My Tower City Romance Trilogy is finished. After two years of working on off and on, it’s done, published.
I started Don’t Run Away as a NaNoWriMo project in 2015 but didn’t actually start editing it until the later winter/early spring of 2017. I had gotten caught up in my novella series, Summer Secrets, and while that was being edited in May of 2017, I wrote Chasing You. Then, after finishing it, I let that sit and started the file for Running Scared, the last in the series, on October 12, 2017. Writing it went quickly, as it was the last in the trilogy, and I knew how I wanted the story to go. Actually, Chasing You went just as quickly, but I had gotten bogged down with the production and release of Summer Secrets.
Anyway, writing the trilogy was both satisfactory and one big drag. Here’s why:
Why Writing a Series is Fun
- You love your characters and don’t have to let them go. I see this a lot in Writer Twitter. Writers are so enamored with their characters, rather than finish editing, then publishing/querying, they continually edit. They edit and rewrite so they don’t have to say goodbye, to end a story they’re in love with. Rather than edit your book to death, figure out a way to make it into a series. Then you never have to say goodbye, but you can move on to new plots.
- The plots create themselves. When you’re writing about your main characters, eventually your secondary characters are going to want their own stories. It’s inevitable, so don’t fight it. Give them their own books. You know you want to.
- You can dig deeper into the town/world they live in. There’s a lot more time to create their world. My Tower City Romance trilogy was set in a fictional town in Minnesota. It was fun to create the places they worked in, the university they’d gone to school at. City parks, where they lived, that kind of thing. In three books, I was able to explore that more than just in one.
- You can make more things happen. When you have more than one book, you can either make each book stand-alone with each issue being resolved by the end of the book, like I did, or you can have a problem/issue that needs to be solved, and you can take as long as you want to do it. As long as you eventually do. Each book needs to have a purpose, like each puzzle piece helps you build the whole puzzle.
Why Writing a Series Isn’t So Fun
- You get bored. If you’re bored, your reader is bored. We’ve all heard something along those lines. If the story drags out of your fingers, if it takes two hours two write two paragraphs, you’re not having any fun. And guess what, your readers won’t have any fun reading it. Even though each of my books centered on a different couple, the trilogy was about the same group of friends. By the time I had finished the third book, I was ready to move on. I had even planned five books in the series, but when I was writing the second book, I realized that I didn’t want to keep going after the third book, and I started tying up loose ends I had kept open for other books.
- I felt like I couldn’t publish as soon as I was done with a book. I published my books a month apart, but for the most part, they were all done when I started publishing them. Why did I do that? One, so that if someone found my first book, it wouldn’t be long before they could find all of them. Two, because I wanted to make sure I could fix inconsistencies. Three, and I don’t know if it’s true, but I’ve been told to publish with no longer than three months apart from one book to the next to stay on top of Amazon’s algorithms. Whether this is true or not remains to be seen, but I wasn’t comfortable waiting months between books. I’ve heard testimonies from other authors who have said dumping a series all at once gave them ultimate sales results. But no matter what my reasons were, it was tough to sit on finished books and not publish them.
- Finding photos for the covers was difficult. This probably wouldn’t be a big deal to anyone who pays for their covers design, or buys cover templates made for a series and can work with the designer for as many books as you choose to write. But I did my own covers, and I bought my stock art from CanStockPhoto.com. I needed all my photos to look similar so the covers looked like they belonged together. More books would have made this difficult and waiting to publish helped in this regard, too. It gave me time to find stock art and compare them to each other.
- You have other projects you want to write. I didn’t let myself get distracted by shiny new things. Lots of writers do, then they don’t finish anything. Or they publish one book in a series, write something else, then go back to the second book, etc. Readers won’t wait for you to finish messing around. If the like your first book, then they’ll want the second ASAP. In this era of binging TV shows on Netflix and Hulu, books are no different. Trad-pubbed authors have to wait. But indies don’t. Take advantage of that, finish your book, then get on to the next shiny thing.
Series sell. That’s a fact that the Smashwords Survey proves, so whether you like writing them or not, you may want to work one or two or three into your writing plans. At any rate, I am working on a stand-alone, then I have a couple plots planned that could easily turn into duets. I like the thought of a duet–long enough readers can get a little more of that world, short enough that you, as a writer, don’t get bored.
Are you writing a series? What do you think?
Let me know!
Having written a series, I do not believe the “Series Sell” line. I didn’t have the patience to go through that Smashwords slide deck again to see how they arrived at that conclusion, but it’s not been my experience, and it logically doesn’t make sense.
Typical sell-through (the % of people who buy book two after reading book one) is hard to guess, but in my experience it’s been 40% and other authors have told me 15% is more typical. But let’s be super generous and say it’s 50%. You sell 1000 of book 1, 500 of book 2, and 250 of book 3. Gonna keep writing? 125 of book 4, 62 of book 5. Etc.
Perhaps if the stories are truly independent, like your Janet Evanovich example where she is just writing the same story over and over, this could work. But if your stories build on each other, then every reader your fail to capture at book N is a reader you’ll never get back.
For this reason alone, I’ll never write another sequel. If I’m going to spend just as much energy creating a novel, I’m not going to create a novel that has a built-in audience cap of the number of people who read the first one.
I understand what you’re saying. And I agree–you need a strong book 1 for the read through. The trilogy books are stand alone–though it does help to read them in order so you understand who the supporting characters are. (Actually, I would like to think this, but I never had a beta who read book two or book three without the others to test this theory.) I’ve read a lot of Nora Roberts and her books are like that. It’s only slightly bothersome to not read them in order. I also think that my reluctance to write long series will help– because you’re right. I don’t think people have the patience anymore to read a 10+ book series. A trilogy will be the longest I’ll ever go, and duets sound even better.
To be fair, I also think it’s how you drop the series. If you finish and publish them all at the same time, this could help. You never know. Indies publish at their own pace not knowing taking that year between could drop even the readers who *loved* the first book. There are a lot of variables.
Congratulations on finishing your series! I would love to write a series, but I feel like I need to finish with the first one before launching into writing the second book.
I agree about the secondary characters having their own story to be told. I have a few ideas already about mine.
Thanks for sharing your experience. I have a “plan” of a series but I haven’t written them yet. I hat a plot and characters and ideas! With school, and work, and other obligations, writing gets put on the back burner. But my muse still keeps knocking. I try to write something down each down but usually I carry a notebook or my phone with me to jot down something.
I hear you! Life gets in the way, but luckily our characters don’t shut up! Good luck to you, and thanks for reading!
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This is such very interesting stuff to read. There’s always the option of deciding for yourself who you are and what you’ll become.
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