Writing a long series is hard work: how do you churn out book after book while keeping it all fresh and avoiding repetition?
Author Toby Neal had some interesting thoughts on the subject, which she shared in her post, Writing more than ten books in a series and staying fresh. You can read my highlights below.
9 Tips to Keeping Your Series Fresh
- Write an archetypal main character, and preferably secondary characters too. Doing this will hook readers and generate lots of great mine-able material.
- Develop a big, strong, overarching character development arc. Toby had that, and it took the first five books to achieve. After that, she did another, smaller arc. And then another. All of them still fit under the original, main umbrella.
- Just writing plots and recycling the characters will not end up satisfying you. Torture the main characters with some major test: of courage, of loss, of health or mental/emotional wellbeing. Only when they are suffering and growing can we keep writing, no matter how good the plot part of the story.
- Take a break if you need to. After Twisted Vine, # 5, Toby wrote the first draft of her memoir. And after Rip Tides, #9, she took another break and wrote two romances while ideas for her next “phase” of the series germinated. Trust that process—if you’re getting bored with something, write what you feel like writing. Novelty keeps our creative batteries charged. Write in some different genres, and it may hone your writing when you return to your regular series.
- Travel and write about that. Toby took a month-long road trip and blogged daily about all she saw, honing my descriptive skills. When she returned home, she was eager to get back to her fiction, benefiting from her increased ability to observe and describe.
- Change up POV. Writing first person in the main character’s head makes for a totally different kind of writing and reading experience than the usual third person. Changing up the POV you usually write in can breathe life into a character that’s getting tired, because you see and experience that character differently.
- Take risks. Toby has begun killing off more important characters with much pathos and heartbreak, and pushing her comfort zone with the subjects she’s tackling.
- Put topics out to readers. They can’t tell you how to keep the series fresh, but they can tell you what they want more of. Share your struggle with your readers. They might just have a key that gets you unstuck and back to the page with renewed vision.
- Never lower your commitment to quality. Every book deserves as much effort as if it is your first—in fact, you have to assume that every single book in your series might be a reader’s first—so it has to hook the reader into wanting to know more about the world you’ve created.