Writing Book Two of the Lakeside Porches romances dropped me into the dilemmas all series writers face: how to recover from a “bad” character portrayal in a previous book, how to keep details straight (what color were his eyes? how old was she when?), and how to leave the door open for a change of heart? I didn’t have access then to the wonderful post today from writing duo C.D. Hersch (see Five Important Things You Should Know About Writing a Series) and other advice like it.
I was fortunate that Book One (Stepping Up To Love) was still in the editing process; I could, for example, still revise the brief appearance of Joel’s uncle Justin at the beginning and end of Book One. Thank heaven! I made Justin less nasty, more insightful, and a lot richer. That smoothed the way for a still-deeply-troubled Justin to be a redeemable, desirable, even likable hero in Book Two. It also insured that the Book One hero and heroine– Joel and Manda– had firmly established, meaningful relationships with Justin at the start of Book Two.
Even better, I learned from the mistake. I developed a scene-by-scene matrix for the second book, using advice from Bob Mayer and Jen Talty. I also kept notes about each character, including some backstory.
To keep my sanity and to insure a coherent, credible series, I’ve drafted three documents to help me with Book Three. The new book (working title “Gwen Gets a Clue”) has a main love story (psychologist Gwen Forrester from Books One and Two and a new character Peter Shaughnessy) and a significant subplot (Gwen’s pregnant niece Meg and her brainy college boyfriend Rick). Because Meg’s pregnancy coincides with Gianessa’s from Book Two (find out if the twins will really be named Jack and Jill) we’ll have return appearances from Dr. Bowes (see, I had to search for her name!), Justin, Sydney Shorey and her husband Danny Brennan (had to search for his name too, but I remembered he’s a Notre Dame grad), Sara and the Thrift Shop Adventure chicks, Tony (whose younger brother Sam is Peter’s partner) and of course Joel and Manda.
The three documents together make sense of all the characters and story elements:
– A Goals-Motivation-Conflict chart for Gwen, Peter, Meg, and Rick (thanks forever to Debra Dixon).
– A chronology of events that weaves together all four main characters (Gwen, Peter, Meg, and Rick) and that shows each one’s growth (character arc) and the arc of Gwen and Peter’s love story.
– Notes about the contribution of the Meg-Rick subplot showing how their needs, decisions, dilemmas, etc. are instrumental to the character growth of Gwen and Peter and showing the contrast between their young love relationship and the main love story between Gwen and Peter. I added explanations for the contribution and importance of Sam and Tony, Sydney and Danny, and Gianessa and Justin.
I did not number these documents 1-2-3 because their development was iterative. A change to one had ripple effects on the other two. It was only when I declared “Yes!” for the GMC chart that I felt confident I could “finalize” the other two. I now have the blueprints I need to proceed with the writing at an absolutely insane period with both my day jobs. I feel relaxed knowing that every stolen half hour of writing time will be time well spent. I can start a scene from any point on the chronology, with confidence. Or continue the scene. Or revise it. I know the scene’s significance and I know which details already exist and which can be created or embellished.
Will the new blueprints work? I think so. Will I backtrack into another scene-by-scene matrix, perhaps more complex than before? If I need to.
Please share your techniques, favorite links, resources, and examples for writing a coherent, credible series!