Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Writing a Series - Lessons Learned

As I wind down the process of writing my first ever novel series (technically one short story collection plus two novels), I've come to the point where I can start assessing what worked and what went wrong with the process. This series, as I've mentioned before, grew out of a short story found in Corridors, titled, "The Mines of Mars". There were enough intriguing ideas in there that I thought it would be worth it to expand on them. Little did I know that after completing Fractal Standard Time, those ideas would keep on expanding until I came up with a narrative arc that would work in a series.

Each book in the series has presented its own set of challenges despite all the progress I've made over the years in my novel-writing process. Ionotatron was written during a very difficult time, and it was a miracle that I even got it done. Chronopticus Rising was written during an even more difficult period.

The third book also highlighted the need to build a solid "series bible", which is basically a document that keeps track of characters, settings, and events for the entire series. Although I have kept a series bible throughout this process, it more or less consists of a lot of looseleaf notebook pages, diagrams, and charts. Those pages include character histories, a history of the settlement of Mars, maps of the settlements throughout the years, diagrams of various vehicles and creatures, and maps of the main prison complex. This type of document is crucial to building believable worlds that have a logical consistency throughout the series. Down the road it might be better to put things into a database.

Also, the first dozen chapters of Chronopticus Rising were difficult to edit in the beginning. A major problem that popped up in the first draft was that the main character was too passive. Considering the tension and the events at the end of Ionotatron, some of his actions didn't make sense in retrospect. Those issues have been corrected now, but it just goes to show you there is always something new to learn despite the best preparation.

In some ways, I feel like I hit about 85% of what I wanted to accomplish in this series, and hopefully with the next one, I'll accomplish more of the goals I have in mind. Theoretically, I could keep expanding upon the various characters' stories in this series, but we'll see what happens.

What's next? After Chronopticus Rising is released (probably late November at this point), I will put up a short story titled, "Fermat's Last Theorem of Robotics". This will be followed early next year by a standalone novel, Race the Sky, which is about a stormchaser crossing paths with a cult researcher. After that, maybe I'll start in on another novel series.

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