I'm very honored to have the fabulous and award-winning author Sloan Parker as my guest today. She’s talking about her upcoming release, How To Save A Life, a m/m romance that is a spin-off of her first novel More. Not only that, How To Save A Life is also the first book in a new series, whereas More is getting its own sequel(s) as well. So, Sloan is having two series on her hands and today she is sharing about how to keep track of all the details while writing subsequent books in the series.
And not only that, at the end of her guest post she’s generously giving away an ecopy of How To Save A Life to a lucky commenter on this post.
It’s all in the Details: Writing a Series
by Sloan Parker
Writing a series involves balancing a lot of details over a longer period of time than working on a single stand-alone story.
My book HOW TO SAVE A LIFE is not only the first book in my new Haven series (which will feature a new couple in each book), but it’s also a spin-off of my MORE series, with crossover characters and settings between the two. Even though HOW TO SAVE A LIFE can be read as a stand-alone, writing it was almost like writing both a book that’s the start of a new series and continuing an old one.
Why a series bible?
To help keep track of the details I might need to reference while writing subsequent books in the series, I’m keeping what’s called a series bible. This should save me a lot of time when I need to look up a detail from book 1 while writing books 2 and 3. It’s much easier to search through a ten page document of notes than skim or re-read a 300+ page book every time I need to know some small fact. The bible can also be essential in helping me remember the little details I might otherwise not even be aware I need to know.
Ideally, I should have started the series bible from day one of writing MORE. Unfortunately, I didn’t do that. My publisher created a style sheet when the book was copyedited. This sheet for MORE included a cast of characters and their descriptions. This served as a good start to the series bible. While re-reading MORE and while writing HOW TO SAVE A LIFE, I added more details about the characters, settings and plot points, building a more in-depth bible.
Why is it helpful to keep notes from the very beginning?
In my original outline for HOW TO SAVE A LIFE, Walter Simon’s father had died when he was a young boy. I had the entire story laid out and had started writing the first draft when I went back and re-read my book MORE (where Walter Simon was a secondary character). That’s when I realized Walter’s father was still alive when he was an adult. Uh-oh!
One line that I had forgotten all about altered my plans for Walter’s backstory. The line read: If it hadn't been for men like Richard and Walter who got along with their dads, I'd have concluded fatherhood made men evil.
It worked out really well in the end (especially the story about how Walter met his father), but this proved how important keeping very detailed notes can be when writing a series. You can’t just change the date when someone died. Well, not in a contemporary, or not without a really big plot twist.
What does a series bible include?
- Character Sketches. Their job histories, physical attributes, middle names, basically everything about each character has to be retained through all the books in a series. I can’t have a minor character whose eye color goes from blue in book one to brown in book three (not without some explanation).
- Backstories. Keeping detailed notes about each character’s history can help when taking a minor character and turning them into the lead for their own book. I don’t want to forget those little pieces of information I previously mentioned in passing (like I did with Walter!).
- Settings. When the books in a series take place in the same world, specific settings are often featured in both. It’s important to introduce these settings to new readers by giving them enough details they can get a sense of the time and place, but also be both consistent and original across the books. All of those details are recorded in my series bible so I’ll always know how a place was described at any point in the series.
- Dates and Important Facts. Who met who when. How long someone had been married. How old each character is. For people like me who have a hard time remembering numbers, these notes can be essential. Readers will definitely pick up on a main character going backward in age.
- Rules or specifics of the world. This can often be more important for science fiction, paranormal, or fantasy, but it can also be relevant for contemporary romance, especially for customs and beliefs that are an important part of the characters and their story.
- Research. I always document the research and answers to questions that come up during the writing process, but now I’m keeping those details in my series bible. This will eliminate the need to redo such research when I’m writing subsequent books. What a waste of time to have to look up how to bump a lock for the fourth time because I keep forgetting a skill my character knows by heart.
- Plans for the rest of the books. It’s important when writing a series to not bring too much of the future books into the first one, but it’s also helpful to have a plan for which characters and/or storylines will be utilized throughout the series. This is true whether the books are sequels with the same lead characters or a series that features a new couple in each book. I don’t want to set up something I won’t be able to follow through on later. The bible is where I like to store these notes about future books, especially if clues to those upcoming elements were included in the previous books. I know I get very grumpy when I read a series that never answers an important question or leaves a thread hanging FOREVER.
All of these details are much easier to remember if they are in one, easily accessible document. If they aren’t, I just might accidentally kill off another character’s father forty years before he really died.
Sloan Parker is generously offering a copy of her upcoming release How To Save A Life to one lucky commenter. To enter leave a comment telling you’d like to enter and feel free to ask Sloan a question.
The giveaway is international, and the winner will be announced on Tuesday, January 15, the release date of How To Save A Life. So be sure to leave your comment before then and don’t forget to check back or leave a way for us to contact you in your comment or profile.
Good luck to you all!
Blurb for How To Save A Life
Walter Simon doesn’t do the club scene anymore. Not since he found love and lost it. That doesn’t mean he’ll let anyone hurt more innocent gay men. Even if that means going head-to-head with the klutzy, closeted, much-younger reporter. Kevin has information about the disappearances. Better to keep him close. And safe.
Neither is at the club to hook up or fall in love. Now they must work together amid their growing passion in order to uncover the truth before more men disappear.
Note: How to Save a Life features Walter Simon, a secondary character from MORE, but can be read as a stand-alone story.
Length: Novel, 111,000+ words | Genre: Gay Contemporary Erotic Romance (m/m) | Publisher: Loose Id | Format: e-book | ISBN: 978-1-62300-076-9 | Release Date: January 15, 2013
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