Welcome to my new feature, Writing & Publishing Tips. Yeah, yeah, I know, soooo original, right? Don’t judge, I didn’t feel like being creative the day I came up with it. Anyway, you’ll be seeing this new feature between twice to four times a month. Here, writers and readers alike can learn firsthand knowledge about writing and publishing from various authors (and occasional me). I hope you enjoy, and never hesitate to ask questions.
Sequels, Sagas, and Trilogies…Oh, My!
by Nicole Dunlap
You’ve written your best work and the reading world, as we know it, will love the masterpiece. Like a crafty writer, your brain has already worked out plot-points and scenarios for a fantastic sequel. Then a novelist’s dream occurs, you’ve had a “creative brain explosion” and your mind has already conjured up an outline of a three book, four book,–no wait–a five book series.
The upside of writing a series:
1. After completing the first book, a writer has learned a wealth of information about their characters. Choosing to write an addition book or more will allow the author to connect with their characters on greater levels. The time invested in character development in book one can be expanded upon. These characters become real. When readers feel a connection to a character, in a sense it makes plot more explosive. As the author of the Shaw Family Saga, I’ve come to love and connect with my characters. Fans and bloggers have commented on how real the characters seem. And a few book clubs who’ve contacted me speak of the Shaw women is if they’re friends.
2. Readers are loyal. When they find an author that they love, they scour the internet–or the back flap of a novel–to find out more about said author. Hooking a “bookworm” with the first in a series can lead to a lifetime relationship and increased book sales.
3. Trilogies are often paused on cliffhangers–it is in a sense, a form of enticement to continue on to the next story. Readers love books that stir their emotions and leave them in a tense situation. Pausing a novel at a peak in transition will leave the audience wanting more. A good story can stay on the readers mind long after they’ve turned the last page of the book. We’ve all seen those reviews that say “can’t wait for the next one!” (Caution, if the plot points are developed incorrectly this is also a con, which will be noted on the “downside” of writing series.)
4. There is a potential for increased interaction with fans. Venting and praising in the form of reviews are a bookworm’s go-to. Authors get a chance to learn what fans may or may not have liked. This can led to even more interaction by engaging on social media. For example, having a Facebook/ Twitter event where the readers can say what they would like to see happen next. Be creative, and listen to what fans have to say. It will most certainly spark ideas or potential changes in a story that you hadn’t even known was possible.
5. Brand–it’s a big word in the publishing world. Being known as the author of the “Hunger Games” series or the [insert the first famous epic author at the top of your head hear] really solidifies a brand and increases the word-of-mouth aspect of marketing that helps authors sell, sell, sell.
The downside of writing a trilogy:
1. Time can be a pickle. Sagas are usually written over an extended period of time. While writing Miss Perfect, I had to continuously revert to the first two books. And for those stories that have even more in a series, being consistent throughout is important.
2. Another issue with consistency is that novelist must edit their work. Sometimes scenes have been cut out or added in and it’s easy to forget that. A writer has the unedited version of a story in their memory–and if done right– the readers have the fully edited story that has been prepped for consistency and flow. Therefore, toggling back and forth from stories or having a chapter outline is imperative.
3. Continuing the story with different segments must be done with “refresher information” in between to ensure cross-consistency. It takes a creative novelist to determine how much back story or “refresher information” to add in the next read.
4. How about this scenario? The standalone was so impactful that the novelist would be forcing it to end the story with an outrageous climax. Many of us have read a story that was so deeply poetic, so deeply about romance and love, then BAM. The author, knowing they had a standalone goldmine, ended it with a shocking cliffhanger that in no way complements their story or their target audience just to continue.
5. Through researching different sites, many readers complain about overly-developed first stories. We get it, book one sets the stage for the entire series. But, creating a new world and a hundred pages of the novel can be highlighted as pure setting is a no-no. Or there’s an arsenal of characters in the story that have a back story–adding another fifty pages. While focusing on just these two parts of a novel, the author hasn’t even developed an interesting plot, leading to slow introduction books.
6. The author decides to spoon feed the reader sets of plotlines. Without sewing up these juicy webs of tension, the reader is caught in a tangle of sticky never-ending webs. Based on readers’ comments, if plotlines are being opened, opened, opened, they may just set the book aside or rant in the form of a review. This is an epic fail.
To write a sequel, saga, or trilogy, the choice is yours
Whether you choose to write a standalone or you’re in it for the long haul, there are many pieces of the puzzle to take into perspective. Outlined above are a few–subjective–reasons to continue on the road to a saga or not. What are some other ideas you can think of before taking the plunge? Write those down to ensure your best work. Don’t introduce a plotline in book one with no intention of ending it until book three. Keep in mind, it’s a big job. Have flash cards of very important points available for each book so you can cross reference. You don’t want to weave a stick web of never-ending plot.
Author BioNicole Dunlap has been self dubbed the “gumbo genre” novelist, because books shouldn’t be lightly seasoned… Her stories revolve around family and relationships, women’s issues, drizzled with drama, peppered with suspense, and finished off with aromatic notes of romance. The Shaw Family Saga pays homage to dysfunctional mother-daughter relationships, with well developed characters that readers can root for; love them, hate them, cry for, and most of all, yearn to flip through the pages to the end of that character’s journey.
Check out Nicole’s recent release!
Their desire for perfection…will be shattered Charlene Shaw embodies perfection as a highly-acclaimed actress. Within her gilded walls of beauty, she is scrambling to save her daughter, Raven, from sins she can’t even fathom. This is her self-imposed curse for abandoning Raven as a child.
Raven Shaw is captivatingly gorgeous but burdened by a closet of skeletons. After a rough childhood, she is finally living life. Jon, her best friend and the only man she’s ever loved, has returned to her. A stalker looms just outside of reach, blackmailing her for Jon’s fortune. She’d do anything to keep this man–even if it means turning to another… Mysterious, handsome Tyriq may have the key to erase her deepest, darkest secrets forever. Yet, this savior might threaten her mind’s rationale of “happily ever after” with Jon.
In this intense third installment of the Shaw Family Saga there will be blood, murder, and a beloved …will be shattered.