When I did Holly Lisle’s How To Revise Your Novel course last year, she offered to provide a free bonus course for graduates, and it was “writing a series” that got the most votes from students. Which is ironic, since the bonus from her other course was “How Not to Write a Series”. I think the problem was that, despite Holly’s protests that series are a recipe for the dreaded Three-Book Death Spiral, publishers and readers still ask for them, so we writers need to know how to deal with that demand.
I confess that I wrote my Elizabethan novel with a series in mind. The premise is just too big to fit into one book (well, maybe if it were a honking great quarter-million-word tome like Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell). So, unsurprisingly, I’ve been asked about ideas for sequels. It’s been a godsend, therefore, for this course to come up just in time for me, when I’m planning Book Two.
So far I’ve done the exercises for Week One of the four-week course, and I’m relieved to say that I appear to have got it right so far. Or rather, the way the story and characters evolved during my earliest attempts at revisions were what put me on the right track. The first draft was OK but it really didn’t have the depth of character motivation needed to power a series, even a short one. I realise now that I had to go through that process of evolution, blindly following my instincts, even though it led to a train-wreck almost beyond my ability to fix. Otherwise I would have ended up with a lesser novel, entertaining but probably not all that compelling.
Next time, I won’t be stumbling in the dark, thank goodness. But no wonder so many writers take many years and many failed attempts to get published. There’s so much to learn, and whilst there are no shortcuts as such, there’s no shame in learning from the pros. The “How to Write a Series” course might only be confirming that I’ve done the right things in Book One – but if/when I design a new series from scratch, I’ll feel more confident of knowing what I’m doing. Like all Holly’s courses, I strongly recommend it to any writer who wants to get published. And don’t we all?
Find out more about the course at Holly Lisle’s Novel Writing School.