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Posts tagged ‘novella’

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
via Amazon.com.au Amazon.com & Amazon.co.uk – also
Barnes and Noble (Nook devices)
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iBooks Store (iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, Mac)
Kobo (All devices except Kindle)

Are you growing as a writer?

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If you compare what you’re writing now with some of your earlier work, you should be able to see how far you’ve come. Certainly most writers will have made progress in areas of craft – such as being able to put words together more skilfully, and share story background with less “telling” and more “showing.”

You’ve probably also learned how to motivate your characters so they come across as real human beings with desires and goals we, as readers, can relate to.

But there are other kinds of growing writers can, and should, be doing.

Are you keeping up with trends?

This doesn’t mean slavishly imitating the current best-seller, whether it’s 50 shades of gratuitousness or the latest da vinci whatever. It means being aware of developments in the writing world. We know readers are increasingly reading our books on devices from ereaders to smart phones.

Have you seen how your chapters look on an iPhone? For more on this, check out “What’s Going on with Readers Today?” at http://toc.oreilly.com/2013/02/whats-going-on-with-readers-today.html

Some writers gloat about not understanding the electronic world and social media. Sure, it’s time consuming, occasionally time wasting, but that’s up to the user. When politicians are taking to social media in droves, you can be sure it’s because that’s where the voters are. Do you know where your readers are? Keeping up with them on social media makes perfect sense.

If you’ve been writing for some time, are you breaking new ground with your current work? 

Settling into a writing rut not only risks losing readers, it also bores the writer. Next time you write a scene that’s similar to what you’ve done before, challenge yourself to write it in a completely fresh way.

If you usually write novels, try a novella or a short story. Perhaps even some poetry. If you write in one genre, try reading in a few others to see if your voice would fit in any of them. Recently I ventured into digital-first publishing with my book, Birthright, a long novel that crossed over between romance and science fiction. No guarantees of success, but it’s a lot of fun and taking me in directions I’d almost forgotten I loved.

You can do this too. Try mixing up your romance with a dash of paranormal. Or your romantic suspense with a shot of inspirational. These days there are no limits to what a writer can try, and who knows, your little experiment may just catapult you into best-sellerdom. As a writer, what are you doing to keep your work fresh? Share your comments here.

Valerie

http://www.valerieparv.com

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on Twitter @ValerieParv and Facebook

Read some reviews already up at http://www.valerieparv.com/birthright.html

 

 

 

First Monday mentoring for 2013 – focus your writing life

Happy New Year.

Is this the year you finish your manuscript, self-publish new work, try a new genre? Whatever your hopes and dreams, this is a great time to bring them into focus.

First Monday Mentoring is our water cooler. Join me here on the first Monday of each month to talk about your plans, ideas and aspirations. Some talented writers and teachers visit this blog. Whatever your question about craft, writing life or getting published, you can ask it here.

To get us off and running, here are some ways to bring your plans into focus and reach your goals.

Set goals for yourself, never mind what others think

Set goals for yourself, never mind what others think

1. Know what you want to achieve.

Before setting off on a trip it helps to have at least some idea of where you want to end up. Depending on where you are in your writing journey, your “destination” may be to enter a contest and get feedback from the judges, or have a set amount of work written for a critique group or online support group every time you meet. If you’re more experienced, your goal may be to find an agent. Researching which agents work in the areas where you want to be published is a good start. Next would be writing or emailing them, or arranging to pitch an idea to them at a conference. Some writers may want to check out epublishing your own book or backlist. Again, what time frame would get you there?

2. Set definite steps to reach your goal

If you want to finish a novel or novella this year, how many words do you need to write? Breaking the total up into a weekly or daily word target will help you stay focussed and reach your goal in your preferred time frame. Remember to build in some time for family emergencies, illness and life getting in the way. If you want to meet a certain agent, you’ll need to plan ahead, find out any conferences where they may take pitches, and sign up. Or send out a certain number of emails each week until you get a positive response. Submitting work to publishers or teaching yourself epublishing can be handled in the same way.

3. Celebrate your milestones

When you get a positive response, even if it’s a “no” for now, celebrate. You kept your deal with yourself, sent out the emails, wrote the daily or weekly word count. Break out the champagne, chocolate or celebration of choice, see a movie, meet friends and share the joy. In the writing game, progress can be dauntingly slow.  Don’t wait till the book is in the ereader or on the shelf to celebrate your achievements. By then, readers will be looking for your next work. Take time now to enjoy the journey.

Can you think of any other steps to get you closer to your goals this year? Do you have questions you’d like answered? This is the place. I’ll be over by the water cooler ready and willing to help.

If you’re not sure what you’d like to achieve this year, why not read in your choice of genre and learn as you go, studying how the books are written, who is publishing them, and how you can make yours special within the demands of that genre.

Hint: if romantic suspense with a hint of science fiction appeals, you can read my latest book, Birthright (Corvallis Press) on Amazon for Kindle and Barnes & Noble for Nook. Post a review anywhere on line before the end of January and share the link here, to be in the running for a $50 Amazon gift voucher judged by my agent, Linda Tate. The winning review will be reposted here.

Let’s make 2013 a year to remember.

Valerie

http://www.valerieparv.com

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on Twitter @ValerieParv and Facebook

Read some reviews already up at http://www.valerieparv.com/birthright.html

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