|The story that started it all.|
Writing a series for fun and profit
By Gerald Costlow
The three scorpions smiled, but Jack wasn’t fooled. Scorpions always smile before they strike. They want you to watch the smile instead of the stinger. He felt up to the challenge. Jack would be Snake tonight and strike first.
And thus we are introduced to the character Crazy Jack in the novel by the same name. The adventure is off and running and by the end of the story--if I have done my job--Crazy Jack is a dear friend. You’ve laughed and cried and struggled along with him. But alas, the story has ended, the book is closed, and that’s the last you will ever hear of Crazy Jack and the cast of characters and interesting world he lives in.
But wait, this is one book in the
Appalachia series by the same author! If other stories have already been written, you run to the computer and download those off the internet. If the writer has promised future installments, you wait impatiently for what is sure to be an enjoyable read and wonder if your old friend Crazy Jack is going to crop up again.
When I talk about a story that spans multiple books, I’m not talking about a trilogy. I love a good series with the same passion I loathe a bad trilogy. Don’t get me started on the dreaded trilogy. I don’t know how many times I’ve scoped out the new book section of the local library and found “Volume Two of the new, exciting trilogy The Something of Something by a previously unpublished writer sure to be famous!” Volume One is nowhere to be found in the library and Volume Three hasn’t been published yet. Each volume is a hefty nine hundred or so bloated pages of world building complete with its own tongue-twisting foreign language and a cast of hundreds to keep track of between battles. The plot is, invariably, somebody going on a quest with a band of misfit friends to save the land from something.
Does the inexperienced writer have the skills to pull this massive project off? Probably not. Am I going to hunt down Volume One and invest in reading this book? Of course not. This obsession on the sprawling, three-volume storytelling format is, unfortunately, a bad habit of the large publishing houses anymore. I’m not saying that’s the only reason the traditional publishing houses are fighting for survival, but I’m just saying…
There, didn’t I warn you not to get me started on the dreaded trilogy? Now where were we? Oh, we’re talking about a series. Entirely different. The advantages of a writer investing the time and energy into creating a series are obvious, as are the advantages for a reader. As the writer, you get to revisit beloved characters and explore the world and people you created in new and unexpected directions. You can put all your creative effort into crafting compelling plots and characters instead of reinventing the wheel with each new book. And you can have fun. Some little dropped remark or event or detail or minor character in one story can turn out to be pivotal in the next plot and this keeps the reader engaged and provides continuity.
As a writer you do have to keep in mind that you have two different types of reader. Assume the reader is not familiar with the earlier books, but don’t bore the ones who have followed the series by repeating everything that has gone before. It’s a fine line.
If you manage to pull it off, the reader likes this book and buys the other ones in the series. You might even acquire the illusive fanbase before you’re done. For instance, I’m a big fan of Terry Pratchett. I’ve bought every one of the books that make up his Discworld series and he has a sure sell on every new book for as long as he hangs in there.
Appalachia series with the adventures of the Sherritt witch clan, past and present, is just getting started. The second book is being written now with ideas for many more. Oh, and if you have not checked it out yet, learn about my new series by clicking on my name on the left hand side of the page here.
So what’s your favorite series?