I put not focusing on a series at the top of my list of strategic self-publishing mistakes.
But, it’s not entirely true.
Almost every thing I’ve written was intended to be a series. But each works in a different way.
The Dumb White Husband series was supposed to be a bunch of short stories that turned everyday events into impossible obstacles because I believe we make everything harder than it needs to be.
The Bulletproof Adventures of Damian Stockwell were intended to be standalone books in a massive series of adventures much like Doc Savage. Continuity, character development and any kind of timeline was secondary to the punching of things. They were intended to be fun adventures with lots of jokes and little else.
Both of these series have sequels.
But, the Duck & Cover stories…there’s the pressure. What should be a fun jaunt through the apocalypse ended up being something bigger than I expected. It was intended to be a series of adventures as well, but the character went and got developed and now I can’t just stop.
WHY A SERIES
Of course, you don’t have to write a series. A lot of people are averse to them. But, I like a series. Some people don’t. Many more claim they don’t, but they’re lying. I’m not sure why everyone complains about a sequel to hit a movie when they all end up seeing it. Probably because people are stupid.
But the fact is that series sell. Many readers say they won’t bother with a book unless they know there are two more books right behind it. They want to be invested in the characters and the world they live in. It’s not worth that investment if the story will end with the last page of a single book.
WRITING THE SEQUEL IS HARD
I said earlier that the first book is hard, the second is easier and the third is really freaking hard. That’s not even talking about the sequel.
So many people became invested in my first book that I didn’t want to screw up their trust. I started writing just for me and generally didn’t care what other people thought. But, people were too nice and I didn’t want to let them down. So, I pushed to write the follow up.
I’ve started the sequel to Post-Apocalyptic Nomadic Warriors several times but once I got into it, I knew it was the wrong story. And if I tell the wrong story now, how much does it screw up down the road?
The initial sequel I started writing was going to be fun but the further I got into the more I realized the story came much later in the character’s life. I started another one, and it was the same deal. I had villains, great locations and everything else. But, unlike the other stories I’d written, the main character’s development played a crucial role in the story and it felt like I was jumping ahead.
FINALLY WRITING THE SEQUEL
It helped when I finally looked at the character’s entire story. I spent a lot of time thinking about what would happen to him over the course of his life. As a result, even though I haven’t written the book, I know what the next six or so could be if I want to take it that far.
I learned something important. I found that plot was important but not nearly as important as the characters story. I’ve always wanted to write books that were fun to read. Lots of action and packed with laughs. I never thought I’d be developing a character like this. But, now that I’m armed with this character arc as an outline, I’m finding it much easier to start writing the sequel.
I know what needs to be accomplished in the main characters life and that’s where it needs to go. More importantly, I know what needs to happen after that. The rest is just jokes and post-apocalyptic action.
Is this right for everything? No. Most series are just another adventure in a character’s life. I don’t ever see Damian Stockwell changing much. He’ll always go through his life punching evil in the face until good wins. That’s what he does and that’s what right for the story. But if you’re stuck like I was it may be worth taking a step back and figuring out how the character will grow over time and what drives that change. Will he/she eventually lose hope? What causes that. Will they fall from grace? Will they ever recover? How does their life end? Happy? Broken? Forgotten? Do they become a legend? If they do, you’d better have something worthy of that in there.
My own plans are series heavy. They were always intended to be that way and I figure it’s time for me to deliver.
I’m writing the sequel to Post-Apocalyptic Nomadic Warriors now. After that it will a third Bulletproof Adventure of Damian Stockwell. Then back to the wasteland before I start filling the request for a sequel to Tortugas Rising. And, I’ll be honest, that one scares me most of all.
Then again. This could all be me. Maybe some people have no trouble with the sequel.
What’s your experience been?
What suggestions do you have for writing a sequel or series?
Or are you against it all together?