Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The Accidental Series

Last summer, I decided to try my hand at writing a series. The decision had been a long time coming. Editors and publishers frequently asked me "Is this the first book in a series?" when they would read (and usually reject) my submitted manuscript. I always had the feeling that if I had said, "Why, yes, this does just happen to be the first book in a seven-book story arc," that I would have gotten accepted sooner. And I would have been lying through my teeth, too.

I write stand-alones. Characters introduce themselves to me --when I'm lucky, that is; frequently getting my characters to talk to me is like trying to pull a hippo out of a river with a rope-- and tell me their story. Then they go away and I am on to the next group who shows up and rings my doorbell. Ah, but that old "Is this a series?" demon has caught up to me at last.

In October, I released a self-published e-book called Haunted, the first book in my new YA series. I am happy with how sales are going, but the feedback I get more than anything else is: "Can't wait to see what happens next!" and "The book ends with a cliffhanger so I want to know what happens next!" and "This was a fun read and I can't wait for the next one!" 

Yikes! When I started my series, and I think I even bored you all, er, talked about it here, the series was based on a geographic location, Bridgeton Park Cemetery, and not on specific characters. Certainly not the ones in Haunted. And I truly never thought of my ending as a "cliffhanger." But after hearing more than a few times that readers are expecting a continuation of the story I just finished, well...I guess I'm going to go that route. Now, this is really, really tough for me, since I don't think that way. I think of my books as one-and-done. The idea of going back to the same well repeatedly is, to put it mildly, causing me to freak out.

So, if any of you out there are currently writing a series, I'd sure love to know what makes you and your stories tick. At the moment, I'm pretending I'm fan-fic'ing someone else. I have no clue how else to do this!


  1. ophelia, you ANd i are in the same boat of sorts. When I wrote my first novel, Finally Home, I intended it to be a standalone. It was based on a house and not the characters since the house is the main focus of this particular story. Everyone that read it kept saying the characters reminded them of Nancy Drew and Bess and that I should make them a series. I've racked my brain to no avail. I have no other stories to write using those characters.

    The week before Christmas break I started pulling some tips on writing mysteries and series, pulled some short middle grade mystery stories offline and sent out a "writing contest" to the school librarians in my area (we have 5 districts with about 30-40 middle and elementary schools) plus some of the teachers I've done online, virtual visits with. The contest is simple. I asked them to write a 1-page synopsis of a story line they would like to see written, mystery of course, set in a small town with my 13-year-old female characters. At the end of this month, I will contact all the schools and see if they have had any submissions. I'm going to give each student whose story I pick a signed copy of my first story - Finally Home, plus when their story is published, a signed copy of that story. The school libraries will also receive a copy of both stories for their collection. I may or may not have tons of ideas to springboard off of but I'll know more at the end of the month. I only opened it to 4th through 8th graders since that is the target audience of my book. I probably could ask the high schoolers to participate too but they are so busy with other activities that writing a synopsis would probably not be something of interest to them.

    It's a thought of a way to get ideas for your story to become a series.

    Brainstorm with other authors who have a similar story line and see what they come up with. Not sure if you have a local critique group but they are usually very helpful guiding us down the right path on making stories into series.

    And of course, now that everyone says your story is a cliffhanger, I need to read it myself to see if I can think of some other ideas for you. Going to see if I can pick up a kindle copy and will shoot you some ideas when I finish reading it. E :)

    Elysabeth Eldering
    Author of Finally Home, a middle grade/YA mystery

    1. Reposted on my blog and hopefully that will drive some readers to you to help you out - I also added the description from amazon to help. I've downloaded the sample and will probably read it tonight and go from there, although I don't get paid until Tuesday so wouldn't be able to get the full version until then.

      Just from the description, I can think of several story lines but I want to read the sample pages before I say anything. E :)

      I have to apologize for the uncapatilized name and the capital letters in the word "and" above as I had my shorthand (a word expander program that I use for work) and it doesn't like getting flustered trying to expand things or fix things outside of my work environment and tends to do things like that - where I think I'm capitalizing a proper noun or the beginning of a sentence, it balks and then puts capitals where they aren't necessary. Just letting you know I really do know how to type and spell and that this was done not on purpose - E :)

  2. I've never considered writing a series or evena sequel, until lately, when people keep suggesting they'd like to know what happens to the characters. I finally wrote a second book for my tween story, Just Breeze. Whether it works or not I don't know. It's at the publisher's now, waiting to hear. We'll see. Good luck with yours.

    Elysabeth, your idea sounds like a good one. Good luck to you as well.

  3. Elysabeth, thanks for doing all that! Wow! That was really kind of you. Good luck with your work, too.

    Bev, I hope yours works out really well, also. Best wishes to all of us embarking on the "series" journey, eh?