Writing a Series – 6 Tips for Success

~How to Extend the Story~

When I started writing my first romantic suspense Beneath the Skin, I had no plans to make it into a series. But it didn’t take long for me to start imagining the lives of the secondary characters and wondering if they could win true love too.

So when I pitched the book to Rhonda Penders at Wild Rose Press, I told her it was the first of a series of four books – The Skin Quartet.

Well, on August 18th, book 2 in the series Close to the Skin is scheduled to be released. Now I will find out if I have accomplished what I set out to do.

Writing a successful series is hard

To write a successful series, the author needs to accomplish 6 things.

ONE – Keep the details consistent

This one was a real challenge. No one wants to read a series where characters’ eye color and other characteristics flip around.

Not planning to write a series I hadn’t keep the best ordered notes for Beneath the Skin. I also had used Zara West Suspense Beneath the Skin Writing a series - 6 Tipsa variety of filing methods. I had a looseleaf, a bulletin board, word files, and Pinterest boards

When I hit Book 2 suddenly I needed a unified resource if I wasn’t going to spend forever trying to search out a detail such as a character’s favorite ice cream flavor. I hit upon using One Note (a free program that comes with Microsoft.  Evernote is a similar program, readily available)

But I tried a lot of other methods as well.  The results of what I learned are presented in my online workshop The Story Bible. (Note: I will be offering this workshop for From the Heart Romance Writers in September 2018).

TWO – Stay organized

Another important thing I learned was to keep all my data together. I originally had separate files for each book. This meant I was constantly moving from one to the other. I quickly learned that the best organizational method is to keep all the data for the entire series in one series file.

THREE – Keep track of the passage of time

Having a great Story Bible means that I can quickly locate a name or an age or a location or hair color. But it needs to be supplemented with a calendar. In my case, my series books are consecutive. That means that characters grow older in each book. Not by much -all together the span is about four years. But when one main character is only 14 in the first book, four years will make big difference in his life.

FOUR – Maintain the tone and conflict level.

I wanted to keep the same tone and page-turning level of excitement that reviewers praised after reading Beneath the Skin.

Since each book in the Skin Quartet deals with different characters who relate on different emotional levels., this one was a particular challenge. You want the characters to be unique but linked in some way even though time is passing and the characters are growing, maturing and changing.

In my case, I solved this problem by keeping the villains the same in each book. Because they change much less and are driven to the same end goal – tormenting the hero and heroine,  they provide a unity of motivation and consistency of character.

FIVE – Make the books stand on their own.

Close to the Skin by Zara West Writing a Series - 6 TipsDespite the fact that I was writing a series, I wanted to make sure that every book in the series could be read as a stand-alone. I hate picking up a book and not knowing what the author is referring to. In a recent poll I did on Facebook, every single commenter said they would not like to read book 2 in a series before book 1. However I have seen it done successfully.

But boy is it hard to do well. A series writer has several choices.

  1. You can summarize what has already happened near the start of the story. But that often slows down the reader and can prove annoying.
  2. You can give a few hints of past events and hope the reader will understand enough.
  3. You can tie the past events into the current characters’ lives as motivations or problems.

For Book 2 in The Skin Quartet, I have my main character suffering from post-traumatic stress following the kidnapping she experiences in book 1 Beneath the Skin.

For me, having each book follow the next in time was another great way to ensure the stories stand on their own.

A NetGalley reviewer has written that Close to the Skin works as a stand-alone. I hope other readers agree.

SIX End with a happily ever after.

Having been burned by several books which end in a cliffhanger, I was doubly motivated to make sure every book in my series had a happily ever after.  I decided that the best approach was to write a complete character arc for my romance couple. At the end of the book, their story is done – ending happily ever after.

Success?

Since Close to the Skin has not been released yet, I have my fingers crossed that I have succeeded in making both a great Book 2 full of characters my Beneath the Skin readers have come to love plus created a cast of characters who can stand on their own and draw a new reader in.

Note: Book 3 in the series Within the Skin is currently in production at Wild Rose Press.


Read about the whole series here: The Skin Quartet


Buy Links for Beneath the Skin

Amazon  |  B&N  |  iTunes  | KOBO  |  Wild Rose Press

Buy Links for Close to the Skin

Amazon  |  B&N  |  Wild Rose Press


How about you? Have you written a series? What did you struggle with?

Are you a reader of series? What do you like about them? What do you dislike?

Post your comments below.

 

Editing for Sensory Language Part 2 SMELL

~ The Olfactory Sense: Using Our Nose ~

Smell is one of the most powerful of our senses. Smell forms and solidifies memories and evokes the emotions. A familiar odor can bring back an image or event from the past. Smells influence the choices we make and can change our mood and our behavior.

Real estate agents know to scent houses on the market with baking smells and soft florals. A night club experiment showed that adding a pleasant scent to the air made patrons dance more and say they had a better time than when there were no scents added. Another study showed that people can sense fear in someone’s sweat.

If scents and odors can do this to us, they must certainly do the same things to the characters in our books. Even more importantly, evoking the sense of smell in our reader will make our story more memorable, more emotional, and more realistic.

Smell The Senses

 

When to Add Smells

Smell is so important that most scenes should mention a smell at least once and is especially powerful in the starting paragraph or as near to it as possible. Here are some other places to insert a olfactory note.

Add in a smell/scent/aroma/reek:

  1. Whenever a character enters a new location, room, building or revisits one – describe the initial smell and then how it changed
  2. When the POV (point of view) character meets a new or important person
  3. When outside in nature or a garden
  4. When sensing danger – the release of adrenaline intensifies one’s sense of smell.
  5. During romantic moments

Smell The scent of hair

 

Some Smelly Examples

Here are some examples of olfactory description from my upcoming romantic suspense release Close to the Skin Book 2 in the Skin Quartet.

Bella stuck the bag over her mouth and nose and gasped in ham-and-mustard scented air like a drowning victim pulled out of the depths.

 

The narrow corridor was dank and dark, most of the overhead lights smashed out, the air stinking of decaying garbage and decaying lives.

She pulled the door open, and the sickly sweet odor of something rotten hit her full in the face.

A whiff of stone cold damp and death brushed past her from the shadowed interior.

Smell Resources for Writers

 

Smells and Emotions 

Smell Lists

The 10 Basic Smells 

A Basic Smell Vocabulary

https://robinwoodsfiction.com/tag/list-of-smells/

http://goteenwriters.blogspot.com/2015/09/a-list-of-smells-and-tastes.html

Lists of Fragrances

http://theperfumedcourt.com/fragrance_families.aspx perfume chemistry

https://www.somethinspecial.com/list_of_fragrances_a/131.htm perfumes

http://www.woodlandherbs.co.uk/acatalog/aromatherapy_essential_oils_list.html  Essential oils


How often do you use smells in your writing?

What “smell” resources do you use?

I welcome your thoughts and comments.

Forgive My Long Silence…

Dear Readers,

I have been busy. In June, my first romantic suspense Beneath the Skin was published by Wild Rose Press. I have just signed the contract for Close to the Skin, Book 2 in the Skin Quartet series. I have discovered that it is not the writing that is time consuming. I love writing. But doing the promo for the book takes hours! And the sad thing is, I am not really sure any of my Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest posts are actually helping people decide to choose my book to read.

There are just so many wonderful books out there, I know readers have a hard time picking from them all. I know I do. I read about a book every two days or so, and right now I have 112 books waiting to be read. Most on my Kindle, but also a nice tippy stack of real books. Then every once in awhile, I am drawn to reread a book.

I have posted 85 read books on Goodreads as part of my 100 book challenge. But I have to admit, I don’t post everything I read – only books I can give at least 3 stars but preferably 4 or 5. As an author I don’t think low stars help anyone and they sure hurt when you get them. I’m sure others will feel differently about that, but that’s how I feel.

Anyway, back to the promo problem. Here’s the mock up for a possible Facebook Ad. What do you think? Will it make people want to read this book?


Graffiti artists, tattooing, suspense, secrets, lies and murder. If you love books that keep you glued to the edge of your seat you will love The Skin Quartet Series!  Join Zara West’s Readers Club to stay on top of upcoming books in the series.

Book 1Beneath the Skin

Beneath the Skin

She can’t resist his touch. He can’t stay away. Can they learn to trust each other – before it’s too late?

Bella Bell has disappeared, and Melissa Dermot believes it’s all her fault. After all, the popular Williamsburg, Brooklyn tattoo artist has been helping her save abused women. But what Melissa doesn’t know is that searching for her friend will put her in the path of two men—one who wants her heart, and one who wants her dead.

 


Excerpt

“You.” Aristides Stavros loomed over her. “What are you doing here?”

She peered up at the artist’s twisted face and backed further down the steps. A doorknob poked her in the back. Panicked, she twisted it open and dashed into an unlit basement storeroom.

She stumbled forward into the dark, tripped over a metallic cylindrical object, and landed on her stomach. All the air whooshed out of her. Rectangular objects with sharp corners tumbled around her, jabbing her in the arms and neck. Rough cloth scrapped her skin.

On the staircase above her, the beast hovered in the doorway like a predator scenting his prey. For a second, he hesitated, then he dashed down the steps and moved toward her, huffing as he shoved objects out of the way. She pushed herself up on hands and knees and scuttled further into the dark.

Sto diavólo. Where are you? If you destroy any of these paintings, I will have your hide or at least my lawyer will.” He came closer. “Busy man, my lawyer, and to think I almost didn’t hire one.”

She scrabbled back and touched torn canvas. Heavens, these were his paintings—the ones that sold for thousands of dollars.

She was in deep, deep trouble.


——–Available Now!——–

 Amazon | B&N | Kobo | iTunes | Wild Rose Press


Let me know what you think.

blue-bird

Save