This joint post was made possible by Sally Ember who has been gracious enough to allow us to speak on her blog. She has done this knowing that Charles Yallowitz and I have a history of crazy antics. Indeed, some of these antics occurred on Sally’s very own LIVE video show ‘Changes’, which you can find online. Thank you to Sally Ember and we hope everyone enjoys this post on writing a series.
Don’t forget to check out Charles’s latest book, Legends of Windemere: Sleeper of the Wildwood Fugue.
Writing and Promoting a Series
Charles– First, I would like to say that I’m happy to be working with Nicholas again and on a post this time. Our back and forth on our blogs is a lot of fun and he has a very sharp, creative mind that keeps me on my toes. This carries over into his writing, which impressively spans several genres.
Nicholas– Aw, thank you! Same goes for me. I’m very impressed by Charles, both as an author and as a person. Plus, it’s great to have someone who gets my weird sense of humor!
Sally: What is the hardest part about promoting a series?
Charles– It’s really easy at the beginning because you can play around with teasers and you only have one book out. Then you get the second and try to find ways to promote without revealing everything in the first book. Around the third book, if you go higher than a trilogy, you get caught between avoiding big revelations in the earlier books and spoilers for the next one. It’s a really hectic balancing act because you don’t want to say too much. Yet you have to say enough to keep people interested and lead to them to the rest of the series.
I’ve found that you have to make sacrifices in this. For example, revealing a minor spoiler to promote the next book while keeping the big stuff secret. A teaser helps too because it isn’t so much a spoiler, but a hint that something is going to happen or a foreshadowed event is coming to pass. Oddly enough, I found that Twitter is the less nerve-wracking social media site to promote a series on. This is because the 140 character limit means you can’t say much and it’s hard to tiptoe around spoilers like that. So you have to stick to catchy blurbs or small quotes from the book.
Nicholas– I agree. Twitter is a great promotional medium for a series, as my marketing relies on a short quote and a link.
One of the best things about having a series is that you can have a different book on sale each month, and it will help the others’ sales as well. However, unlike Charles, I have also made a book bundle available. This contains all the books published so far in Pearseus. Obviously, when this is on sale, no one buys the rest of the books. However, it does attract a lot of attention as it offers great value for money. So, it’s all a bit of a balancing act.
Sally: How difficult is it to maintain continuity in a series and what tricks do you use to accomplish this?
Charles– I once switched one of my main character’s eye colors and a minor recurring character lost his hair. So some of the details can be messed up if one isn’t careful. Perhaps the biggest challenge to story continuity is that you can forget some foreshadowing or you do something that alters a previously established rule. Middle books can also have events that change the finale because what you plan in your head might not always be what comes out on paper. It really is a game of memory and concentration. Either that or putting together a 5,000 piece puzzle with no picture to guide you.
There are two tricks that I use. One is that I keep notes on a lot of things that I believe I will forget. For example, I had some minor characters who step into the spotlight in a later book and I never gave them much description in their first appearance. There was just enough that they stood out and I had to make sure I had those identifiers written down. The other trick is to never be afraid to look back at your earlier books to confirm information. If you have even an inkling that you’re off on a fact then jump back to the book where you know the information has already been written. This helps with plotlines, character descriptions, world-building, and anything else that carries over from book to book.
Nicholas– Lol – I love the idea of a 5,000 piece puzzle with no picture to guide you. Indeed, it can feel that way at times.
I have a doc file that includes all sorts of minor details, from names to subplots. Also, when I write, I always have my older books open as well. That way, I’m able to instantly jump back and forth and check things out. For example, a lot of the action takes place in a place called the Chamber of Justice. Every now and again, I’ll catch myself typing Chambers of Justice (plural) instead, so I have to remember it’s actually singular. I have no idea why some days it feels self-evident it’s singular and others that it’s plural, but that’s just how it is.
Sally: Do you have any suggestions for readers who wish to get into reading a long series?
Charles– I’m a fan of starting from the beginning, but I know many who start at the most recent book. If you do this then I highly suggest that you read the earlier books at some point for more context and to see events that don’t get mentioned again. Also, one must be patient with a series because the story is stretched out and every book will have an opening. Not everything gets cleared up at the end of the earlier books and that understanding helps a reader accept that questions will remain. The only other tip I have is that you have to trust that the author knows what he or she is doing. I see a lot of readers try to demand that certain events happen in a story, but those desires might not fall in line with what the author has planned.
Nicholas– This is a typical “patience is a virtue” situation. Writing a series is a serious responsibility. Reading a series is an investment of both time and money, and we have to make sure that each and every book not only meets the readers’ expectations, but exceeds them. We owe them as much. That is why I’m grateful to all my readers, but those who have invested on Pearseus hold a special place in my heart.
There are several things we can do to make it easier on the reader, of course. For example, all my Pearseus books have a map with the cities and places that have been revealed so far, plus any new ones. Also, I have a character list at the beginning (and in X-ray, if reading on a Kindle), with a two-sentence description of who that person is. Another good idea is to offer a quick reminder each time a minor character first appears. For example, you can say something along the lines of:
“Parad walked into the room. He spotted Angel, his daughter, and smiled.”
This helps people who may have forgotten who Angel is.
Yet another trick I use is to give names to as few people as possible. For example, a minor character may be safely referred to by their property or occupation. Readers don’t need to know the name of every healer that tends a hero’s wounds, or every blacksmith that sharpens his weapons.
Finally, the best thing to do is to make sure each book can stand on its own. That means no cliffhangers and no obscure references – at least not without a reminder.
Sadly, this is not always possible. Mad Water, the third book in the series, ends on a cliffhanger because the subplots raised there are not resolved for another 400 pages. So I could either have an 800-page-long book or two 400-page ones, the first of which ends on a cliffhanger.
Obviously, I chose the latter – which brings me back to readers’ patience. 🙂
Author Bio- Charles E Yallowitz has spent the last year as an Indie Author and he can say with assurance that he’s still not sure what he’s doing. All he knows is that he is having fun sharing his fantasy stories with the public and making friends with fellow authors. From his home in New York, Charles will continue to entertain with the Legends of Windemere series.
Charles’ covers are illustrated by the very talented Jason Pedersen.
- Blog- www.legendsofwindemere.com
- Facebook- https://www.facebook.com/CharlesYallowitz
- Twitter- https://twitter.com/cyallowitz