|Author Paula Berinstein|
By Paula Berinstein, Author of the Amanda Lester, Detective Series
What’s your favorite book series?
(Seriously, I’d love to know! Mine is Harry Potter, but there are so many other wonderful ones.) Series are hot, and for good reason. They give us a chance to spend time with our favorite characters, offer zillions of interesting plot developments, and are easy to find—after all, we already know the author. From the author’s point of view, they’re an effective way to build a career; once you’ve built your audience, chances are they’ll stick with you.
|Amanda Lester and the Pink Sugar Conspiracy|
But series aren’t a cakewalk. Most series authors will tell you that the writing of each new book becomes not easier but more difficult, despite the characters and the world having been defined. Some of us look back fondly at that first book, the one we thought so impossible to write. Now, in hindsight, it was the easiest thing we’ve ever done. Here’s why.
1. Freshness. The first book in a series is original. No one has ever met these characters before, seen this world. No one has experienced the premise, at least not in the way this author has executed it. So the first book is a voyage of discovery, with all that entails. Sometimes that means it’s a bit foreign and takes some getting used to, but that’s part of the fun. However, come that second book, the ideas have already been used and the honeymoon is over. Eeek! Now how do I keep my audience interested?
2. Continuity. Oh, what a bugaboo this one is. We’ve all read series where characters’ eye color changes, they contradict themselves, the world is inconsistent. I used to think, “The author knows her own book. How can that happen?” Ha! Now I know. An author has to juggle so many characters, casual statements, and details that it’s easy to goof. I keep lists of my characters and try to construct a profile for each one but I can’t keep up. I’m constantly looking back at old texts and cursing myself for being too lazy to have maintained that character bible. Errors happen to the best of us, even if we have eagle-eyed editors. Thank goodness we have readers to keep us honest!
Backstory. If you write a serial-style
series as I do, each book builds heavily on the ones that preceded it. That
means the ideal way to read the titles is in order. However, not every reader
does that. They may come to the series at Book 4. Will they be lost? We have to
make sure that doesn’t happen, but if the beginning of each story is all recap,
it drags. So the question is, how do you build in enough backstory to keep
people oriented without getting bogged down.
|Amanda Lester and the Purple Rainbow Puzzle|
|Amanda Lester and the Orange Crystal Crisis|
These issues require that the author concentrate as if her life depended on it and innovate, innovate, innovate. One way I do the latter is by adding new characters and focusing on previously minor ones. I also try to bring in new plot elements and new threats. Sometimes I’ve planted seeds early on that I let sprout. But it’s difficult—really difficult—which is why authors who pull it off are absolutely awesome. I just hope I can be one of them.