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Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Welcome Guest F.D. Davis...

Writing a series, some things to keep in mind.

My name is Frances Dyanne Davis. Most of my novels are written under my middle name because frankly I’m not too thrilled with my first name. I write romance, women’s fiction and short stories under Dyanne Davis and I write paranormal fiction under F.D. Davis.

Since my blog topic is about writing a series I’ll began with that and tell you the mistakes I’ve made with the Adam Omega Vampire series. I have three books out in the series, In The Beginning, In Blood We Trust and Lest Ye Be Judged, which just came out a little over a month ago.

First and foremost I should have been branding my name as the author. F.D. Davis. Instead I branded Adam. Wrong move. Cute, but wrong move. Adam had a website, www.AdamOmega.com, a blog, his own email address, adamomegavampire@aol.com and to top it off an advice column. I’ve had promo materials made with his name. I’ve bought him (YES Him) jewelry. I even bought Eve, his wife a present. I guess you can see how real this character is to me right? LOL. That’s all well and good but where is the creator of the series in all of that. If a reader wanted to find me they would be unable to. They would have to look for Adam. Wrong move.

I don’t know about other authors but I didn’t set out to write a series. At most it was going to be a trilogy. Because of dare I say it, my lack of vision I didn’t do some things that I should have done and would do now if I ever decide to do another series. I’m going to number them so hopefully they will be of some help to someone.

1. Keep some kind of log book or record of the character, with all character traits, including the way the character talks.

2. Decide if each book in your series will be a stand alone or will depend on each other in some manner. My books are linked and end on a cliff hanger. Yes I know some readers hate that but I love it so I’m doing it.

3. Decide how many books you will have in the series. If at anytime you find that you’re merely using filler to keep the series going remember you’re free to change your mind and end the series. If you have become tired of writing the series consider that the reader has become of reading it.

I’m not sure why either romance series or vampire series sell so well but I do believe that when you’re writing them each will eventually run their course. Anne Rice’s vampire series was the first vampires I read. Eventually the story ran out and the author ended the series. Unlike V.C. Andrews series which didn’t even end with the authors death.

4. Make sure to remain true to your characters and the world you build. If a character can’t do something in book one and in book seven has a super power don’t forget to mention how and why that character obtained it.

5. Try to make your series unique. Have something that set it apart from all others like it out there. Don’t forget dozens of authors have the same ideas everyday. What will make yours different? For example my vampire wears a cross, washes his hand in holy water, goes out in the sun and sits in the churches. The real reason behind that: I just don’t think a being who is supposed to be immortal would be harmed by those things and I wanted my vampire to be different. Also he has no interest in being redeemed. He loves being a vampire.

6. Decide who will be your star or main character. Most romance books, even paranormal romances have the female character as the heroine and the one to save the day. Personally, I don’t like the words, hero or heroine. I also find that I have chosen to use male characters as the leads.

7. If you find yourself straying from your plan either go with the flow or make adjustments. When I found that Eve was playing too big a role and readers thought it was her story I had to change the direction. At one point I started to kill off all of the other characters, including Eve. I didn’t, but let’s say I sent them into exile until I need them again for conflict.

I do believe publishers and readers love series. I know they sell well because I have friends who write series for Harlequin. I think they're so popular because readers think of the characters as friends and love to keep up with what they're doing. As to whether I think series sell better than stand alones, I hope it's even since the majority of my books are stand alones.

8. Are you beginning a series because it seems to be the trend?

Why did I begin a vampire series? It wasn't anything that I planned, like most things in my life it just happened. I had a very dear friend who loved me like crazy but thought I was going to HELL for writing romances. Because of other misconceptions about romance writers I needed to strike back in my own way. So I decided, okay, if you think I'm going to hell for writing romances what will you think of me for writing about a bad azz vampire. And vampires no less that goes to church, wear a cross, quote scriptures and is not crying over wanting to be redeemed?

The only conscious decision I made when I began this series was to make Adam Omega like no other vampire I'd ever read about. He's the anti-hero. He can get away with being nasty because—and he puts it best. He's a vampire. I love it and I love Mr. Omega. I love that his chastise Eve, a Christian for wishing for his death. I love that he goes to the church to look for women to bed because he thinks they’re easier than women in the street. Oh yeah Mr. Omega got some payback for me.

9. Seriously, unlike my haphazard approach you need to ask yourself before beginning a series what the primary focus of each book will be. Who will be the main character, when to introduce new characters, when will you end it? If you’re like me some of these things you won’t know until the character tells you. As a pantser I sit in my chair and write. For this series I had to revise my method and learn to plot out each book just a bit, maybe a line or two.

I don't generally write series, not for romances anyway but somehow with my paranormal characters I can see they will have a much longer life.
To prove a point I did everything entirely different in what some think of as a paranormal romance. Adam is the main character, not Eve. In our romance world women are generally the star. Not so in this series. Since I'm a pantser and don't know where I'm heading until I write it, I know that other characters will have a spin off book because I enjoyed writing them and saw there could be so much more with them. But in their own books. Not in Adam's. I have a story in Carnivale Diabolique where my character is a demon. Believe me he was in heavy competition with Adam. He will appear again in a full length book of his own.

10. Try and remember where you’re writing all of your notes and keep them in one place if at all possible. I of course didn’t do that. LOL. I swear I’m trying to help you by telling you of all the mistakes I made.

When I began writing the third book in my vampire series I had to go back and read the first book and make notes. I had been writing romance in between so I'd
forgotten some of the smaller plot points. I then invested in a program to keep notes, and things like that. I even joined a group for the users of Liquid Silver. Guess what? I haven't used it and I bought it two years or more ago. It's too much work. I make notes now in a notebook. (Don’t ask me where the notebooks are)

11. Don’t confuse your readers buy bringing in too many characters especially with a lot of strange names that you make up that no one can pronounce correctly but you.
This is probably the only thing here that I adhered to strictly. Since I concentrate on two main characters and bring in others as needed for each book I don't think there's any confusion. To avoid information dumps from one book to the next that will let a new reader know what’s going on I feed it in a little bit at a time throughout the book. A line or two here and there.

12. One thing we’ve all learned as romance writers especially is that the characters have to grow and change not only over the course of a book but definitely through the course of a series.
I had to ask myself the question concerning character growth. Do I really want my vampire to change in the usual sense, which would be to learn a lesson or do I want him to become more evil? I want him to become more evil.
But remember I’m not the norm and wanting that is definitely off kilter. The trick is to make sure the changes you bring about are not too drastic.
13. Then we have that sticky wicket. Is your series crossing genres, for instant if you’re writing paranormal is it a romance as well? If so then you also have to worry about the romantic issues. Considering I’m not a die hard fan of happily ever after I can write the books without a happily ever after ending and therefore using the cliff hanger.

14. A must have or so I’ve been told by my editor. You have to have continuity with your series from one book to the next?

Even though I said I end each book with a cliff hanger, I tie up what was happening from the last book and introduce something new.
This comes from my editor. She told me it's a fine line that an author walks when writing a series. You have to have enough old information so a reader picking up the book knows what's going on, but not so much that you bore the readers who already know all of this.

This is where I have the problem because I don't want to put in the old information and hate having to reread this kind of stuff in the series of other authors. It's boring if you already know it. I've been trying to think of a way to get this done without all of that. I'm thinking for the rest of the books that I just might put it in the beginning as a note to new readers. That way readers who know Adam won't have to read it.

But whether I do it or not you must have some kind of continuity when you’re doing a series. For example I had Adam talking one way in the first two books and in the third he was changing. My editor picked this up and pointed it out. At first I wanted to resist but after going back and rereading the first book I realized she was correct (as always) Still there is that delicate balance of making the book in each series be a stand alone. I think that’s important. But again that’s just my opinion.

Then we of course have the questions, in my series anyway, of will I anger the readers by leaving them hanging. One fan of Adam said she wouldn’t be surprised if readers wanted to kill me. Remember I’m insane. That idea makes me smile.

But it’s something to be considered. Do you want to anger and maybe put off your readers by leaving them hanging. I love cliff hangers myself. I've never thought about my leaving the reader wondering as being unfair. Since I’m still very much an avid reader who let me repeat, love cliff hangers, I will scream, curse the author and wait hungrily for the next book.

15. When does an author know it’s time to end a series? I personally get bored with a series after a while, even one I’m writing. Every author has to think of their own optimal number. I know that I've cut down on the planned 12 to 7. I don't want to just put in a lot of filler

While I don’t believe in absolutes there are certain things I’m aware you shouldn’t do in a series, such as kill off a main character. It's what feels right to me at that moment and what the character relays to me must happen.

Considering that my series is not yet done I can’t give advice on how to end one. But I know there are certain things readers will expect. You have to have a satisfactory conclusion especially for the readers who have stuck it out with you. If at all possible it would be nice if they were a bit sad when the series ended instead of being glad that it was done. Keep this in mind if you’re getting tired of writing it….you get the picture.

You can of course tie the series up with a nice little bow or you can bring characters that may have popped up during the series and give them something fresh. Or you can leave it open ended with a what if? Since I’m a bit evil I will more than likely end the Adam Omega series with a what if, but the plan is to have the readers satisfied, sad and hopeful. Tall order, but one that’s written into my plan. I'm sure when I end it; I will be ready for it to end. And I'm also sure I'll leave it open ended because there will be spin-offs.

I already know the best way to handle a series and possible spin off is to have what most writers refer to as a bible. Since I’m Southern Baptist I’ll referee to it as character arcs.

I wish I could tell you some magic words that if you follow even one of my suggestions it would make your books fly off the shelves and you would become an instant success. I can’t do that for you or for myself. The thing that makes that happen is distribution and serious money for a media blitz, neither of which I have access to at the time. Distribution is the key to everything.

16. The last thing is timing of the books or when they will come out. This will have less to do with you and more to do with the publishing house unless you’re self publishing.
For myself I like reading different genres, so I like it when authors take a year or so to bring out another book in the series. It gives me more time to read other things.

All of this is just food for thought. So tell me what are your thoughts on the subject?



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