How to Start A New Series
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.
Give 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.
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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!