How to Start A New Series

How to Start A New Series

January 5, 2017 Writing Advice 7

There are very few things more intimidating than starting over!

I’ve found myself wrestling with this recently. I’ve got 4 out of 6 books of my current series written, and the next two will be completed by mid-2018. Thus, I am forced to confront the looming question of “what next?”

In my current series, I feel that I’ve created a character that people can love as much as I do. There’s a very real worry that the next character/s I create won’t be as relatable or intriguing to readers. Have I peaked in creating my current series? How the heck am I going to write someone new that people will fall in love with?

And, of course, there’s always the challenge of working outside the world I’ve built. Even if I write a story set in the same universe, I have to create a new city—complete with political system, type of people, economy, and sometimes even religion.  And that’s not even dealing with all the new descriptions I’ll have to come up with to paint the picture of this new city/world.

Yes, starting a new series is a VERY daunting thought, even for an author who has two series currently published.

I’m not going to pretend I have all the answers to this particular question. I know I’m going to face many sleepless nights as I sit down to work on this new series, and it’s going to be nerve-wracking to wait to find out if people identify with my new characters, worlds, and problems.

BUT, I will say that I am prepared. As I start on a new series, I’m approaching it from three angles:

Introduce characters people care about. This is the MOST important thing to think about when starting a new series. You have to give people a reason to care about the characters in your book. That means giving them realistic strengths, weaknesses, abilities, and flaws. Give them some foible that makes them eminently human, and show both the good and bad sides of who they are.

Most importantly, make the character real. Give them a backstory that people can understand and relate to. Give them something to be afraid of, something to strive for, and something to dream about. Make them as funny, serious, or annoying as you want, but make sure your readers can find the positive about those characters.

start a seriesGive a real, common problem. What is the “theme” behind your work? In my new series “Queen of Thieves”, I answer the question “What changes a person from an innocent, happy child to ruthless killer?” Everything the character endures is intended to examine that question. And, of course, to find out what hand “fate” deals to that character.

The fact that the main character is a thief may make it seem “unreal” and certainly uncommon. But the abuse (emotional, physical, and psychological) she faces is far too real for a lot of people. Her struggles to acquire new skills is incredibly real to all of us. Sure, it’s portrayed in a fantastical way, but the problems are real.

The plot should be secondary to the character. Your new series should take your character on a journey. The journey should lead them to growth—be it physical, emotional, or psychological. Ask a question that will be answered by the end of the series.

Build a beautiful world. For the foreseeable future, all of my series will be set on my world (Einan). However, I’ll have to set the series in a new location. That means building a new city from the ground up. That means finding the beauty of the city as well as the unattractive/seedy elements, and finding the contrasts in architecture, engineering, culture, religion, economy, and politics.

It takes a lot of work to create a new world, but it can also be a lot of fun. You can experiment with different political structures, styles of architecture, cultures, and mindsets. For example, why not write a science fiction series from the perspective of aliens being invaded by humans? Or a fantasy story set in a Babylonian or Assyrian-era civilization rather than medieval or Roman-era fantasy. Or a crime thriller where the protagonist is a schoolteacher rather than a hard-boiled detective.

It takes a lot of work to create a new world but it's also a lot of fun. @andypeloquin #writingtips #writerslife #series #ourwriteside Click To Tweet

In a way, I LOVE starting a new series. There are a lot of challenges to face from the get-go, but it can be a great option for creating a whole new world or building on your existing world. You can push yourself as a writer to plumb new depths and create characters that challenge your skill. You can get as creative as you want and go wherever the mood leads.

I’ve learned to stop worrying about the “what if’s?” of new series, but just sit down and start writing. As you start this new series in the new year, put aside those worries and let the creativity flow!

 

7 Responses

  1. Renee says:

    I’ve always got so many series and story ideas, my problem has been which will I do next? I really should write the ideas down somewhere because they’re taking over my brain.

    • Andy Peloquin says:

      Renee, ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS have a Word doc, Excel file, Google Doc, Evernote Note, Scrivener file, or whatever you use to store ideas. I’ve got a file called “Comic Book Ideas” (I originally started writing graphic novel scripts before writing novels) that I throw all my ideas into. Hell, if I find a quote that really stands out or sparks the hint of an idea, I’ll add it. I’ve got easily five well-developed story ideas written there, as well as close to 100 ideas ranging from single phrases or words to grand concepts.
      Most of them will never see the light of day, but every time I write a new book, I go over them to see if any of my older ideas can fit into the book. I’ll be writing at least one new series and possibly a standalone novel thanks to notes that I took down 4+ years ago.
      I cannot overstate the importance of writing down every idea! 😀

      • Renee says:

        Yeah, I know. A lot of people forget ideas they come up with, but unfortunately I don’t. They play around in my head until I write them down, and it tends to get very noisy up there after a while. Sometimes I like them to play though, because they’ll merge to form an even bigger and better idea. The one thing I definitely do write down is specific opening lines and stuff like that, that pop into my head. Those I’ll forget if I don’t write them down. I usually save stuff on my phone because at least I’ll know where it is. I’ve tried using a notebook, but I lose notebooks… not a good thing. I’ve actually been looking for a decent journal app that I can use solely for story ideas, but I haven’t found one that suits my purposes yet. I’m open to suggestions if you know of any.

        • Andy Peloquin says:

          I have a trick and a recommendation that might help:

          Trick: I have an Android smartphone, which has a voice to text feature on the keyboard. Every time I’m out and about, I open Gmail and click “Compose Email”. I dictate all of my ideas into the new message, then send it to myself when I’m done. When I get home, I see the email and copy/paste the text into my ideas file. Seeing as I work/write on my computer, that’s where all my gold is stored. 😀

          Recommendation: If you don’t use your PC as much as I do, install the Google Docs app to your smartphone. It also has an awesome voice-to-text feature that will transcribe your notes. Open a Doc titled “Ideas” and dictate everything that pops into your head there. It will be accessible from any device, and you can even write down ideas while offline and they will auto-save to Google Docs when you get back online.

          If you have a hard time sticking to one project at a time, keep all of your “rough ideas” in that file. Stick with ONE document for storing your ideas. When it’s time to work on a project, cut and paste the ideas you’re working with into a new document. That way, you can flesh out all of your ideas in that single document, but you avoid cluttering up your computer or Google Drive. It’s sort of a psychology lifehack that reinforces that you’re ONLY working on one project at a time.

          • Renee says:

            That’s actually a great idea, thanks! I use OneNote so I can create a notebook in that specifically for my story ideas, and I can just save them right in there from my phone and access them from my laptop as well. I don’t even know why I didn’t think of that before… :-O

  2. Andy Peloquin says:

    Boom! Done! I’m telling you: OCD definitely has its uses. 😀

    Glad I can help. Hit me up on Twitter (@AndyPeloquin) or Facebook (same name) if there’s anything more I can do to help you on your writing journey. I’m always happy to do what I can.

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