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The Seconds Count

Hey, everyone!  I know it's been an incredibly long time since I last posted, but college got in the way.  Yuck.  Anyway, I have plans for being a lot more active on the blog this year; not a resolution per se but a plan.  For the first post this year, we'll be talking about laying the foundation for a second book (and subsequent books) in a series you may be writing. 

When you're planning on releasing multiple books, it's important to decide how many books you plan to release, or at least how long you believe it will take to dissect the story you're unraveling.  As a general rule, novels are roughly 70-90,000 words long, with young adult literature being roughly 50-70k in length.  Novellas are about 17,500-40,000 words and novelettes are between 7500 and 17,500 words.  If you wrote your first book in the series as a novella or novelette, it is best to continue the series as such for continuity: not only is it important for your writing, but also for your marketing and publishing!  Always try to ensure that your future books in a series have the same print size, fonts/font size, and length as well as covers that correspond well, in whichever way seems best to you.  Additionally, don't begin writing a YA series and then turn it into an adult fiction series, or vice versa. 

If you already have one book published and have enough material leftover for another book (or two...or fifteen?) you should consider how you want to lay the material out for the rest of the series as a whole.  Really work out the entire plot of your story and think about how much you're going to space the events out across books.  Ideally, you'll want to end each book with a cliffhanger that will make readers itch for the next book to be released.  In the mystery genre, it can mean your characters being faced with a terrifying situation or even imminent death.  In the romance genre, it can mean your characters are either closer to their goals or are being pushed away from their goals.  Keep in mind that the term 'cliffhanger' doesn't have to mean your characters' lives are in danger, but rather that they are kept from something, namely their end goal.

While this planning may take some time and tweaking throughout the planning stage and even while writing, it's definitely worth it in the long run.  Once you've decided how much of the story you have to tell yet, it's a good idea to write out basic plots for each book so you don't forget your plans.  You can get into more detailed plotting as you prepare for each book. 

Perhaps the hardest thing to do when writing a series is deciding how to start the second book in such a way that readers are impacted as much as they were during the ending of the first.  This moment is equally as crucial and will either make or break a reader's interest in your book.  As with any book, you want to write an attention-snatching hook in the first page.  Find one that is very relevant for your series and one that fits with the characters, their current situation, and the tone you're setting for the series. 
Don't write something overly dramatic simply to catch attention.  If it seems forced, don't leave it in.  If it excites you to write about it, and you're really passionate about your opening lines, then they're probably the best for your situation.  Passion is one of the most important parts of writing--if you're passionate about it, your readers will be too. 
Do make sure your story doesn't start at a slow pace, necessarily.  And if you're hung up on your first lines, don't worry about it yet.  Start from the end of the book and work your way up to the beginning of it; by then you'll have a solid idea of what you're going to put your characters through later on!  While it may seem counter-intuitive to write the ending first, there are several good reasons why. 

Ending first: Chances are, you're pumped about what you'll be doing later on in the book as opposed to the beginning, where you're setting up for all of these events.  Writing the ending first allows you to get the creative juices flowing, and you can use this final piece to compare the first ending to in order to see how much character development has to occur between the two.  You may also think of different ways your story will go as you're writing the ending, as well as lines you might include for foreshadowing.  Ultimately, writing the ending first gives you the flexibility that perhaps isn't always presented from writing the beginning first. 

On top of the nitty-gritty writing you'll be doing, it's also important to have fun with it.  Make Pinterest boards for your books for visual aids, playlists relevant to your characters, and even write down quotes that seem relevant to your characters or your plot.  These will not only help you keep track of your goals, but also give you inspiration by bringing the characters outside of your head through external references.  On top of that, write one-shots about your characters to delve deeper into their backstory; give them meaning outside of the specific work you're planning, then allow readers just a tiny window into their backstory so they seem more realistic.  The better you understand your characters, the better your readers will understand them too.  While you don't have to publish your one-shots, keeping them around as references for characters may be helpful to your planning as well. 

Your best bet for writing a series, however, is to see how the experts have done it.  Read a lot of series and standalone books so you can decipher the important structural differences between books of a series and standalone ones.  Think about why these books are successful or impact you as a reader, and try to incorporate those values into your own writing.  Conversely, if you find a book that isn't particularly fantastic, consider why it wasn't successful.  Reading is as important to a writer as writing is; through reading we can understand our audience and how to improve our own writing, whether we've been doing it for years or days. 

What are some of the ways you prepare for writing the future books in a series? 

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