This week I’m delighted to have a guest interview with fellow indie author Kate M. Colby.
Kate is the author of the Desertera series which she describes as “steampunk fantasy novels with themes of socio-economic disparity, self-empowerment, romance, and revenge.” The first two novels in the series, The Cogsmith’s Daughter and The Courtesan’s Avenger, are out now and Kate is currently writing the third in the series.
She has also published ten Writing Prompts booklets, each one consisting of 100 writing prompts in a particular genre. All ten booklets are now available in an anthology edition called 1,000 Genre Fiction Writing Prompts to Inspire Your Stories and Novels, so there are no more excuses for being short of ideas.
In this blog post, Kate draws on her experience to talk about the pros and cons of writing a series.
Over to you, Kate!
As a reader, there is nothing I enjoy more than getting lost in a fiction series. The first novel carries an intangible sort of magic – the promise of mystery and adventure, like falling in love. The subsequent books, if true to the spirit of the first, bring feelings of rightness – the peace of returning home after months away. The characters become like family, the setting like a favorite vacation spot, and the stories themselves like long chats with old friends.
When I decided to pursue my dream of authorship, I knew I wanted to write a series. I longed to be on the other side of the curtain, and I wanted to create those same experiences for my readers. Plus, if I’m being honest, I knew a series was the best way to grow my readership over time. With all this in mind, I started what has become the Desertera series. I wrote my first book, The Cogsmith’s Daughter, with the joyful abandon of an author with nothing to lose. It was, surprisingly, the easiest novel to write so far.
Currently, I’m working on the third book in the series, and I find myself struggling. I had heard (through various writers and websites) that writing gets easier with each novel. However, I’m not sure if I believe it. As I continue writing the Desertera series, I run into problems I never encountered with the first book: keeping details straight, following the rules of my world, managing reader expectations, etc.
I’ve come to realize that writing a series presents several unique advantages and challenges. Here are the ones I’ve encountered (feel free to add your own in the comments!):
Advantages of Writing a Series
Most everything is built. After you design the world and create your characters for the first book, future books will take less upfront creation. The bones will already exist, so you can focus more on plot and character growth.
You can take your time. With a series, you can take as many books as you like to develop your characters and reach the overarching plot’s conclusion. It teaches you to manage several plot lines and think about both the short-term and long-term. This isn’t to say that you should drag out your story or make your books boring, rather that you have more time to address big issues than you would in a stand-alone novel.
It’s more comfortable for the reader and for you. Readers are more likely to take a chance on a first book if they know more will follow, and they’re more likely to read a second book from you if it’s a sequel. At the same time, as a writer, writing a series can be comforting. You get the same joy of returning to a world and characters that you love – only this time, you’re in control.
Challenges of Writing a Series
Most everything is built. As stated above, this takes a lot of legwork out of writing future novels. However, it also means that you’re stuck with whatever decisions you made in the first book. Think carefully about the rules of your world, and create a system for keeping track of big plot points and minute details that occur throughout your series.
You might fall out of love. No writer wants to consider this possibility, but it can happen. A few novels in, you could grow tired of this same world and characters. Or, you might realize that the series isn’t selling as well as you thought it would. Before starting a series, make sure you have plenty of ideas to keep it feeling fresh, and don’t be afraid to build a back-up plan that shortens the plot by a book or two in case of emergency.
Keeping readers happy. When readers invest in a series, they have certain hopes and expectations for the characters. If one book disappoints, it could spell disaster for the entire series. Knowing this can create a lot of internal pressure, but at the end of the day, you have to trust your own creative instincts and do what you feel is best.
With these pros and cons in mind, I would still advise that every author try writing a series at some point in their career. Developing your characters and world over several books, and watching as readers devour one after another, brings an unparalleled amount of satisfaction. While series do present unique challenges, I believe the creative and strategic benefits outweigh the difficulties.
Want more tips for writing a series? Check out this post or leave a note in the comments. I’m always happy to answer questions from a writer’s or a reader’s perspective.
Thank you, Kate. That was terrific!
Find out more about Kate and her books
You can find out more about Kate and her books at her website katemcolby.com.
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