Writing a series has to be easier than stand alones, surely? The characters, names, country etc, all known, all plotted. Just a long story chopped into bits, right?
As I mentioned last week, Ellen’s Tale, the first in my series, was meant to be a short story! It was never planned, just catch-up all the way through. By the time she was finished with me I knew this story was the beginning of a series, three maybe, the second, jumping around in excitement in my head. Easy. This series writing is easy.
When The Storyteller’s Tale, the second chronicle, was finished, after quite extensive research and the beginnings of a planned world, I had the ideas for further chapters in the lives of my characters but. . . yes a great big BUT. . .
Writing a series, it seems to me, grows ever harder as the series progresses. It is not just that I hadn’t planned the world, after all it is set on this planet just a few years hence. There are no monsters, vampires or zombies, no magic. It is the problem of how the characters behave over time; how plot lines can be developed to follow correct time lines, believable scenarios. How to build fresh excitement and anxiety into every book. How many times can one realistically make the characters suffer, falter or fall and still keep the readers on board with you? How does one leave them with hopeful and/or intriguing endings? How to leave the reader desiring to read more of them?
Jack’s Tale, the third in The Sefuty Chronicles, was a labour of monumental proportions, compared to the first two. I knew the story in my head, had thought out the various incidents and accidents, had charted the rise and fall of fortunes. . . and then. . .
And then I faltered. Who would want to read yet more of this band of travellers? Why did I think I could manage another chronicle? These doubts walked sullenly alongside my struggles to find men’s voices, not just men, but fighting men; while I struggled to learn a new language of shorter sentences and different adjectives and personal pronouns. My research was of wars and battles – I understand neither. However these were soldiers I had invented way back in that short story and they were now demanding that part of their story be told.
I would spend days staring at blank screens, chewing nails to the quick. Maybe it was only ever meant to be two books. Maybe. . . But I had plans for at least two more after Jack. Had left clues and hints all along the line. Shouldn’t I at least solve those before I gave up?
I struggled for months with Jack, never quite happy with it, and finally it went into print and eBook. Still I had my doubts and fears. I was loath to offer it to my friends. Scared of a resounding silence or frowns. Slowly, slowly, the responses came in, better than The Storyteller’s Tale one said, really? Couldn’t decide which they preferred another said, really? I became more confident, but were they being kind?
Then last week someone I barely know from the choir joined us ,on our walk back to the car park, after singing, to extol Jack’s virtues and dissect what she liked about the series, she hasn’t finished Jack yet, but she was so enthusiastic, even finding stuff I hadn’t realised I had meant in it (I do like that, when meanings, I had no idea about, are found, all things to all folk:) this lady cannot be called a friend as such, I barely know her. She was also the most unlikely person to buy the first, let alone the second and third. Not a friend but a fan. I had sung to the sky at choir practise, I sung to heavens on the way home. I had pulled off a third.
This month I began the fourth, with the aid of JuNoWrMo, and the doubts are trotting out, marshalling their forces. Is a fourth do-able? No, writing a series is not easy.