I personally love reading series, Harry Potter being my personal favorite, followed by The Lord of the Rings, and The Hunger Games. Since The Lord of the Rings Trilogy was published before I was born, I was able to read all three books in a row. I didn’t read Harry Potter or The Hunger Games until after I saw one or more of the movies, so even with those two contemporary series, I was able to read one book after the other. There was no waiting for the next book to be released.
In fact, I can’t remember ever reading a book and then having to wait for the next in the series, but I have done that for movies, so I think I have a pretty good idea what it feels like – excitement coupled with the frustration of having to wait, followed by the anticipation for the next book, and the build-up of tension as the release date comes closer. The waiting is what makes a series difficult for a reader, but when it comes to the writer, there are two different things that make it difficult, at least for me.
Those two things are making sure it is consistent, and then providing enough backstory for the reader who did not read the first book or books or the reader who doesn’t remember all of the details from the other book or books.
When I wrote the second book in the Van Winkle Series, ASCENDANCY, I had to keep flipping through the first book, MIRROR X, to make sure descriptions of revisited settings were similar. When it came to character descriptions, even though they were my characters, I found myself not remembering the eye colors of secondary characters or what color uniforms certain characters wore. I also had to check for things such as the spelling and capitalization of certain words I used. For example, I’d ask myself, “In MIRROR X, was the hospital Gen H1, GenH1, or Gen-H1?” It got the point that it was easier to download MIRROR X onto my Kindle, so I could type in a word and do a quick search in order to answer these questions more quickly. Making sure it was consistent wasn’t annoying, it was just time consuming, and when I’m writing, I want to keep going and not stop every few pages to check it against the another book or books in the series.
Providing just the right amount of back story is also difficult for me. I don’t want to add too much, which could slow down the plot and also get readers bored, since they already know those details. But at the same time, there needs to be enough to prompt the memories of people who have read the other books while giving enough backstory to fill in the reader who started the series, let’s say, with book two.
This is where a good editor becomes especially helpful. In the first pass of edits, my editor at Entangled publishing suggest where I need to add more backstory about a particular relationship or situation. She’ll also cut out backstory that she finds is unnecessary or will have me condense backstory that drags down the plot. When it came to ASCENDANCY, she also gave the manuscript to another editor to read – someone who did not read MIRROR X. If the editor was confused during certain scenes or with the relationships among characters, we knew that a new reader would be, too. I made the changes accordingly.
The same process is starting to happen right now as I’m working on the third book in The Van Winkle Project series, RELEGATION (working title). ASCENDANCY is on my Kindle for reference, and although I’m doing my best to put in enough backstory, there are experts who I know will make it just right for the reader.
When it comes to being consistent, the copy editor also plays a role in that area. Sometimes the copy editor will notice something that the editor and I didn’t catch. It always helps to have a fresh pair of eyes.
As difficult as consistency and backstory may be when it comes to writing a series, I love writing them. It gives me a chance to revisit a world and its characters again and again, and I can only hope that readers love revisiting it, too.
Karri Thompson, a native of San Diego, California, grew up hanging out at the beach, playing sports, and eventually attending San Diego State University where she earned her bachelor’s degree in English and master’s degree in education. When she’s not nerding out at San Diego Comic-Con or watching Star Wars and The Lord of the Rings movies for the umpteenth time, she can be seen doing normal people stuff like teaching high-school English, cooking delicious meals for her family (she attributes all of her culinary skills to the Food Network), and attending her son’s football games. In her spare time, she writes young adult and new adult fiction, her biggest passion, and loves listening to hard rock music and going to concerts. She hopes to live long and prosper, and that you will, too.