Hi gang, Craig here today. I’m the only person here who has not dabbled in book series. I love a good stand-alone story, and that will never change. However, my colleagues at Story Empire convinced me to try it about a year ago.
I jumped in with both feet, and declared 2019 my year of series work. There are two kinds of series, so I needed to decide exactly what I was going to explore. Nothing ventured/nothing gained, so I decided to write one of each.
“Lanternfish” is destined to become a trilogy. This means it has an overarching plot, and an absolute ending ahead of it.
“The Hat” is an ongoing series. The main characters will have additional stories, with no prerequisite reading to enjoy them. Readers can pick up any book that appeals to them and get a complete story.
Right now, I’ve published the second “Hat” story. I also have half a draft for the next “Lanternfish” and a completed MS for a supporting story to the trilogy.
I’m bringing all this to the forefront, because I’ve learned a couple of things. Good or bad, these might be useful to our readers here.
You have to live with canon: Whatever you’ve created, you have to live with as an author. For example, it would be really difficult to give The Hat a cool new magical power at this time. Same thing for removing something that might have made him too powerful. I can see this getting more difficult as more tales come out.
One example: The Hat is able to find people he has met before. It’s kind of a psychic vibe power. In the newest book, he is unable to track the undead, even if they’ve crossed paths already. I have to live with this in future stories, and already need to find a way to deal with it. (I’ll figure it out, but it makes a nice example.)
Lanternfish takes place in a fantasy world, and while landmarks are mentioned in passing, they have to remain consistent throughout the trilogy. There is a war going on, and as battle-fronts, and advantages change, this has to remain consistent. I also have characters who have outlived their usefulness. For various reasons, they need to stick around, so I have to give them something to do, or at least mention them. (They could be more useful in the final book.)
Style: In their own way, both series are comedy. They have to remain this way, and cannot cross over. Meaning the style of Lanternfish has to stay where it is. Same thing for The Hat. While I hope people enjoy both series, I have to admit they might have specific audiences.
As an example, Serang, from Lanternfish is a fascinating character. The supporting tale is her origin story. I’ll likely publish it this winter. However, she is not the comic relief in the story. She’s a very serious character. This poses an issue. I can’t add unrealistic comedy to her tale, nor can I pick up Lanternfish II and give her a more comedic role. She’s already on the page, and I have to live with her canon. Her supporting story also adds canon that I have to live with, or at least be consistent with, for the remaining Lanternfish tales.
You’re going to forget things: I keep a decent character sheet for everything I ever write. It has the actual spellings, some tidbits about the characters, and even some geography inside. (These are paranormal and fantasy, so some spellings are unique and spellcheck doesn’t like them.) I find myself referring to it in the subsequent stories quite a bit. I copied and pasted the existing sheet for the new works, so I could add to them.
As both series extend, I am going to have to add characters. This means I have a lot to keep track of in my head. (And it’s already a busy place.) My cast sheets help, because these characters are still around, and some might not come to prominence until future stories.
The newest Hat story includes characters who’ve appeared in other books. This means those character sheets became important, too. For instance a character named Clovis has a perpetual victim he keeps coming across. (What was that guy’s name???) I had to go to the character sheet from that story to find out.
Odd stuff comes up: I’m also writing a stand-alone at this time. There is a character in that story that comes pretty close to someone in Lanternfish. This can lead to typos. Their names are Frieze and DeVries. I’m sure there will be more, but this is another place where good notes help.
I’m just getting started with series work, and thought perhaps some of you would appreciate what I’m coming across. As I get my mallards aligned (get the picture now?) I’m sure there will be even more that comes up.
What issues have you come across in series work that differs from stand-alones?