So I just wanted everyone to know that my laptop’s monitor is broken. Like, the LCD is just completely shot.
So I won’t be on very often (which really sucks).
10 Tips on Writing a Series
Writing a series takes a lot of hard work and dedication. In fact, writing a SINGLE book takes hard work and dedication. However, if you’re planning a series there are a few things you need to keep in mind. A series should not be thought of as one really long novel that is split up into several smaller novels and it shouldn’t be written that way. Each novel in a series should be easily distinguishable from one another. This all requires a bit of planning, so hopefully these tips will help you out.
1. Have a Plan
Obviously, it would take a whole lot of work to plan out an entire series, but you should know how many you want to write and how much time you’re going to give yourself to get it done. Create a writing schedule and do your best to stick with it. It helps to give yourself some leeway, but a writing schedule will help you remain focused.
2. Know Your Characters
You need to have a general idea of what characters you will have throughout your series. Plan them out, know how long they’ll be sticking around, and understand how they will play into the larger plot. Each character still needs to matter, so make sure they’re developed.
3. Think Long Term
A long series will have a huge story arc, so you need to think about your long term story. It will take a while for plots to resolve, so you still need to find a way to keep it interesting. Series will have a huge overarching plot, along with several sub-plots tied into the main plot.
4. Write Your Novels in a Timely Manner
It helps to write the novels in your series one after another. I’m not saying you can’t take a break, I’m just saying try not to work on other long projects in between. Keep the novels fresh in your mind, so you’ll remember details.
5. Don’t Be Afraid to Drastically Change a Character
Your characters will change over the course of a series, maybe much more than they would in a single novel. It depends on what you’re writing, but that will most likely be the case. So, don’t be afraid to drastically change some characters you’ve included. Give a reason for the change or develop it over time.
6. Introduce New Characters
You don’t have to have all your main characters introduced within the first novel. It’s not a no-no to introduce new characters in any of your novels, as long as there’s a reason and they’re significant to the plot.
7. Summarize What Happened in Earlier Books
A big problem I had with my own series was summarizing whatever happened earlier. I didn’t think it was necessary, but it is. Even if you just give a few sentence explanations, just to remind the readers, it needs to be done. Remind your readers of characters and plots. Remind them of your characters goals and motivations.
8. Goals Should Change
Your protagonist’s goals and motivations are going to change throughout your series. That’s okay because that’s what makes good character development. Don’t be afraid to switch up goals or have your characters reevaluate their goals. They will learn things along the way that might change how they’re thinking and feeling.
9. Know Your World
Don’t make it up as you go along. Your world should be clear and we should know if your characters change locations. This might take some worldbuilding, so make sure you take the time to plan it out. Know where your characters are and where they’re going.
10. Know How it Will End
You should know where your series is ultimately going and how it will end. Where will your protagonist be at the end? Where do you visualize them? What will be the outcome of all their struggles? Getting there is one thing, but you should have an idea where everyone will end up.
Some resources for those writing medieval-type stories:
41 Flavors of Body Language for Writers
Body language can transform a fight scene from mere hack-and-slash into a riveting clash of bodies and souls. It can make an otherwise yawn-inducing argument so intense you forget to breathe. And it can take the wooden performance of a cardboard character and bring it to vibrant, messy, glorious life.
I mean, don’t get me wrong: I’m a big fan of dialogue, and there’s a ton you can do with it alone. You can express every emotion in the world, and a host of interesting subtexts with your choice of words, tone of voice, placement of dialogue tags, and so forth. But that’s just one language. Think of how much more you could do with two!*
Because body language, when you think about it, is just that: a language. Providing layers of meaning and nuance, as well as fodder for some of the juiciest gossip and social drama. Which is awesome! Or at least, it is when you put it in the context of writing. By using body language to accent action, dialogue, and character interactions, you can:
Emphasize the Emotion by expressing the same thing with a character’s words and body language. (He’s really mad.)
Complicate the Emotion by expressing one thing with words, and a slightly different thing with body language. (He’s mad, but with a side of guilt.)
Contradict the Emotion by expressing one thing with words, and a contradictory thing with body language. (He’s saying he’s mad, but he’s actually super proud of me.)
And oh, the possibilities if you just weave in the body language for “lying” with any of the above (… Drama!). I get excited just thinking about it. Of course, unless you’ve thought about it a whole lot, using body language effectively can actually get a little complicated. So, to help get you started, I’ve come up with my top three tips for using body language, as well as a list of a bunch (41!) of different emotions—each with a few body language-erific ways to express it.
*Of course, the same could be said for the actions of fight scenes and the emotions of character interactions.
Description: The Basics
Descriptions are a way to suck your reader into your world. You tell them what’s going on in the world and you do it so well you make it real. In order to make it real, you need to make it feel real. You need to make your reader feel exactly what it is like in that scene.
To do that, you need to make them feel, smell, sound, see, and taste; you need to engage their senses. Sensory details are at the very core of all descriptions and all of them are important.
- Sight – Visual description is the most common form of description, since we take details in primarily through our eyes. I don’t need to impress its importance on you.
- Sound – Behind sight, sound is the other most common sense engaged during description. If we don’t take things in through our eyes, we take them in through our ears. There is a list of words to describe sounds here, here, and here.
- Touch – You can’t always use this sense, because the character isn’t always physically touching something. When they are, though, telling your readers what something feels like can do wonders for your scene. Even when the character isn’t touching something, describing how something feels emotionally or how the character feels about something is very important. There is a list of words to describe how physically touching something feels here, here, and here.
- Smell – I always feel like smell gets short changed in most descriptive passages. Smell is a very powerful sense, especially when it comes to memory. If I smell Wild Berry deodorant, I’m not sitting in front of my computer; I’m in 6th grade science class in the autumn. Scent is also a great way to tell your readers what something is like if your characters can’t see clearly. There is a list of words to describe smells here, here, and here.
- Taste – We naturally associate taste with having something in our mouths, but we can also “taste” things in the air. Most of us know the “taste” of household cleaners, gasoline, cold air, and garbage. There is a list of words to describe tastes here, here, and here.
Adjectives are the describing words that give the reader information about nouns. Nouns tell you what it is and adjectives tell you how it is. Adjectives are your best friends when describing scenes. Most of the links I gave you for the sensory details lead you to lists of adjectives. Here are more adjective lists for your perusal.
Adjectives are fantastic, but remember that adjectives help the noun. They are not the focus of your descriptive sentences. Overuse of adjectives leads to the dreaded purple prose. Likewise, underuse of adjectives leads to beige prose (see below for purple and beige prose). You need to find the happy medium.
You should try to limit yourself to one to three adjectives per sentence. Consider the following sentence:
The cerulean, azure depths of the sparkling sea shimmered with alluring emerald hints.
What I’m trying to say is that the blue sea has green in it. What I’m telling you is a load of mishmash with too many adjectives. It’s too cluttered. Not to mention it contains a bunch unnecessary descriptors. The reader knows that the ocean is primarily blue. They also know it’s sparkling because you mentioned it’s sunny earlier in your description. You don’t need the blue crap or the shimmering crap to create a good description.
The crests of the waves turned green in the sunlight.
There. More specific, less cluttered, and more concise.
You can write descriptions without adjectives, especially by using similes and metaphors (see immediately below).
The woods were a labyrinth.
The leaves burned with autumn colors.
The cactus’ shadow stretched over the old hacienda.
Indeed, I strongly advise you periodically include sentences without adjectives to vary the sentence style in your descriptions.
In six seconds, you’ll hate me.
But in six months, you’ll be a better writer.
From this point forward—at least for the next half year—you may not use “thought” verbs. These include: Thinks, Knows, Understands, Realizes, Believes, Wants, Remembers, Imagines, Desires, and a hundred others you love to use.
The list should also include: Loves and Hates.
And it should include: Is and Has, but we’ll get to those later.
Until some time around Christmas, you can’t write: Kenny wondered if Monica didn’t like him going out at night…”
Instead, you’ll have to Un-pack that to something like: “The
mornings after Kenny had stayed out, beyond the last bus, until he’d had to bum a ride or pay for a cab and got home to find Monica faking sleep, faking because she never slept that quiet, those mornings, she’d only put her own cup of coffee in the microwave. Never his.”
Instead of characters knowing anything, you must now present the details that allow the reader to know them. Instead of a character wanting something, you must now describe the thing so that the reader wants it.
Instead of saying: “Adam knew Gwen liked him.” You’ll have to say: “Between classes, Gwen had always leaned on his locker when he’d go to open it. She’s roll her eyes and shove off with one foot, leaving a black-heel mark on the painted metal, but she also left the smell of her perfume. The combination lock would still be warm from her butt. And the next break, Gwen would be leaned there, again.”
In short, no more short-cuts. Only specific sensory detail: action, smell, taste, sound, and feeling.
Typically, writers use these “thought” verbs at the beginning of a paragraph (In this form, you can call them “Thesis Statements” and I’ll rail against those, later). In a way, they state the intention of the paragraph. And what follows, illustrates them.
“Brenda knew she’d never make the deadline. was backed up from the bridge, past the first eight or nine exits. Her cell phone battery was dead. At home, the dogs would need to go out, or there would be a mess to clean up. Plus, she’d promised to water the plants for her neighbor…”
Do you see how the opening “thesis statement” steals the thunder of what follows? Don’t do it.
If nothing else, cut the opening sentence and place it after all the others. Better yet, transplant it and change it to: Brenda would never make the deadline.
Thinking is abstract. Knowing and believing are intangible. Your story will always be stronger if you just show the physical actions and details of your characters and allow your reader to do the thinking and knowing. And loving and hating.
Don’t tell your reader: “Lisa hated Tom.”
Instead, make your case like a lawyer in court, detail by detail.
Present each piece of evidence. For example: “During roll call, in the breath after the teacher said Tom’s name, in that moment before he could answer, right then, Lisa would whisper-shout ‘Butt Wipe,’ just as Tom was saying, ‘Here’.”
One of the most-common mistakes that beginning writers make is leaving their characters alone. Writing, you may be alone. Reading, your audience may be alone. But your character should spend very, very little time alone. Because a solitary character starts thinking or worrying or wondering.
For example: Waiting for the bus, Mark started to worry about how long the trip would take…”
A better break-down might be: “The schedule said the bus would come by at noon, but Mark’s watch said it was already 11:57. You could see all the way down the road, as far as the Mall, and not see a bus. No doubt, the driver was parked at the turn-around, the far end of the line, taking a nap. The driver was kicked back, asleep, and Mark was going to be late. Or worse, the driver was drinking, and he’d pull up drunk and charge Mark seventy-five cents for death in a fiery traffic accident…”
A character alone must lapse into fantasy or memory, but even then you can’t use “thought” verbs or any of their abstract relatives.
Oh, and you can just forget about using the verbs forget and remember.
No more transitions such as: “Wanda remembered how Nelson used to brush her hair.”
Instead: “Back in their sophomore year, Nelson used to brush her hair with smooth, long strokes of his hand.”
Again, Un-pack. Don’t take short-cuts.
Better yet, get your character with another character, fast.
Get them together and get the action started. Let their actions and words show their thoughts. You—stay out of their heads.
And while you’re avoiding “thought” verbs, be very wary about using the bland verbs “is” and “have.”
“Ann’s eyes are blue.”
“Ann has blue eyes.”
“Ann coughed and waved one hand past her face, clearing the cigarette smoke from her eyes, blue eyes, before she smiled…”
Instead of bland “is” and “has” statements, try burying your details of what a character has or is, in actions or gestures. At its most basic, this is showing your story instead of telling it.
And forever after, once you’ve learned to Un-pack your characters, you’ll hate the lazy writer who settles for: “Jim sat beside the telephone, wondering why Amanda didn’t call.”
Please. For now, hate me all you want, but don’t use thought verbs. After Christmas, go crazy, but I’d bet money you won’t.
For this month’s homework, pick through your writing and circle every “thought” verb. Then, find some way to eliminate it. Kill it by Un-packing it.
Then, pick through some published fiction and do the same thing. Be ruthless.
“Marty imagined fish, jumping in the moonlight…”
“Nancy recalled the way the wine tasted…”
“Larry knew he was a dead man…”
Find them. After that, find a way to re-write them. Make them stronger.