Guest Post with Christy Farley: Turning a Standalone into a Series
[box type="note"]Amie here first: Hello! Before I left Pub(lishing) Crawl back in July, I asked the very talented Christy Farley to write a post for us, and here it is! Read on for great wisdom indeed, and an awesome giveaway![/box]
When I sold my YA contemporary fantasy, Gilded, it was one of those WOW-is-this-really-happening-moments. The elation on a scale of 1-10 was definitely an 11. Not too long after the deal, I visited my editor in New York. Over coffee, we chatted about books and series and what made us fall in love with them. During that convo, we had the “what happens next” talk. I’m not going to lie. I was really excited to think about what would happen next, but also terrified. My editor asked me some tough questions. Did I want Gilded to be a standalone? Two books? Three? But the hardest question was: “Why?”
I didn’t know the answer.
So I went back home and played around with some ideas. I brainstormed and wrote up a potential synopsis, but I really wasn’t feeling future books.
It was actually after my editor sent me her revision letter that everything began to click into place. She asked all the right questions. Sure, they were tough, but as I began to answer them, my world solidified, my characters grew, and in turn, so did I as a writer.
When I turned in my edits for Gilded, I realized I didn’t want to leave that world.
Literally the moment I turned in those edits, I started writing Silvern (book 2). I didn’t follow the original synopsis for the book. Instead, I allowed my characters to take me on an unexpected journey into North Korea. It was invigorating and I was hooked. I wrote that first draft in two months while teaching full time and being a mom.
My agent sent Silvern to my editor. She loved it and bought it. YAY! More celebration. More freak-out moments. But in the back of my mind, I knew the story wasn’t complete. I had left my main character in the most horrible of situations and I knew I couldn’t leave her there. I didn’t think, didn’t ask, I just wrote the next book. And that’s when Brazen (book 3) was born.
So perhaps in many ways, writing this series was based on passion and hearing my characters tell me their story. Even still, I know I couldn’t have written the Gilded series without the seven key elements below.
Quick Tips for Writing a Series
Keep a Series Bible
In my series bibles, I keep a section for each character with their physical characteristics, sayings, and personal history. Since I’m a fantasy writer, I make sure I take copious notes on the rules for my world. I also love printing out pictures for visuals of my settings.
This can be kept in your series bible or on a separate piece of paper. This will help you remember when events occur in your character’s life. It will also assist you when you create the overarching arc for your series. Interestingly, there are many events in my characters’ lives that never made it into the book, but I need to know to understand my characters better.
The Hansel and Gretel Technique
So when I wrote the Gilded series, I sprinkled what I call cookie crumbs throughout the books. These not only provided bridges and continuity for the series, but gave the world a fuller, richer feel.
For example in book 1, I introduced a secret tunnel that leads to North Korea, but my main character never uses it. Why? Because I knew she needed it for book 2. Another example, Haemosu (the antagonist) mentions he’s working for Kud, the god of darkness. Kud never has screen time in book 1, but he becomes the focal antagonist for book 2 and 3.
Book Arc vs. Series Arc
Remember that each book in your series has its own plot and character arc. But what creates a successful, satisfying series is when the writer has developed an arc for the entire series. There must be a larger, overarching issue or problem that isn’t solved completely in each book. It must grow over the course of the series until the stakes are at an all-time high, culminating in the final book.
Plot Like Mad!
So I’m an obsessive plotter. I like to know my end game before I even begin. Because of that, it really helped me create a full series arc. Take the time to make sure your series has a rising conflict, a climax, and a resolution.
Let Your Characters Drive
So yes, you should plot, but never forget that your characters are the essence of your story. They must be likeable (your readers will be spending lots of time with them), real, have flaws, a purpose, and grow. Don’t be afraid to let your characters drive your story in unexpected ways because they’ll take you on adventures you never thought you could imagine.
Make Your World A Reality
One of my best author moments was when a 7th grader asked me how to get into the Spirit World. He really believed that the dragons and white tigers in Gilded existed.
To create a realistic world bridge your readers between ours and yours by using the familiar. Think how J. K. Rowling used a train to bridge us. Or Riordan used dyslexia for demi-gods. And don’t forget to make sure your rules are rock solid so your reader isn’t turned off by the unbelievable.
Have you ever wondered if a book you are writing could be a series? For those of you who have written a series, please share your tips as well!
To celebrate the release of BRAZEN, Christina is giving away a Kindle Fire (US only) and a $50 Amazon gift card (international). The letter for this stop is A.
CHRISTINA FARLEY is the author of the Gilded series, a YA contemporary fantasy series set in Korea. Gilded was nominated for the 2014 Morning Calm, the 2015 Buckeye award, and the Tome’s It List. As a child, she loved to explore, which later inspired her to jump on a plane and travel the world. Christina's adventures sparked her to write stories, infusing the real world with fantasy. Currently she writes from home in Clermont, FL with her husband and two sons—that is until the travel itch whisks her off to a new unknown. For more details, check out her website at www.christinafarley.com or visit her on Twitter @ChristinaFarley and Instagram @ChristinaLFarley.