Series Writing Secrets
What does it take to write a series?
Read how a few of my writing clients
succeeded with their story series:
Multiple Series Success with a Twist|
Susan Furlong: Susan writes: "Sandra has helped edit several of my mysteries. Her suggestions and content edits have helped me enhance character tension, catch plot holes, tighten pace, and significantly improve my stories. I value her insight and highly recommend her services."
Congratulations to long-time client Susan Furlong, for her fine accomplishments in creating, publishing and succeeding as a mystery series writer in the competitive commercial publishing industry!
She began publishing books with her series for Martin Sisters Publishing: Murder on Consignment and Murder for Bid.
Query leads to a surprising offer!
Susan then approached a New York agent about a new series. Here's where publishing--and life--can take a twist.
The agent loved Susan's writing but what she was looking for at that moment was just the right author to take over an existing mystery series: A Novel Idea Mysteries. The agent suggested Susan to the publisher, Susan submitted a proposal and was accepted! She wrote book #4 in A Novel Idea Mystery series, Played by the Book
and #5, Off the Books.
Susan then proposed a new series, based on a Georgia peach farmer's daughter, adding yet another series of published books to her already impressive list of accomplishments!
Her Berkley Prime Crime cozy series, called Georgia Peach Mysteries, began with Rest in Peach,
which was followed by Peaches and Scream and then War and Peach. Good going, Susan!
Editor's Note: Do you have a series just waiting to come to life? E-mail me and let's talk!
Successful Canadian Series Author|
Daniel Kalla, a family physician in Vancouver, B.C., Canada, was working as an ER doctor when he submitted his first book, a psychological thriller, Rage Therapy to an agent.
Being Flexible Pays Off
The agent suggested that the book would have a better chance of attracting a U.S. publisher if it was set in Seattle instead of Vancouver. Daniel contacted me and I was glad to work with him to reset the locale and insert its Seattle flavor.
Tor Books bought Rage Therapy and scheduled a meeting with Daniel. He had already started writing a second medical thriller, Pandemic about a new killer flu unleashed on the world by bioterrorists. He was only two-thirds through writing Pandemic, but he took time off work and wrote what turned out to be the last 30,000 words in nine days.
The Importance of Timing - and Putting in the Work
Tom Doherty, Tor Book's founder, took a special interest in the second manuscript, decided to publish it as well as Rage Therapy, and ordered 195,000 copies of Pandemic for the initial print run.
Pandemic flew off shelves as the story hit a nerve with the public as the ramifications of SARS became the hot international topic on the news.
Daniel didn't stop there. He said in an interview, "It's like an addiction. If I have five minutes and can get near a computer and type a few words in, I do. When I'm writing a story, I just have to get it out."
He now has now six medical thrillers published and also The Shanghai Series about the Jews in WWII trapped in the ghettos of war-torn Shanghai. That series includes The Far Side Of The Sky,
Rising Sun, Falling Shadow,
and Nightfall Over Shanghai.
Daniel Kalla's books have been translated into eleven languages, and two have been optioned for feature films.
Editor's Note: Daniel took the advice of his agent and had been willing to get help to reset his original book's location. Which led to a book deal at just the right time for his second book's topic to catapult his career. Timing is important--and so is being flexible.
Multiple Decisions in Making a Series|
Lara writes: "Many, many things come into play once you decide to turn a standalone into a series. Characters must develop further, plots must thicken or change entirely and you need a reason to continue on!
Sandra's advice in editing helped me a huge deal when it came to those points and how to manage them. She showed me how to keep ideas, characters and plots flowing from one book to the next, and all the while added new parts to the book - part which have become my favourite and made the novel far better."
Lara has the second book in her trilogy published, with the launch of "Red Fox, Silver Fox."
In her first book "Red Fox" the world has grown hostile as environmental changes have caused massive problems and the new Biocentric government enforces a brutal "green" philosophy. In the process, Freya, a headstrong and determined young Australian woman, is separated from her family and interned in the most horrific of circumstances.
Dystopian viewpoint with an Aussie flavor!
In her second book, "Red Fox, Silver Fox"
Freya jeopardizes her freedom to return to the Biocentric’s evil world to rescue her family, even when the Beech Clan forbids her from leaving their secreted camp rainforest to search for them. New perils await as Freya and the Clan leader, haughty young man Kharanshu Delh, set out on their secret rescue mission. But a greater problem emerges: For a wild and violent side of Freya is becoming harder to keep dormant.
From a stand-alone to a series:
Lara says, "I never begin a novel with the intention of turning it into a series. Most of my books ARE part of a series, but I cannot say that I planned them to be so until about half-way or at the end of the original novel. Red Fox was intended to be a stand-alone, but I saw its potential to go far further and delve into deeper issues. If I see a reason to turn a lone book into a series, I will attempt to do so." Lara's success on Goodreads shows the enthusiasm of her readers. She is currently working on her final book in the series.
Editor's Note: A current interest in dystopian fantasies, like Hunger Games, has fueled reader interest in such trilogies as Lara's. However, it takes a fresh approach and emotionally-charged writing to bring success for any book in any trending genre. Lara delivers on that.
I was pleased to help her with this fine series. Have a fantasy you'd like to share with readers? E-mail me to discuss your ideas!E-mail me and let's talk!
Sharing Your Joys with Others|
Rose Miller writes: "You are so talented. I know it is your business after all, but I was so impressed with your suggestions with the horse book, and I told you then, too, but you just can see the picture and add just the right 'stuff.' Thanks so much."
Rose Miller enjoyed a career raising and showing a special breed of horse--the Tennessee Walking Horse.
Along the way she learned the sweet success of loving and showing these horses, but she also learned truths about some other aspects of that field. She wrote The Horse That Wouldn't Trot, a book that exposes the crippling practice of soring as well as delivering a heart-warming story of the love between a woman and her horses.
One (related) subject at a time = a series!
Rose continued writing about her love of animals, including, "Mules, Mules, and More Mules", "Dogs, Dogs, and More Dogs" ,and "Little Miss Muffitt, Guardian of My Heart." These books define her life with some special companions who have shared their lives with Rose. Her books demonstrate the kind of bond that we humans can have (and need!) with our furry friends.
Editor's Note: Have some special aspect of YOUR life to share with readers? A book about just one person, hobby, your career, or special critters (like Rose wrote about) can make fascinating reading. E-mail me to discuss your memoir ideas!
Turn Life's Intrigues into Fiction|
David Heilwagen wrote to me: "My romantic thriller, Cone of Uncertainty, has been offered a publishing contract with Soul Mate Publishing. This is very exciting news and a long time coming. Just wanted you to know, and to say thanks for all your candid critiques over the years."
David Heilwagen survived nearly 30 years as a police officer on the streets of Indianapolis. In his retirement, he explored his love of writing fiction with his first book, Cone of Uncertainty.
Thrillers That Grab Readers
The success of that book led to two more in his Key West Thriller series: Remember Last Summer and Ninety Degrees at Sunset.
David is represented by Trace Literary Agency and is an active member in the International Thriller Writers.
Editor's Note: Writing and getting published is not a quick process--but it is so rewarding for both the writer and for their readers! Want to get started with your own series? E-mail me and let's talk!
Spinning off Across Genres|
Mark Clay Grove
Mark Clay Grove wrote to me: "At a certain point I end up moving lines around on the page and get nowhere. I need a thought manager, a structural engineer, closet organizer, or someone. That's you. Thanks!"
Mark Grove has published two very different yet related series. This is a perfect example of combining the idea of a spin-off along with a jump in genres. Both play into his expertise in his career as he enjoys both sharing his knowledge with others and playing with "what if."
Combine Real-life Knowledge with Imagination
Mark's 25-year career as an antiques dealer and as a Certified Appraiser is delivered in his fun and informative semi-autobiographical Madison Picker based on Mark's life, crammed with details of antiques, history, and the art of collecting. This story is first in a The Picker Series that features Charles Dawes, antiques dealer, in 2005. Mark is actively marketing it to readers within the industry as well as all fans of "picking," like those who enjoy The Antiques Roadshow and Jonathan Gash's Lovejoy series. With a growing fan base, he continued that series with Some Kind of Good.
With an additional love of science fiction, Mark's second series begins with Serapis Fraktur, the first in his The Conglomerate Series. Mark says, "Eventually Charles ends up in the far future, 2460 AD to be specific, as master of the universe with unlimited resources and power. So what does he do? Silly, he continues to pick, of course! The possibilities are fantastic when one has a time machine."
Write Short Episodes to Attract Readers
Mark decided to introduce readers to this series through a related spin-off episode of SF adventure in The Attack on Orbital 454. This gives readers a short and inexpensive way to get to know Mark and his writing.
Mark already has his next book, South Boston Beauty, underway for The Picker Series and The Scalar Magnitude for his Conglomerate Series.
Editor's Note: Write from your own background and you can find a rich source of experiences and details to inspire plots and characters as well as draw in readers! E-mail me and let's discuss how your background fits into the series YOU have in mind!
Stories That Benefit a Cause|
Myra Nagel writes: "You edited the first 100 pages of my two mystery novels. I wanted to let you know that I have finally published both of them, using Create Space/Amazon. Your comments were incredibly helpful."
Myra's novels reflect her own ten years of experience with the Florida Guardian Ad Litem Program in which she witnessed many of the situations in her novels firsthand.
In Myra's first mystery, Downside Seven, a small town's only female minister and a down-and-out insurance agent form a reluctant partnership as they both question the police's verdict of "accident" for the drowning death of a prominent businessman. The only witness: an eight-year-old autistic boy who is unable to describe what he witnessed ... but whose own life may now be in jeopardy.
Make the World a Bit Brighter
All proceeds from the sale of Downside Seven, both paperback and electronic versions, are donated to Voices For Kids of Southwest Florida, an organization that helps abused, neglected, and abandoned children who come under the protection Southwest Florida's courts.
Myra's second novel is also very close to her heart. In Runaway Poet, the Tolliver brothers had bounced through seven foster homes before Hurricane Charley destroyed their Florida duplex. Now in the storm's aftermath, twelve-year-old Jessie has been murdered. And the prime suspect is his teenage brother Ben, who has apparently run away. Volunteer child advocate, Anna Sebastian, can't stop wondering if a poem the runaway wrote for her could hold clues to what happened.
Editor's Note: Writers can impact not only readers but the world, as they share both their insights and, in Myra's case, the profits, from their books. My hat off to Myra for both her work in the community and for sharing those experiences with readers.
Adventures Based on Experience|
Coby Derek James
. . . is the pseudonym for an author who wrote me to say, "I got a publisher for the Australia book and I acknowledge you for your help in the acknowledgements. Your edits were excellent and I incorporated all of them in the revisions."
This author has more than thirty years of combined diplomatic and international experience with various U.S. agencies. He works on a contract basis and continues this work today. He writes under an assumed name, both to continue his work and protect his sources. Coby lives in various places around the world but loves Australia and spends as much time there as possible.
BookExpo America - to Introduce Your Books to Readers
Coby began his Chet Lake Thriller series with Wine, Dine and Death Down Under, released by Llumina Press during BookExpo America at the Los Angles Convention Center. He followed that with another Chet Lake adventure with Mugged in Marseille, and Whoever You Are. The hero, Chester (Chet) Lake, part Native American and part African-American, is no stranger to danger and he uses his heritage, his background in urban planning, and his maturity to slip across borders around the world to fulfill his international assignments.
Editor's Note: Do you have a career that begs to be brought to life on the printed page? E-mail me and let's talk!
Sharing a Culture with Travelers|
Jerilyn Ito writes: "Aloha Sandra! It's wonderful how you continue to give such great tips and advice in your newsletters. Always very helpful and especially insightful! I have all three of my children's picture books published and in all of Hawaii's Walgreen stores! Thank you again for all your assistance with my books! I am grateful to have found you. Mahalo nui loa."
Jerilyn used her knowledge of the Hawaiian culture and myths to create fine stories that offer positive messages for young readers to both the islanders and for tourists. She started with Finding Our Ohana. Then she created a series about a family of Nalo native to Hawaii in Double Rainbow Island, followed by Double Rainbow Island: The Mauka Adventure.
Perpetual Sales in the Local Market!
She markets her books locally since this is the perfect match for both her message and for her readers--those wishing to learn about this vacationland and its people. They make great take-home souvenirs for children visiting the islands and are perfect for the adults to take home for young readers.
Which ALSO means a constant new flow of potential buyers. Books with strong local interest create an evergreen source of sales.
Editor's Note: Aloha, Jerilyn! Thanks for offering positive and informative books for young readers.
Explore the Possibilities!|
David Hebden wrote to me about my edit of one of his latest books: "I've read completely through your comments and suggestions several times and it all makes sense. I'm sure it will make the book more interesting. I made some changes based on your suggestions and opinions which I believe make the book much better for the reader. I really appreciate the time and effort you put into all my writings. Thanks for everything."
After serving honorably in the United States Army during the Vietnam conflict, David returned to Southern California and worked in law enforcement.
Exploring a New Career
With his career winding down, he turned his energy--and experiences--into his first book The Flamingo Heist on Amazon's Kindle editions. In it, its unsuspecting hero, John Bird, gets more than he bargained for when he discovers the cruise ship he works on carries more than smiling tourists. Between the largest heist of U.S. gold buillion, the wiles of lovely Anna, the captain's orders, and the manipulations of Interpol, John must race across Europe to save himself and Anna.
The thrill of writing carried David then to create:
Fiction Transcends Borders|
Artsun Akopyan, who lives in Russia, is employed translating technical documents from English into Russian. So after writing his science fiction book, he translated it from Russian into English. I was pleased to work with him to further "Americanize" the language. He wrote, "Thank you for your work and your attention to my wording and the plot. Now I can see quite well that I wouldn't have been able to find all the mistakes by myself, whatever the efforts. Thank you for your editing, help and encouragement. I look forward to working with you in the future!"
In his science fiction novel, Survival Gene, an asteroid disrupts the earth's rotation endangering all life on earth. As the earth spins out of control, Miami's Police Lieutenant Andrew Barkov uncovers the World Government plot to populate a vehicle for the survival of only the elite and wealthy. Can Andrew and his ragtag team of allies, stop nuclear devastation and outrun the soldiers hot on their trail? And, even if he does, what kind of world will they all face?
Short story collections - a great way to find readers.
Artsun then followed his novel with books of short story collections, Outlaw and Witty Ways, that reflect the same twisty plots and romantic undertones that flavor his novel as well. Readers get a taste of his writing and learn about his novel as well.
Editor's Note: I've worked with a variety of authors whose first language is not English and I'm pleased to help! E-mail me if you could use help with your book.
for My Editing Services
"You did a very helpful editorial critique of
two of my short stories. After I used your critique to improve the story, 'A
Tale Told About An Idiot,' I knew it was a good piece.
It has now been
accepted for inclusion in the forthcoming book of stories and poems, READER'S
BREAK, and I am grateful to you (and will undoubtedly be calling for your help
when I write some new stories)."
--Richard Kerckhoff, Florida
Editing Offers Options!
"Thank you! I've read your comments twice and I kept thinking, 'Well, of course.'
No doubt I've been involved with this book for such a long time
that it has been almost indelibly imprinted on my thinking. You gave me options
that hadn't occurred to me."
--Dixie Wright, Washington
Reveal Your Story!
"I am not a careless writer but I do have a 'blind spot' when I'm reviewing my own work.
I appreciated your balanced viewpoint. If ever I discover an opportunity to share a 'tip'
with another writer, I will say, 'If you want a spotlight directed into the dark corners of
your manuscript, send it to Bristol Services Intl.' Thank you for your time, your personal
comments, and your thorough appraisal."
--Lois Lurvey, Texas
"You gave my story 'Timing is Everything' an Honorable Mention in your writing competition.
Alive! published the story.
I received a copy along with a generous check. . . your comments on my stories
were so important."
--Dede Hammond, Florida
"You were nice enough to suggest two other
markets [for one of my manuscripts]. Right away I sent it to Writer's Haven Newsletter. No word from that editor
until a couple of weeks ago when she telephoned me on a Sunday evening (!) to ask if she could
publish it. I said I'd be delighted. Thank you again!"
--Frances Grimes Yeargin, Texas
"The opportunities you offer aspiring writers is
wonderful. It was exactly the type of encouragement that
keeps me writing. As a result, I am very happy to announce the
publication of my young adult novel, The Spy Who Came in from the Sea,
by Pineapple Press, Inc."
--Margaret Nolan, Florida