Friday, July 5, 2013

Keeping Track in a Series

I've always loved reading books in a series. As a kid I got hooked early on Encyclopedia Brown, then Nancy Drew & the Hardy Boys, then Anne of Green Gables, then Agatha Christie's Poirot & Miss Marple mysteries, then... Well, you get the idea.

I enjoy lots of stand alone books, but I've always been drawn to series as well. I love companion series, where the setting remains the same, but the main characters are different in each book. This is pretty popular in contemporary romance right now and I'm loving it!

One of hardest things (for me) about writing a series (okay, 2 series) is keeping track of all those little details. I've got the first 2 books in each series at various stages and have 3 more of the books simmering around in my head - with another idea trying to wedge it's way in. My brain is kind of a scary place at times.

It does drive me crazy when I'm reading and I remember a small detail from the series and in a later book something contradicts that detail. It doesn't happen often, most of the authors I read do it very well, but when it's off it can throw you out of the book and I don't want that to happen to my (eventual) readers.

So keeping track of all of the details of each series can be a little daunting. If you pop on over to From the Write Angle today, you'll see how I attempt to keep track of all the things!

Do you like to read or write series or do you prefer standalones?

51 comments:

  1. I like revisiting places and characters in series. It possibly stems from my childhood too - I was a big Trixie Belden fan, Famous Five, Three Investigators etc.

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  2. I enjoy both.
    Writing down some of those details helps in keeping track of them. Although now you know why my books jump ahead twenty years - less details to remember!

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  3. I have not felt any desire at this point to write a series, at least not in long form. I have a couple of characters that pop up from time-to-time in short bits, but I've never extended anything with them.

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  4. Kez - I forgot all about Trixie! I loved her books too!! :)

    Jeff - I still haven't tried those shorts! One of these days I've got to give it a shot! Good idea :)

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  5. Hi Jemi,

    If I can get to read all the books in the right order, I love series. I do think, though, that each book in a series should have stand alone value with basic loose ends tied up. I got to read a part one of a vampire romance once and although I actually enjoyed it and got to care about the characters, the couple separated in the end on a bad note. They'll obviously be reunited in the next part, but somehow I felt very unsatisfied.

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  6. I can imagine the problem. I guess you have to have a chart of some kind with all of the details :)

    I don't have time to read series, but as a teen I preferred huge books with more than thousand pages :)

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  7. Oh my goodness, you are writing two series at one time. And I'm struggling with one measly novel. Jemi, you are Wonder Woman.

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  8. Maria - totally agree! That's why I generally prefer companion series. Other than the In Death series by JD Robb, I can get tired of the same characters over and over.

    Dez - I used to love those books as well, but as I get older, I prefer less volume! :)

    Karen - LOL - thanks, but not hardly! :)

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  9. Since I am currently writing a series, I know exactly what you're talking about! Just this morning I was wrestling over a significant point in one book: if I decide one way, it will open up possibilities in future books, but if I decide the other way it makes more sense, but will limit its use in future books.

    I have found that writing a rough draft of the next book in the series before finalizing revisions on the previous book can really help me with consistency.

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  10. I love reading series...but I really don't know if I'll ever be able to write them!

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  11. Dianne - exactly! Those small moments have such ripple effects! So hard to decide. I've been working like that too with the 1st 2 books in each series :)

    Damyanti - you never know! It's always fun to try :)

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  12. I made that same transition from Hardy Boys/Three Investigators to the Agatha Christie books, too. I find I like series best in the mystery genre - in addition to Agatha Christie, I'm also very fond of Rex Stout's Nero Wolfe. Both authors are my "comfort reads" nowadays.

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  13. Belle - I've reread most of Christie's now, but I do have to wait a decade or so before rereading -- I hate when I remember too much :)

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  14. Series can be fun. If I really fall in love with a character I'll gleefully jump onto a series--it's just when they seemingly drag on beyond their natural end that I dislike them.

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  15. Golden Eagle - me too! I'm much less tolerant than when I was younger :)

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  16. I have noticed that even within a standalone book before, Drives me NUTS! Not sure how you find the time to do all that you do! Busy girl!

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  17. I love this, Jemi. And it is really timely for me. I'm about to start on edits next week, so it's the perfect time for me to go back and make the notes I should have already put into a bible.

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  18. Writing 2 series at once? Wow. That sounds challenging! Best of luck Jemi.
    As a youngster, I loved the Anne Of Green Gables series!
    Now I'm not so sure about series. I think that I prefer standalones.
    Writer In Transit

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  19. Beth - me too! I like being busy which really helps! :) Play maybe more than a smidge of crazy!

    Martina - that's wehn I normally start it too, although I keep telling myself to start it before the draft! But as a pantster I just don't know enough :)

    Michelle - it's actually pretty fun to write the 2 - my brain's always busy! :) I do like stand alones too - sometimes I feel the other books in a series are unnecessary & don't really work

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  20. As a writer of a trilogy, I had to learn the hard way to try and make each story a stand alone and not end them as a cliff hanger. This can make the reader very very angry.

    I think the Harry Potter series is a great example of a series where is book is a stand alone that covers one year of school at Hogwarts. yet each book builds upon the previous ones.

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  21. I enjoy the type of series...like some of those you mentioned...that revolve around the same characters but each book is an independent story. There is minimal carryover from one book to the next, other than the character relationships. I really don't like the type of series where the books are inter-locking and can not stand alone. Personal preference of course. :)

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  22. Series writers have a lot to keep track of. I'll check out the link.

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  23. Stephen - great example! Rowling sure balanced that 'need read on' with 'satisfying ending' dilemma well!

    DL - I'm the same. I like those stand alones within a series too. Cliffhangers can drive me a little bonkers.

    Medeia - there is a lot! At least I find it a lot for my brain :)

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  24. I loved reading all of those series when I was young, but as a writer I prefer standalones. I find it hard enough to keep track of details between chapters, let alone books!

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  25. I prefer to write stand alone novels. Series intimidate me. Just the thought of keeping all those details consistent scares me. : )

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  26. I write and love to read series. I have my own system for keeping track but now I'm going to go see what you say.

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  27. Beth - LOL - me too! Which is why I use the bible! :)

    Cynthia - it is scary! I don't think I'd want to continue a series with the same characters - the thought of having an overall arc and all those mini arcs scares me down to my toes!!

    Susan - I bet your system is well worked out! We all find our own way :)

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  28. I enjoy both. But lately, as a reader with so many choices out there, I'm enjoying the stand alones. So many series I start and don't finish and the story is never completed because I've lost interest. So I love buying and reading a stand alone for that reason.

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  29. Laura - I'm the same with series that continue. I've dropped a couple of series even though I loved the 1st book because there are so many choices out there & I like 'meeting' new characters :)

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  30. Series! Although I haven't read a true series in a long while...since I stopped reading mostly adult mystery novels. I love the idea of companion novels and always think about writing one when my WIP is a stand-a-lone, but the couple I've read, I haven't loved. I wasn't ready to give up the original main character. Christy

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  31. Christy - that's a good point! I have a few main character in series I'm not ready to give up either!! :)

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  32. Like you, I was a Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys, girl!

    I love to revisit a character and go with them on a new journey!

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  33. Nas - me too! and I like to see what those 2ndary characters are going to get up too as well :)

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  34. I love series and stand alones. I am working on a series now- so I can't wait to read about how you are keeping track of all the details. :) It can be tricky for sure!
    ~Jess

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  35. The timing on this post is perfect for me, Jemi. I'm just drafting a sequel to Alligators Overhead and I'm going bonkers trying to keep those detail straight.

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  36. Jess - it really can be - hope you find something useful! :)

    Lee - it is HARD isn't it? :) I hope this can help you a bit!

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  37. i love finding a good series, then the experience doesnt end with one good story!
    but keeping things straight is key! gotta be organized. i keep a spreadsheet for each book!

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  38. Tara - exactly! Those spreadsheets are priceless, aren't they? :)

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  39. I like reading series where each book is pretty much a standalone within the series. I'm not a fan of cliffhanger endings.

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  40. Lynda - me neither. Those cliffhangers can drive me nuts!

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  41. Hi Jemi -- I started out writing a series but after two books decided I wanted to write standalones. It's been a lot like starting over, but I'm hoping my first standalone will be published next year.

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  42. Pat - that'll be good! I do like both but I'm hoping writing a companion series will be right up my alley! :)

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  43. I've never written a series, but I imagine keeping details and facts straight and fluent throughout would be difficult!

    Charlaine Harris writes the Sookie Stackhouse series and she stated that fans write her the discrepencies that have shown up in her 13 book run. She says she's only human! :)

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  44. The little details definitely matter! And its hard to keep track when writing a series--i guess that's why i keep tons of lists!
    Nutschell
    www.thewritingnut.com

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  45. Kelly - it is tough! I'm not surprised with 13 books you'd have a few oops moments! :)

    Nutschell - they do matter! I'm not great at list making, but so far my spreadsheets are helping me!

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  46. I like both...I expect the more books you write in a series the better you know your main characters. :)

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  47. Sharon - I know JD Robb has incredible insights into her characters even after so many books! I plan to change up my main characters with each book though - a whole lot easier for my brain!

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  48. ...as a writer, penning a series, if the the first one's a hit, definitely carries its weight. There's just something very cool about those lone gunmen, however. Those stories that are revisited again and again. Same ending...but the adventure never fails to excite.

    I'm a Sanford fan though, and could read up on Lucas Davenport's crime stories twenty-four/seven if possible ;)

    El

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  49. Elliot - there really is something very cool about lone gunmen!! :) And I love when I can visit and revisit an author forever!

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