 

James D. Macdonald

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Maryn has a very good point.

What you do with second-and-subsequent books in your series is between you and your editor.

If your first book isn't a stand-alone, there won't be a second book.
 

sunandshadow

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Don't put all the exposition in the first book and all the action in the last book. Give the reader something new to think about and a climax in every book. Especially in science fiction and fantasy, it is essential to have some new worldbuilding in every book. Also, don't let the tone of the series change from book to book - you can't have one be happy and one be tragic, or one be romantic and one be gritty and bleak, one be violent and one be placid, etc.
 

Nateskate

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Depending on Genre:

1) Keep a notebook with names/places/timeframes. Next to the name, put a brief definition-(Elvis-brother of Pelvis. Murdered so and so in the first age) If you are writing fantasy, and world building, it will help:

a) because you will refer back to events and places and names. You might think you'll "just remember". Well, it might stay fresh for the next twenty pages, but five chapters later you'll be ticked trying to remember whether he was the brother of Pelvis or Belvis.

b) it will reduce the number of characters you'll have to introduce. Let's say you need a foil simply to push dialogue in book two. It's often better to use a recurrent character than be forced to make up a new one.

2) Make a map, and write in towns. Fans will remember if Oakwood is south of Doomsville. Now if you make Plainsville south of Oakwood, but north of Doomsville, you have a problem.
 

Maryn

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Nate, keeping track of your facts as stated is good advice for any piece of fiction. When I'm still in the planning stage, I start a fresh file--a portion of a notebook for the hand-writers among us--for characters, one for places, one for facts and chronologies. Never again will I have a character's eyes change color or let him give somebody's ponytail a playful yank when my most recent juggling of events made the haircut come first.

(And I just love catching it when errors like that make it to print.)

Maryn
 

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I am part computer geek so I keep all my notes in a custom MySQL database. Still, sometimes when I'm on a roll I wont refer to it and a place name will slightly change in spelling.
 

soloset

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EGGammon said:
The Green Mile was released in 6 separate chapbooks, each around 20,000 words (about 75-100 printed pages).

As a reader, I can tell you my first reaction to this. I remember going into the bookstore and seeing this dinky little *chapter*, and thinking, hmm, must be a free promo thing -- what? He wants 3.99 each? What a rip-off!

I realize they're multiple chapters, complete little stories, etc., but, still, my first reaction as a reader was, "Yeah, right. I'll wait 'til it's put out as one book, and I won't be holding my breath." That and, "Mr. King's ego has eaten his brain."

Now, my step-father was a die hard King fan, and bought each of them in order with the crazed, glazed look of an addict. So, apparently my feeling of outrage was not universal -- and I suspect that if an author I really loved used this tactic, I'd lemming along after each title. But I'd still feel vaguely cheated anyway.
 

PattiTheWicked

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Maryn said:
I feel uppity, semi-contradicting Jim, but I'd say to make every book in the series stand alone.

Indeed. I'm working on Book 2 of a trilogy right now, and I'm mapping out plot arcs that connect it back to the first book, but that don't *depend* on the reader having gone through book 1, if that makes any sense. If someone sees Book 2 on a shelf and is willing to read it, the last thing I want is for them to sit there and say, "Hey, I don't know what these people are talking about... oh! It all happened in another book that I've never read! This sucks!"
 

katdad

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My mystery series

I'm writing a series of hardboiled private detective novels, the "Mitch King" mysteries. They are modern American books based in Houston and the surrounding area.

The first 2 novels are complete, and are now being shopped by my agent. I'm at work on the 3rd in the series, with a hopefully long string of novels to come.

You may read about my books on my website:

http://www.waas.us/mysteries.html

What I've done is to write stand-alone books, which they must be in order to sell, and also create a thread of common characters and events that link the books. This is traditional for PI series (Spenser, Pronzini's Nameless, etc.)

I haven't written a 345 million word novel and pretended that it will be bought or printed. I haven't written a trilogy and I don't tell stories that nobody can understand. I just try to tell an interesting mystery plot and make it succinct. Anything more than 80k should make you go "whoa", especially if you're a new writer without a solid publishing history, because if you go beyond 80k, you'll have serious problems placing the novel, believe me.

My novels are about typical for PI books, which is in the 68k word range. PI books tend to be a bit shorter than many novels, because they are a singular event (a murder or a robbery or kidnapping) that the PI then tries to solve.

I have several constant characters who will exist thru the books: my PI Mitch King, his best pal Homicide Det. David Meierhoff, and Mitch's mentor, Homicide Lt. Joe Duggan.

Aside from these 3, the other characters are pretty much expendable, but not for good reason for the semi-major characters.

I try to tell a crisp, interesting story, and make the novel stand alone, but at the same time place hooks in the story that lead back to previous novels, or foreshadow future books.

Thus far the books haven't been sold, but my agent is pretty enthusiastic (he has to be -- he won't make a red cent until he sells the books -- ha ha).

Any questions? I'll be glad to feed back.
 
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