Thursday, June 5, 2014

Thursday Tips: So You've Decided to Write a Series by Dar Bagby, JLBCP Chief Editor

 A series of books (volumes) has become a popular item in recent times. Readers seem to love being left on the edge (a cliffhanger) until the next book in the series appears. But bear in mind that a series requires exceptional self-editing. It is the author's responsibility to double, triple, and quadruple check for glaring errors from one book to the next.

   Another part of writing a series is making certain your readers get a recap when each successive book reaches publication. The difficult part of this is giving only enough information for newcomers to be able to follow what's going on, and for returning readers (who might have read the older books quite some time ago) to be reminded of what they read in the previous volume. Sound easy? It's not.

   As the author, you know exactly what went on in your previous book. As the author, you're too close to it. Your readers, on the other hand, may have read lots of books between this one and the last, or they may be just starting your series and reading it out of order. Therefore, each book must stand by itself as well as continue the story from a previous volume. Are you beginning to see how this can be more difficult than it sounds? It is.

   Let's start by talking about background filler. Though background filler is a major point to consider when first introducing a character, that character has to have enough personality to make the correct impression—whether protagonist or antagonist—on new readers right from the character's introduction in each successive book. Professional editors are likely not going to remember your individual characters from one book to the next, so they will be looking for character identifiers from the get go. As for returning readers, they too need a nudge regarding the characters' details and development to envisage them as the story unfolds. Everyone needs to get to know your characters from their present lives, not their pasts. Remember, just because you introduced a character (or a scene, a location, a setting, etc) at the outset of the series, readers rarely remember it later. You have to jog their memories.

   Protagonists must be consistent in the way they behave. They must have powerful motivations and emotions. These attributes are far easier for readers to remember than such things as physical details. It also helps if you can find a way to mention something in the preceding book about the next one to come (foreshadowing) and then repeat it in the following volume.

   If all these things fail to happen, your editor may suggest you do a rewrite. It happens more often than you want to think about.

   Keep those fingers flying!

  Chief Editor of JLB Creatives Publishing 

About Dar Bagby:
 Dar Bagby serves as the Senior Manuscript Editing and Proofreading Director at JLB Creatives Publishing.
 She is a “Yooper” (created from “U.P.,” short for the upper peninsula of Michigan), and lives on the beautiful shores of Lake Superior with her husband and miniature dachshund. Dar has been an English Language Specialist since 1990, graduating with a degree from a school in Dayton, Ohio. She put that education to use for 15 years doing medical transcription, working in-house for a multi-specialty practice in South Dayton, and later working for the same group remotely from her home in Michigan. She is now an author, in addition to working for a publishing company, so is familiar with both sides of the business of writing.

Dar also has a degree in music, vocal performance; she is an operatic soprano. But she discovered early on that traveling with opera companies, away from her home and family, just wasn't for her. "A nice home on the lake is a much better fit for my choice of lifestyle," says Dar. 

​And of course she loves to read. Her favorite stories are those from novice authors who are trying out their writing wings for the first time. She even co-teaches a young writers workshop at a local library, along with Janet, the CEO of JLB Creatives, who appears via Skype at each session.

Dar's husband and she (and the dog) love camping. She says, "There is an unbelievable number of wonderful places to see right here in the U.P., and most of the places offer terrific campgrounds." Her enthusiasm does not stop there. "Being from the frozen north, we're avid hockey fans and are lucky enough to live close to a university that supports a team in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association, so we attend most of their home games. We often have some of the players over for a home-cooked meal, as I love cooking for more than two people and enjoy entertaining whenever possible."

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JLB Creatives Editor Dar Bagby (L) and JLB Creatives CEO Janet Beasley (R)