Tag Archives: series

Series Writing is Like an Umbrella

This post is inspired by a fellow scribe tagging me in a “Writing is like” challenge.  It’s also inspired by the crummy weather that continues to plague my little corner of the world.

It’s been pouring on our little prairie–again.  Over the past weeks, I’ve witnessed people pop open umbrellas while they go about their business.  The thin, waterproof fabric repels rain, keeping the user dry and happy.

Not a planner, I usually get caught without so much as a hood to cover my head.  By the time I reach my destination, I usually look like a hamster that fell in the toilet.

This non-planning/pantster mentality applies to my writing.  Outlines scare the bejeebies out of me and I don’t stick to them anyway.  But an umbrella, now that might work.  I’m still outside in the elements, trekking my merry way from point A to point B, but without contracting Drowned Rodent Syndrome. 

Since writing a series is much different from penning a single title, I knew I needed some sort of framework.  One massive story arc to cover the series and little story arcs to encompass each individual book.  You can read about it here if this is new to you.

I drew my big arc on the top of my page.  Along the bottom edge, I drew lacy arcs from the starting point to the end of my series.  Hmmm, it looked suspiciously like an umbrella.  To complete the effect, I sketched in spokes that radiated from each point to the middle of the top arc.

Yep, definitely an umbrella top.

Series Umbrella In Progress

On each spoke, I penned a key phrase summing up the resolution of each book.  I titled the mini-arcs with one word conflicts.  Everything tied nicely together.  Except…

…the handle. 

While my umbrella top summarized my over-all premise–inciting incident, MC’s progress and ultimate conclusion–it didn’t really address the antagonist.    My umbrella was incomplete, because even though I had an overarching premise, a physical antagonist was still necessary.  One central evil that propelled my MCs forward.  A villain to defeat, if you will.

This upped the stakes and gave me something to focus on.  Now when I write, I’ll be able to visualize exactly where each story must begin and end, how the conflict relates to the over-all arc and what central conflict my MCs are up against.

I’m still not writing to an outline.  Each chapter book within the series will be allowed to pants it’s way onto my keyboard.  But, thanks to my umbrella, I won’t get halfway through my journey and realize I started out for the grocery store when I really should have been on my way to a photo shoot. 

And we can all picture what that would look like if I got caught unaware in a storm. 

What tricks do you use to keep your writing focused? 

Cryfi and Other Writerly Musings

While commenting on a blog, I got the verification word: Cry-Fi.

It immediately struck my writer’s brain as a new genre.  Chick-litty Science Fiction.  Flippant, self-centered MCs who shop for the newest cosmic fashion while saving the universe from an impending hostile take-over by an alien race of pond scum.

And then it hit me.  I’ve seen these stories before.  Cry-Fi exists.  Not in so many words, but as writers tend to cross the traditional genre boundaries, these melting-pot stories have emerged full force.

Nobody wants their writing to be put in a box–narrowly defined by a word or two.  We want something bigger, grander.  New and cosmically cool.  Heck, we want our writing to break virgin ground.

Yet, this mentality can greatly damage our chances of ever seeing our writing in the bookstore.   Agents must define our manuscripts so they can pitch them to editors who must visualize their spot on the bookshelf.  This pitch is necessary for marketing and publicity. 

Our future books cannot simply demand a new section in the already established book stores.  Cyber or otherwise. 

Go ahead, try it.  Create a new word and google it.  It’s impossible to find because it does not exist anywhere but your own head.  This is the fate of your out-of-the-box, Cry-Fi novel.  If people don’t know about it, they can’t search for it.

So, as much as it hurts to see your manuscript pinned with a generic label or two, it is a necessary evil.  And it starts with us.  The writers.  We must give agents something tangible to pitch to editors to pitch to marketing to pitch to bookstores to pitch to readers. 

Having trouble defining where your novel fits?  Check out this handy genre list.

Got a new genre you’re pitching?  Share it with us and we’ll see if it catches on!

*Writing a series? Hop on over to From the Write Angle and see if it’s for you.

Ugh-ly

Yesterday I pulled out the second WIP starring my favorite pirate family.  I have a total of thirteen book ideas for my chapter book series.  Currently, I’m shopping around the first and only finished book.

I’ve never felt compelled to write a series or a trilogy or any sort of companion books in the past.  My middle grade and YA novels all stand alone. 

In part, this is because the stories have reached the end by the time I type those words on the last page.  There is no need for further commentary.  No compelling adventures left to unfold.

Yet both my chapter books could go on.  And, in the world of publishing, really should. 

Chapter books is one of the few genres where it is desirable to add subsequent stories.  Kids get hooked at just the right age to read about their same favorite characters in a wide variety of adventures. 

Junie B. Jones.  Magic Tree House.  Jigsaw Jones.  Diary of a Whimpy Kid.

Chapter books are not lucrative by anybody’s standards.  But they do serve a noble purpose for kids.  They tap into the unconditional love that kids have for their passion of the moment.  If we are lucky, that passionate moment happens to be ours.

Now, I love my first book in the “series”.  I thought I loved the second book, as well.  However, I had to laugh when I pulled out the half finished WIP for the first time in almost a year. 

It was Ugh-ly.  With a capital U.

I think I’ve forgotten how truly horrible first drafts can be.  It had more spelling errors, typos and grammar mishaps than should be legal in a WIP.  For just one second, I felt compelled to fix everything as I read.  Then I stopped myself.

Rough drafts are supposed to be ugly.  They are imperfect by nature.  Yet at the same time, they are more perfect than we can ever imagine.  For they are the culmination of our passionate moments as writers.  They hold a certain magic that can never be duplicated.

I have held back on finishing this second book because I didn’t want to waste my time writing all thirteen adventures only to find out the first book would never see the light of a bookstore. 

But, the itch to finish the second one is strong right now.  I actually added an extra 1,700 words to it last night.  Already I am looking forward to editing.  I can’t wait to turn something this Ugh-ly into something readable. 

Such is the joy of writing.

How bad are your rough drafts?  Do you cringe when you reread them?  Or, do you edit as you go?  Can you feel the magic in those first, imperfect sentences and know that something beautiful is waiting to get teased from the tangled mess?

Are you a series writer?  If so, why and what genre do you write for?