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Posts tagged ‘Clive Cussler’

First Monday Mentoring for June – the joy of series for readers and writers

This week a new writer asked me if he should tell the publisher he was submitting to that his book was the first in a series. This is a fair question, as many books come out in series these days and are enormously popular with publishers and readers.
The answer depends on your relationship with the publisher. If you have a track record, even in other areas of writing, the publisher may be open to considering your book as part of a series. More likely, however, they would want to publish the first book as a stand-alone to see how it does before committing to more of the same.
Of course if you indie publish, you can do as you like, although I advise you to write two or three books in the series before self-publishing the first. Just as online streaming of movies and TV shows has led to “binge watching”, many readers prefer to collect an entire set of books before starting on the first. Recently I read two books in a series only to find I didn’t have book #3, although I did have book #4. I jumped on to Amazon and downloaded the next book to my Kindle so I could read the in-between book before continuing to the final one. Impatient? Who me? But I have a lot of company.
The results can be rewarding, with follower numbers growing as more books come out. Think of Diana Gabaldon’s “Outlander” series or Stephenie Meyer’s “Twilight” books. Characters such as Sherlock Holmes, Clive Cussler’s Dirk Pitt, and many others have passionate followings.
If you’re writing series characters or settings, there are a few things to keep in mind:
1. Each book needs to provide a complete story within the pages, even if you have an over-arching story that all the books will span. This leaves readers satisfied but also keen to read the next book in the series. Readers regard your characters as friends, and your settings as places they can feel at home.
2. Filling in backstory in the second and subsequent books needs to be done with a light hand. Too much back story bores the people who read the first book. Too little annoys readers who’ve just discovered your series.

3. Each book should raise the stakes, while introducing new characters and story elements, to avoid any feeling of repetition.
4. If you use familiar elements such as vampires, royalty, small towns etc. you need to give the books your own unique twist.

 

The best aspect of series writing is being able to fully develop your fictional world. My current Beacons series of sci-fi romances is set in my own South Pacific Kingdom of Carramer, which began as the setting for several series of romantic suspense novels. Although frankly, if I’d known I would set eighteen books in Carramer, I would probably not have outlawed divorce. Over the years, getting characters out of marriages that aren’t working has been an interesting challenge.
When I decided to write the Beacons series, Carramer was a natural choice of setting. I’d always wanted to explore the province of Atai and its population of indigenous people. I saw them as very spiritual, making it easy to place a private space program there and include their natural mysticism in the story.

 

The next novella in the Beacon series, Continuum, is out next Thursday, June 9, published by Momentum, Pan Macmillan’s digital-first imprint. The three books in the series span the role my Beacons and their superpowers play in defending the Earth against a massive alien threat. Having two novellas in between let me explore individual characters and their histories.

This is another advantage series have over single titles – readers get to know your characters more thoroughly than they might in a solo book.

Cover Continuum
However you approach your series, readers should want to find out what happens next in your world. From the outset, it helps to have an idea of the overall story arc, as J K Rowling did with the Harry Potter books. You don’t need to know everything that happens. With the Beacons series, I certainly didn’t. But I did know how the story would play out at the end, rather like setting out on a journey with the destination in mind even if you aren’t sure of the exact route you’ll take.

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Finally, here are five Cs to include in your series:
• Characters – real people your readers come to care about and want to spend time with.
• Continuity – also known as Consistency – if you introduce elements in one book, make sure they are consistent with what happens in the next or previous books. Keep a series “bible” of physical descriptions, back story and other elements in file card form, as charts or on a program such as Scrivener, for quick reference as the series progresses.
• Complications aka Conflicts – even characters with superpowers, like my beacons, must have failings and difficulties to overcome, ideally in each book, the challenges growing to almost unbearable level by series end.
• Change – also known as Character Development. Your story people should grow and change as they overcome the obstacles in front of them.
• Completion – unless you want to keep the series going – and readers will love you if you do – you should tie up any loose ends by the final book. It’s easy to lose track of an individual and leave their story hanging, but trust me, you’ll hear about it from readers. In my romantic suspense series, Code of the Outback, I dealt with the stories of a woman and her two foster brothers. In the final book I mentioned a third brother but didn’t give him his own story. I was still getting emails about him years after the series ended, until I finally wrote his story in a novella, so readers could stop worrying about him.
How do you like to read series books? Do you have favourites? As a writer, do you have a series on the drawing board? This blog is moderated to avoid spam but your comments can appear right away if you click “sign me up” at right. I don’t share your details with anyone.

Happy writing,
Valerie
on Twitter @ValerieParv and Facebook
Follow Valerie’s Beacon sci-fi series
Beacon Starfound OUT NOW
Beacon Earthbound OUT NOW
Beacon Continuum OUT JUNE 9Beacon Homeworld coming June 30
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In writing – what you say matters as much as the way you say it

Most writers worry about getting the words right. I think we should worry more about getting the message right. A piece of so-so writing that has something to say can be forgiven a lot. And by message, I don’t mean something profound about the world or the human condition, though they can be in there, too. Mainly I mean a story we didn’t know we wanted to hear until the author wrote the book.

Have you read Clive Cussler’s first big seller, Raise the Titanic? I read this book many years ago, before Cussler became a household name, and a l-o-n-g time before the Titanic had been located. The book was riveting. The idea of finding this fabled ship, bringing her back to the light, and solving the mysteries of her sinking was what Hollywood and many publishers call high concept. The title says it all and is one of the best pitch lines (the single sentence you’re supposed to distill from your book idea in order to sell it)  ever written.

So what’s the problem? The book is also one of the most awkwardly written I’ve ever read,  riddled with grammatical flaws and horrendous viewpoint jumps. Perhaps they’ve been fixed in subsequent editions, but even if they had, the book couldn’t be a better read. In this 100th anniversary year since The Titanic was launched, even knowing the facts doesn’t spoil a good story.

What sold Raise the Titanic to millions of readers and to the movies, was the power of its ideas and the author’s passion to share them with us. Cussler had been an expert diver since 1952 and his love for and knowledge of diving underpins the story. I couldn’t put it down until I found out what happened on the next page…and the next…

It helps to keep your reader guessing

As writers, this should be our Holy Grail – to keep readers turning pages, anxious to find out what happens. If we can make them sneak a peek at the end to make sure the main character survives the journey, better still. We’ve got them involved, made them believe our fiction and care about our characters.

That’s your task as a writer.

I have my friend and neighbour, John Cooper, to thank for inspiring this post.  He spent some of the Christmas break poring over a book of very big words – VERY BIG words – and conceived a romance novel plot using his favourites. If words were truly the key to success in writing, this should be a best-seller. See if you think it would be.

A verisimilitude belles-lettres hypertrophic bathykolpian callipygian defenestration with

metempsychosis concupiscent anthropophagouseness.

Ooooo-kaaay.

The story stands a better chance when John puts it in basic English –

The true story of a lady with huge breasts and a nice azz who gets thrown out of a window

only to be reincarnated as a lustful man-eater.

Now that story, I’d buy.

What do you think of the role of words in writing? Post your comments and thoughts below.

Valerie Parv

http://www.valerieparv.com

On Twitter @ValerieParv

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and ranting about life on The Hoopla

http://thehoopla.com.au/fun-fun-fun-seriously/

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