It is what it is, LOL! So I make it good, because that's my choice!
But listen to this, because I am this dense: I wrote this post TWICE... I had time last weekend and so sat down, gathered my thoughts, jumped in and wrote the beginning of this post... Got an hour in and then needed to do something else... Probably feed chickens or some such... So I save it...
RIGHT ABOVE THE SAME POST ON THE SAME TOPIC THAT I WROTE TWO WEEKS AGO.
Clearly my head is unaccustomed to being ahead of the game. So I divided the spoils. This is PART ONE... So be prepared to either be bored or entertained in October (our happpppy birrrrrthday month, YAY!!!) when I give you part two about writing series books.... A topic I love, love, love. AND.... I'm giving away a ten-page critique and/or Ruthy books today... I've got two copies of Waiting Out the Storm to inscribe to some wonderful person... and if you're a writer I'm giving away a ten-page critique to someone foolish enough (or hearty enough!) to have their name thrown in the cat dish... Let me know in your comments, 'kay????
Every time I have to miss FUN I push myself to work my way through it. That's after I cry, rant, rave, stomp my feet and act adolescent, boo-hoo, whaaa! whaaa!
I don't use technical terms while teaching. I'd have to gag, you'd end up more stupid than when you started, and no one would refer to this post, ever, because I'd put you to sleep, so let's start with your story idea, whatever it is. And then we want to consider ways to make it a series of books, because SERIES SELL.
Mule Hollow... Dry Creek... Men of Allegany County.... Ladies in Waiting... Military Investigations... Sophie's Daughters... Daughters of Boston... Ladies of Summerhill... Redemption River...
Here's my original story for the North Country series (Harlequin Love Inspired, March, July and September, 2010) Note that while this first story didn't get published, the other three did... so consider this one a practice round for the published series:
Anne Kellwyn has a secret. It’s cost her everything to keep it, including her marriage. Now she may have to pay an even higher price to reveal the truth, but is she too late?
Chief of Police Cade Macklin takes his position seriously. A lead-by-example Christian, he’s challenged when his ex-wife appears with another man’s child after eight years of silence. Anger and pride challenge his Andy Griffith lifestyle, driving him out of his comfort zone. Can he reconcile the past in order to ease Anne’s future?
Here's the single tagline: Returning home to care for her dying mother, an abuse survivor faces the wrath of the husband she abandoned and the teacher who stole her innocence.
But as I wrote that initial (and beautiful) book years ago, I wanted to branch out. Tell more stories about the small town of Grasse Bend, NY in the North Country/St. Lawrence County. I mean what small town do you know that only has ONE STORY?????
None. Of course. Welcome to Small-town, USA. So then you come to step two: In the North Country series I related the books by attaching them in some way to the criminal teacher...(follow me here, I don't mean to confuse you, he doesn't exist in the published books because the original book wasn't bought, BUT... he's still there, he's just different, he's a con-man who Ponzi-schemed sweet, trusting folks out of their life savings for his own gain. So I used him to build from, I simply changed him. Which is what you need to be open to... change is part of writing. Part of being an author. Now back to our regularly scheduled program. Anybody got chips???? I could use some of those black pepper and salt kettle chips right now. Oh, so stinkin' good!)
Waiting Out the Storm became the first story then.
It is the story of the Ponzi scheme conniver's half sister, a woman scorned by her redneck brothers for being mixed blood. They were jerks, they disliked her mother (their stepmother) and they disliked Sarah. When her mother succumbed to cancer, Sarah became their mental and psychological abuse target. Their emotional abuse left internal scars and self-doubt, making Sarah Slocum one of my all-time favorite heroines, because while she was victimized, she's NOT A VICTIM. And she wears her Christianity like a Native American deerskin, smooth. Seamless. A sheep farmer, Sarah steps in and helps her sister-in-law and nieces and nephew even though her father and half-brother try to make her life miserable. And the kids hate farming. And they're not all that sure about Sarah... And sheep smell. But the puppies are cute. So are the lambs. Except people EAT THE LAMBS... Oy! Oy! Oy!
Sarah sets the stage for bringing peace back to the town of Grasse Bend by mending old wrongs as she helps guide the children, deal with the hunka-hunka burnin' love veterinarian building his house across the street... A guy who can't abide her family for what they've done to so many... and support Rita, her alcoholic sister-in-law's quest for recovery.
The next book is Rita's story, "Made to Order Family".
This book takes the wronged wife who totally crashed and burned and shows her growth through Alcoholics Anonymous, her quest to become more independent and a gut-wrenching military hero who's a long-time member of AA himself. Brooks Harrington is a hero you fall in love with. Tough. Quiet. Soul-searching. Tortured inside. But outside he's a voice of reason, a quiet man who walks tall. Very Andy Griffith.
And then we finished that series with Winter's End, the classic Carol Award finaling love story of the veterinarian's friend Marc and a hospice nurse who can't bear the North Country cold because of too many reminders...
How could we link your books? The amazing number "3" is a commonality in series writing. Three sisters, all different, each one looking for her own Mr. Right and maybe some peace of mind to go with it? Three brothers, vying for control of a firm left to them by an autocratic father, all striving to find their own way? Three brothers, each one from a different mother? Three friends, coming home for a reunion and deciding to stay for personal reasons?
Or a series can be based on weather. Lives, interrupted and changed by a line of deadly tornadoes. A neighborhood, obliterated by a hurricane. A town, deluged with rain, flooded and moldy. Or a storm surge that sweeps ashore, wreaking havoc in its wake. How about an ice storm, deadly in force and usually limited in diameter? What happens when one town is ruined and the adjacent town escapes danger?
You can do your series based on profession. A doctor's practice, or a hospital. A university setting, linking people by proximity if not relationship. Cops, keeping the peace, helping one another, protecting a town or county. A county highway crew, men and women who work the roads, taking care of infrastructure to keep us from falling into rivers.
I love series that have an overhanging arc, like a double rainbow in the Eastern sky at dusk. What an amazing and scientific Gift from God that rainbow is. Each book has its own distinctive arc beneath the banner arc of the series...
A series arc should be like that. In the North Country, the town was caught off guard by trusting things that were too good to be true. If something seems to be too good to be true, it usually is, right? So that was a huge lesson to this little town. They should have known better. And as they realize that, the curve of the series comes to a close in Winter's End.
In Men of Allegany County I used the tough economic times to develop the series line for 7 books. A town, downtrodden, fallen on tough times, starts a resurgence in "Reunited Hearts' when a military hero comes home to help the local electronics company gain a foothold in military contracts. Of course the total studmuffin Trent Michaels falls in love as he does it, because why wouldn't he???? ;)
And we keep that curve of the towns slowly rebounding as we go through the books... In each story the stores are doing a little better, a little stronger, the churches are being painted. Trimmed. New roofs. And we finish that one with His Mistletoe Family (due out in a few weeks, YAY!!!!) a beautiful story that shows an old furniture factory and showroom being transformed into a gorgeous, eclectic antique and craft cooperative, just in time for Christmas. The series arc was resurgence for the towns, the people. Renewed faith and hope.
In Part B we'll discuss how to either:
1. Plan the series
2. Write the opening book
3. Plant seeds of upcoming books
4. Leave folks longing for more books, more closure.
Feel free to share your story idea and tell me if you'd like us to discuss how to make it a series. We can chat about series arcs and internal motivation... In the end those arcs are what make writing a series so much fun for me... They feed the Mr. Fix It inside!
Coffee's on! Grab a cup and let's get to work while the lot of them are partying in Dallas...
And they'll be SO IMPRESSED by our vast knowledge and camaraderie that they'll WISH they stayed home. Or at least paid for Internet at the airport so they could keep up with us, right??? ;)
And hey... maybe next year, in Indianapolis... Or RWA in Atlanta.