While I was writing, as I am wont to do for 30 hours a week because I don’t have a life, I stumbled upon something that was a surprise I honestly didn’t see it coming. It’s not entirely unwelcome, but it will put a wrench in my plans for this year. If you follow the blog at all, you’ll know I’m almost done with a rockstar standalone. At 94k at the moment of this writing, I know exactly what I need to finish up–how many words I’ll need is another thing, but no more than 20k, for sure. It’s a long book about a depressed and washed up rockstar whose manager hires a life coach to get him back on track to record another album. This rockstar has bandmates, and they’ve been kind of hanging out, literally and figuratively, and I had no plans whatsoever to give them their own stories…until I wrote this line on Thursday evening….
Brock sighs, and I understand all that sigh encompasses. An end of an era, but the start of a life they’re unsure of. They don’t have Liv in their corner, a future with a woman they love. Divorced and single, they’ve been drifting since Derrick’s death, the band the only thing anchoring them to the ground. If Ghost Town disappears, they’ll have nothing.Twisted Lies and Alibis by VM Rheault
That made me sad… I don’t want to leave Brock and Eddie with nothing, even if I don’t know who they are, even if I haven’t invested in them one little bit and in my head they are completely interchangeable.
And so began the idea to turn this standalone into a trilogy….but it will require some work. Here’s what I’ll have to do:
Turn the secondary characters into people and write them into the story. Like I just said, I didn’t consider them anything more than prop characters and they barely have families much less backstories and almost no page time besides brief scenes here and there. Readers will need to get invested in their lives and who they are as people or they won’t care there are books about them. That may require some rewriting on my part and giving them more page time. Usually when I write a series, I plan them out first allowing me to foreshadow what will happen in the other books. They both have children and ex-wives, and that’s about as far as I got. Not a good foundation for two more books.
Who would their love interests be? This is a tough one because I had to sort out who I’ve already mentioned and how I could turn them into romantic partners for my characters. This book is about Sheppard Carpenter who is having an issue moving forward when one of his bandmates dies in a freak accident on stage and it triggers his depression. The bandmate, Derrick, who passed away, left a wife behind, and depending on why they were married and for how long, I think that could work. I don’t know anything about Clarissa, either (even her name is a placeholder because I’m not sure if she’s going to keep it), except she was filing for divorce at the time of her husband’s untimely death, and that could work in my favor. Olivia, the life coach who is helping Sheppard, wrote a self-help book some time ago and has an agent she’s still friends with who could potentially be the other love interest. I made her old…in her sixties, but that’s an easy fix. But book one is set in California, and Agatha’s based in Minnesota. How would they meet, and what’s her story? The possibilities are there, and that’s what counts.
What are their backstories? A good romance needs two people who have a lot to overcome to be together. Since I’m working with a primarily clean slate besides their names and a mention or two of their families, the sky’s the limit….but I’ll need to sit and brainstorm because I need to think of the tropes and emotional wounds I haven’t used before. The tropes aren’t so bad–they’re easy to change to differentiate one book from another, but unique tragic backstories, or front stories for that matter, need a bit more creative juice and in the best case scenario, I’ll figure them out soon so I can plant seeds in this first book. The best series string readers along so they have no choice but to read the next book and the next book. If I can’t even imply what book two will be about, you can forget read-through.
How long will these books be? I was thinking the standalone would be 110k, but if I kept up that pace, we’re looking at another 220,000 words. Sheppard’s and Olivia’s character arcs are long….they need space because they are both grappling with so much and they have so much to overcome mental health-wise for them to be together. I might be too close to my story, but for now, all my scenes seem to be needed for their character development, so we’ll see. I’m still writing it and I haven’t reread from the beginning. I also already have a couple betas lined up so maybe they can help me cut it down a little bit. I’m not opposed to longer stories, but if I have two more books in the works at 110k a piece, I’m looking at a minimum of another 6 months of writing. But, if I do keep the books that long, at 330,000 words, it will be my second biggest project (my 6-book series is over half a million words long, and my 4-book small town winter series is 288,000 words).
Covers. I already had a tentative cover if this was going to be a standalone, and quite honestly, I’m getting tired of doing my own. Doing standalones is a lot easier than coming up with a concept I can handle with my limited skills and finding stock images that I haven’t used before but accurately portray how old my male characters usually are is getting harder and harder. You can tease me all you want, but I’m not cutting their heads in half, no matter how much easier that would make my life. I’m also up against Amazon’s advertising guidelines, and I’m not popular enough to sell books by my name alone. I said a long time I don’t care if they reject my ads, but it’s a lie. Amazon ads are a big part of my marketing, and if I can’t advertise a trilogy, that’s page reads down the drain. So knowing I would have to do three covers instead of one is a small deterrent, but nothing that would keep me from the project.
Covers Update: As I wrote this blogpost on Thursday, I did some cover experimenting on Friday, flipping through stock photos for hours and hours. Literally, hours and hours. But, I think it might have paid off as I came up with a tentative concept for the trilogy. I was so pleased I found the cover models, I have already purchased them (do you know how difficult it is to find men that look like old rockstars???), and since I always let you in on my creative process, I’ll show you what I came up with. For some reason I don’t feel the doubt (and still feel, to be honest) that I did with the trilogy that’s releasing right now, but I still can’t say for sure if these will end up being the final thing. They kind of appear washed out and I may need to change the background, but I used screenshots and they’re grainy, so we’ll see what working with proper photos will do. It’s funny, while doing research for rockstar romances, that there isn’t one definite kind of cover. Of course, there are shirtless men galore, but I can’t go that way, and besides maybe a stage/audience in the background, there are no similar styles. A lot of times, like mine, the model isn’t even holding a guitar. That can be good for a designer in terms of flexibility, but bad for creating something that will for sure work to bring in sales. Anyway, I’ve never been one for a cover reveal, so here they are with tentative titles–those definitely are subject to change:
All in all, it sounds like I’m going to do it, especially since I have covers now, and it would be a nice addition to my backlist. It puts a glitch into my publishing schedule though, as I was going to put out two more standalones after my trilogy releases before I start publishing my 6-book series. I’m only pushing back my series because I really really really wanted some kind of audience already in place when I release these books. I honestly think they are going to either make or break my career (think Sylvia Day’s Crossfire series)… and I wanted to give them the best possible chance. I can only do that if I have some branding and a backlist in place already. I’m growing my newsletter, and I’ll be looking at promo opportunities through Bookfunnel as soon as THIS trilogy releases in full. The second book is out today, and I have had some good feedback on the first book. Releasing another trilogy before the series goes live would be great, but I need time to write. I have a standalone (billionaire’s fake fiancé trope) already queued up for April, and if I waited until July or even August, that gives me 7 months to finish this trilogy before I start needing something to release. That’s kind of pushing it, but as I have been dragging my feet with this book anyway, it would give me a deadline to work toward. Had I known this was going to happen, I would have strung out the Lost & Found Trilogy a little more, releasing two weeks apart instead of just one to buy me a more time, but that’s okay. That just means less time on Twitter, which is no big loss. I’ll miss touching base with some of my friends, but all the negativity is getting me down again. When authors have to drag other authors down so they feel good about themselves, that’s when I have to cut out. If you think you can write better, then go do that, publish, and market your bestseller. It’s obvious people like that think they have one, so prove it. Shut your mouth and go do that. Jealousy looks terrible and I hope one day their bitterness bites them in the butt.
If you want to read more about turning a standalone into a series, here are a couple of articles that helped me:
Writing A Series – And How to Grow A Series from a Standalone Book by Kate Frost
That is all I have for this post and I’ll keep you updated on my progress. Have a good week!