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Writers Workshop > Writing a book series, what do most do?

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message 1: by Mason (last edited Jun 01, 2018 10:59AM) (new)

Mason Hawk | 28 comments If you have a plan to sell a series (3~5 books with 100 ~200 pages), what is your approach? Do you - release the first and start working on the second, Release the first with the second fleshed out and the third just an idea, or do you fully write them all and drop them one at a time? Seams I have seen people with 6 months or a year between drops and others weeks apart...


message 2: by Phillip (new)

Phillip Murrell | 405 comments I write everything before I publish anything. This way I can make changes to earlier books as I flesh out the characters. Look at any longstanding book series, film franchise, or television show and you'll see tons of retconning. I consider that cheating, so I make sure to have it all ready first. This is easier to do if the goal is more about the fun of storytelling than trying to earn a livable wage.


message 3: by Tomas, Wandering dreamer (new)

Tomas Grizzly | 731 comments Mod
I am still in progress with book one (beta soon) but when I was between drafts, I worked on book two already and at his point, I am touching the early book three. This approach has one advantage: you can check continuity and even make changes that have overlaps between the books.

Then, I might not be an example to follow. I started in 2015 and the books are to be around 700 pages each, by my best guess. So in my case, it's definitely going to be a break around one year in length if everything goes well now (the beginning was the hardest, learning everything myself on the go).


message 4: by Justin (new)

Justin (justinbienvenue) | 787 comments Good question. I'm currently working on my first true book series so I've pondered this very question as well. Right now I'm solely focused on the first book, while I do have the titles in mind for books two and three that's all I really have for them. My approach is to write the first book, build up interest and get things going as I write it. As for the next book? I feel like I'll worry about that after I finish the first one.


message 5: by P.D. (new)

P.D. Workman (pdworkman) Generally, I write three and release them a month apart.

If I'm starting something new, however, and I'm not sure how it will be received, then I might start with just one and see how it goes before writing the next few.


message 6: by Tomas, Wandering dreamer (new)

Tomas Grizzly | 731 comments Mod
I think that good point might be to look at what's common in your genre (which you did not specify). In my case (fantasy), longer gaps for longer books are something that happens. If your genre is favoring shorter books released with shorter breaks, then it might be the way to go.


message 7: by Brian (new)

Brian | 2 comments If you don't already have all the books written already when you release the first book of a series, how long do wait between releasing subsequent volumes?


message 8: by Lori-Ann (new)

Lori-Ann Claude | 76 comments Based on my brother's preference to have as many books "out" as possible when he discovers a new author (he's on KU), write all of them first then publish. But what reader likes to wait between books?

But really, it depends. Detective novels normally tackle 1 or 2 cases within a book and the cases are concluded. What happens in a later book often has little impact on what was written before.

But if you're writing fantasy and creating a totally new world, it may take you as the author time to have the world fully fleshed out in which case, you discover as you write the subsequent books and will appreciate being able to go back and enhance the earlier books.

So it's first about your genre then about the kind of story you are writing, whether what happens in the earlier books impact the later ones.

That said, at one point, it's time to "let go" and live with the first book and move on. Going back to fix a previous book to solve a problem encountered later can become a big rewrite, like a small ripple having an impact on a lot of things that come later.

Release a book as you're comfortable "living with" what you've written in it.


message 9: by L.K. (last edited Jun 01, 2018 11:17PM) (new)

L.K. Chapman | 150 comments I'm working on a 3 book series at the moment. The first book came out a couple of years ago and is a complete story in itself, as I originally never intended it to be a series. As it was quite successful and I enjoy writing the characters I decided to add more books.

I plan to have the series pretty much finished before I publish the 2nd book, partly because I want to make sure that the second book can be changed if necessary based on how the third unfolds, but mostly as I want to have the third book out on pre-order the same day the 2nd book is released. This may not be the right strategy for everyone but I like the idea that people can buy the third as soon as they finish the 2nd, while I still have a bit of time to be doing final proof-reading on the third while it is in pre-order.


message 10: by Ian (new)

Ian Miller | 347 comments My longest series started with book 4 in it. When I came to edit it, there was too much back story, so I cut that out and very briefly summarized it, but then decided that it would be good for a prequel, except in detail the prequel became a trilogy. Then I finally added a fifth, but since the fourth was conceived as a standalone, it too could be merely another with the same characters, except there are necessarily some references to what happened before in terms of characters meeting each other.

The big problem with this approach is how to remember all the details so that different books don't contradict each other.


message 11: by Melissa (new)

Melissa Jensen (kdragon) | 468 comments I would say that, at the least and I mean the least it would probably be a good idea to have both book one ready to go, book two written (even if it's still in the editing phase) and book three either outlined or started. I mean, at the end of the day, and like with all writing, it comes down to whatever works best for you. But I would say the deeper you can get into the series before publishing the better for the reasons others have stated (maintaining consistency, seeing if you lose interest in the story, catching those pesky but massive plot holes that could ruin the later books, etc).


message 12: by Mason (last edited Jun 03, 2018 11:57AM) (new)

Mason Hawk | 28 comments I sometimes leave out the gene when asking a question that I want the answer to span all genes. But for me I write erotica where any type of release date format seems to have it’s fans. I have 15 books in the que with a page count of 100~200 pages per book. They all should have 2 or three follow up books if I follow my test readers. They say they hate to invest emotions in a character only to have them gone for good an hour and a half later.

So part of the books have the second in the series almost done with the third outlined. They will all be loosely based on the same town with characters crossing paths in other books. That’s why 15 books being held, I’ve gone back to change who meets who when some of the characters seem to rewrite their fate sometimes.

I have a 16th book I’m going to push through to the end (for an erotica series that’s only like 600 to 800 pages) then go back and split it when it’s done.

I have a temperament where I get about finished with the first story line and maybe an eighth into the second and I will have three good story ideas that have crossed my mind and are filed away and waiting it’s turn. So I’ll take a break after wrapping up one book, to start another waiting book thought.

Seems that when I go back to finish book two of the first book’s series the break from those characters did me good. But that’s erotica not a 1000 page novel. Still if you have 5 books at 200 pages each, well you get it. I am real happy with the answers given so far and I feel this has helped others too. So on that THANKS EVERYONE! You have helped me lean toward dropping more part one books incase one of them really catches interest and I need to quickly devote more time to that series or character. I love writing, it’s like chess where you tell the same battle from the pawn and the rook’s point of view...


message 13: by Wendy (new)

Wendy Gamble (wendygamblesf) | 12 comments My first book has the background in it plus I also have copious amounts of info in files about the universe created by me and consultants. My strategy is for the long term, so I did want to start at the beginning and flesh out details, but I recognise that book one is a little slow getting started in the minds of some. I will write book two without as much technical or background info and expect it might appeal to more readers more quickly. My hope is people who enjoy book two or beyond will later appreciate book one. However, it would be quite possible to do the long term plotting and make info files for yourself without actually writing it into a novel. It seems like you might want to try that method.


message 14: by Marie Silk (new)

Marie Silk | 611 comments My suggestion is to release the books as they are done, but save your promotion dollars and efforts for when at least 3 are published (and hopefully #4 is on pre-order).

I wrote a 7-book series that I released over a time period of 18 months from the first book to the last. Unfortunately, the last book took me the longest to release--9 full months after the previous book was published. Once the last book was out, it sold well with new readers...but comparing its sales numbers to the book released previous shows how much it suffered because of the 9 month gap. I would not personally wait 6 months or a year unless absolutely necessary. 1 month in between releases would be more ideal imo.


message 15: by Mason (new)

Mason Hawk | 28 comments Marie, I think I like the idea of putting them out there but holding off on promotion until there are other books in that series to be had. A good point, I can’t remember buying a second book in a series that I had to wait 6 months or more to get. I guess I loose the momentum. I have bought the second book if it’s ready when I finish the first just because it’s fresh. Sometimes it seems like dropping the whole series all at once is best, lot to think about all things considered.


message 16: by Amie (new)

Amie O'Brien | 280 comments I wrote book 1, published it, and began working on the sequel. However, I had a mental map ahead of time where the plot was (ideally) going with each of the four books planned in the series. Mine are longer in page length though, averaging 400 pages. So writing all and releasing at once was not something I was desiring to wait on.


message 17: by William (new)

William Wolf | 2 comments I’d say just do you. I released book one of a series and am currently writing book one of a different series and then will go back and do book two of the first.

If your readers like the first then they’ll come back for book two no matter when it comes out, as long as they’re aware of the release.


message 18: by Lizel (new)

Lizel Harvey | 9 comments I wrote book 1 then found out that the norm is to have a series SO I have written book 2 in the same 'world' -Italy. It has been difficult because I think I would have 'fleshed out' my secondary characters more in book one had I known. Hindsight is tricky but it has been a huge learning curve.


message 19: by B.A. (new)

B.A. A. Mealer | 915 comments Series are one of those things best planned ahead so you know where you are going with the characters. For all the details, Scrivener is a wonder. You can put everything all in one place and pull it out as you need it. so you don't have John with brilliant blue eyes in book one and soft brown eyes in book two. You can save all your character templates and use them in later books. Because I hadn't planned on a second book, those templates were my go to things when I ended up with a second book idea using the same characters of the book I had just finished.

On the trilogy I wrote while traveling, I decided to wait to release the first one until I had all three written. Ended up being a good decision as the last lady gave me fits. I'm also one who attempts to get the books in the best shape possible prior to publishing, so I needed to have them at least written before putting out the first book. I'd be like William, writing two series, if I was faster in getting them revised and edited, as I get bored with characters easily which is the reason I like writing trilogies or a stand alone series you can do as the situations for your characters arise. Because I write novels of 200 pages or more, it does take more time to write, edit and publish. My shortest book is just over 50K words.


message 20: by Ian (new)

Ian Miller | 347 comments My longest series was five books, and book four was written first but not published. Books 1 - 3 were written on the basis that the main character was known, and the overall plot more or less known, i.e. where book 3 had to end, but that was it. The plots for those three were in my head, and all came out at over 120 k words. Book 4 was 330 k words, and I rewrote that but did not change any plot or character, although I did add a little. Book 5 was not started until the previous 4 were out there. One thing I found helpful was that only one character was common to all of them, and only another two or three went from one to the next, and as the series progressed, even the major character became less important.


message 21: by Haru (last edited Jun 04, 2018 01:53PM) (new)

Haru Ichiban | 255 comments I think you need to know yourself to answer that question. Do you get nervous when approaching deadlines? Then write everything beforehand. You don't? You can work whichever way then.
Me? I'm erratic. I work in many projects at the same time, whenever I want to work in each. I am very used to deadlines so I can still complete them if needed. (I am sure this approach must be quite bad for people with a different, non-erratic personality. But for me it's perfect).
Also, people's expectations on release dates would not be the same if you write novellas or 100,000 words novels, I presume?


message 22: by M.L. (last edited Jun 04, 2018 05:34PM) (new)

M.L. | 1126 comments 200 pages or less is a good manageable length. I would write the whole series and then publish a month or so apart. Then you don't get distracted with promoting before it's finished. Deadlines are good, they minimize endless re-writing, tinkering, etc.
You may also want to have a beta reader for your genre.


message 23: by Zana (new)

Zana Hart (zanahart) | 13 comments I wrote 3 cozy mysteries, thinking the series would go to five. But the ending of the third one was such a good finale that I stopped there and call them a trilogy. The other reason I did that was that I was eager to start my memoirs. I'm no spring chicken and they will run perhaps 8 short books. I wrote the second one first and waited to put it out till the more difficult first one was also done. Am now beginning the third.


message 24: by Jenna (new)

Jenna Thatcher (jenna_thatcher) | 132 comments I just wanted to say I appreciated all these ideas. I have a romance series that I write one book at a time, and it works fine since each is a stand alone and I can do as many or as little as I'd like. On the other hand, I'm working on my first mystery right now, and I feel like I have to decide what my main characters are going to do - am I willing to write another book or not...because I personally hate it when an author doesn't end things for a character (killing them works, but it does seem like a cheap shot.)


message 25: by Haru (new)

Haru Ichiban | 255 comments Yup, Jenna, that's just the way I write. That kind of series has SO much freedom, and I simply love freedom.
Also, from romance to mystery, are you having any trouble, you know, switching from writing from the heart to the head? I wrote mysteries as action base of some of my future romances, but they are quite simple.


message 26: by Jenna (new)

Jenna Thatcher (jenna_thatcher) | 132 comments Haru wrote: "Yup, Jenna, that's just the way I write. That kind of series has SO much freedom, and I simply love freedom.
Also, from romance to mystery, are you having any trouble, you know, switching from wri..."


Actually, no! I thought I would, but I think initially I wanted to write books with more umph like mystery, but wanted to start soft. (Not trying to degrade romance here, but let's face it, the plots aren't super complicated.) Mostly I just wanted to see if I could actually finish a book, and then go from there.
I'm particularly enjoying all the psychology and the extra character details I have to make sure I include to make it work.
So, your mysteries ended, but your character stories, did they keep going through your series?


message 27: by Haru (new)

Haru Ichiban | 255 comments Oh, that's great, Jenna! I have always admired mystery novel writers. It's a lot of work to think of a plot and then cover all clues and then uncover them little by little, not making it too easy on the reader but not imposible either... it's quite amazing!

Oh, no, what I mean is, I have one romance series and in the future stories (that I am already writing) I wrote some simple mystery as base. The characters are all detectives so it's fitting.


message 28: by H. (new)

H. Glogau-Morgan (ddraigswife) | 8 comments I've edited for a novelist who had book 1 complete and was mid-way through book 2 when the first came out. It was around 9 months before the second was out. He then put together 1 and 2 into a single, longer format as an option for purchase - as well as buying them individually. Sadly, it took over 2 years to get book 3 out (life issues for him,) but we just wrapped up editing 3.


message 29: by Julie (new)

Julie Round | 41 comments I didn't mean to write a series when I started but an agent queried my use of a man as a main character so I did a follow up story with a female lead. Then I found Iiked the family so much that I wrote a third book about their daughter. Each book can be read as a stand alone and the three took five years to finish. I thought I had left them behind and wrote three different books but readers asked for more so I have just published a fourth about the same family, this time from the grandmother's point of view. This is twelve years after the first book!


message 30: by Tomas, Wandering dreamer (new)

Tomas Grizzly | 731 comments Mod
Not sure if it belongs here but now that I am thinking in a bit more detail how I want my WIP to end (specifically, the second half of #3), I realized that it'll not be easy to avoid what happened in Paolini's Inheritance where it takes something 10% of the book to close off all the (back)story threads. It's not a bad thing to see questions answered and matters resolved but when I look at the book's comments and question, some people obviously don't feel like going through all of it when the threat is ended.

I'll most likely think about what could be pre-prepared (what the hell did I just write?) during the build-up so it takes less space to close off. I'll try to make it fit the way I write: having some borders that define the direction but letting the flow decide the specific course. It's one of the main reasons I started early work on #3 despite being just one (hopefully) revision short of beta for #1...

And of course, I am glad I joined you and can see and learn from what the others share about their writing process.


message 31: by Phil (new)

Phil Parker (philparker-fantasywriter) | 2 comments I wrote all three books in my fantasy trilogy and published them together. My research into the market showed how, as an independently published author, I couldn’t afford for readers to wait a year or more for the next book, they might have forgotten me by that stage - regardless of the quality of my books.
But as Philip said earlier in this thread, there is a lot to be gained from going back and tweaking things. I re-edited the first book after finishing the third to make sure the voice and tone were both consistent as well as to reference a few minor features I wanted to foreshadow a little earlier than I’d originally anticipated.
Finally my Beta readers wanted to get a sense of the whole trilogy and I needed them to sign off on it before publishing.


message 32: by Beatrice (new)

Beatrice Morgan | 28 comments I wrote the first book to my first series without thinking too far in advance - and after writing the first book to my second series with the series in mind, I feel better about the first book. Like someone else said, I can go back and make changes to the first book if I want to - which I have done in the second series.

In my third series, I've gotten better at plotting and planning, and I've got the entire thing line out from start to finish - and I feel so prepared!

It's really a manner of how you write - I am a planner. I like to have the end-goal in sight before I hit the gas too hard and fast.


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