Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Writing the Sequel/Series

I'm beginning to notice that when I go dormant with my posting I start gaining followers quicker. *Quickly ponders whether or not the new followers are to get me to shut up*.   As of right now, I'm inching oh so close to 100 followers and still plan on doing some sort of a giveaway once that milestone is reached.  To all my new followers, thank you for following.  Unfortunately, I do post more than what you've been noticing lately. ;-)

It seems like every time a movie (or a book for that matter) does exceptionally well, a sequel to it is automatically guaranteed--whether that's a good thing or not.  Nowadays, it appears as though there are more series being produced than stand-alone bodies of work.  It's almost as if single novels or movies are slowly becoming extinct and a series potential is the only selling point to a book.  Don't get me wrong, I love sequels (which is a good thing considering I'm working on a trilogy).  I just have a fond appreciation for those great, solitary novels that are able to captivate readers in fewer pages.

Besides just for the pure enjoyment and the demand from a book's readers, a writer should set out to accomplish something as they progress with each book in a series.  Each book should serve a greater purpose.  The following are examples of what I believe a writer should set out to achieve with each subsequent book.

1.  Each book should stand alone--The difference between a good writer and a writer who's clearly writing for all the wrong reasons lies within the necessity of this statement.  A good writer--one who writes because it's an extension of themselves--believes the aforementioned statement to be silly and grossly unnecessary.  Unfortunately, however, there are those writers who, after achieving immense success and a loyal following, forget why they began writing in the first place and start churning out novels as though they were working on an assembling line.  One great novel is used as a crutch to support the others. There are several instances (a couple series come to mind of whom shall remain nameless) where the second and/or third book seem to be pointless and just there to fulfill the obligations of the author's publishing contract.  If these books were meant to stand alone, they most likely wouldn't make it into publication without some sort of overhaul.  As a lover of the written word and an unpublished author, this obvious lack of attention angers me.  As a writer, all of your books should be the best reflection of yourself (the reflection you cast when you're gussied up for a big event and not just rolling out of bed).  A writer shouldn't let one book in their series stand by itself. Instead of your readers having a clear favorite book in the series, make it tough for them.  Give them something to marvel over in each book instead of  leaving them wondering was that it?

2.  There should be references to events in the previous book but not a full blown recap--I loved the overall storyline in Amanda Hocking's Trylle Trilogy (for the most part), but what I didn't really care for was the constant rehashing of the events in past books.  To me it seemed sort of redundant and unnecessary as most people read a series in order (albeit there are those people who don't which really confuses the hell out of me).  I understand that if there is a significant expanse of time between books in a series that readers may need a refresher course, however a book report is not necessary.  Include only the most pertinent information.  If you did your job in the previous books, your readers should remember all the specific and important details that are driving your series along.

3.  Tie up loose ends--If your character's Aunt Matilda uttered something poignant and decidedly attention- worthy while on her death bed in the first book, then at some point in time throughout the rest of the series the importance and relevance of that statement should be revealed to the reader.  One of the things I hate the most is when a loose end is left dangling and not tied up in a nice, neat bow.  Do something with that can of worms you just opened. Carry the mayhem over to the next book if you have to  instead of turning what could have been a very memorable facet of your series into nothing more than just filler whose inconclusiveness leaves your readers feeling irritated and cheated.

4.  The sequels should stay true to the fans of the first book, but must be able to draw in new fans as well--As I've complained about  above, there are those people who start a series in the middle or at the tail end  (or those who don't read the books at all and just wait for the movies to come out--shudder). Whatever the case may be, a writer needs to stay loyal to their fanbase, but must also be able to spice things up a bit in order to expand this base.  You can't depend solely on one book out of a series to build a readership.  The entire series needs to do this job.  As the writer, you will need to balance on a tightrope in order to do it as your readers will begin to develop certain expectations of you and their favorite characters of which you will need to adhere to or risk alienation.  Still, the story has to move and it has to do so with enough oomph to capture the attention of those outside your circle of fans as well.  After all, the more the merrier.

5.  Make characters grow--Your characters should not come out the same way they came in.  Everyone experiences growth in their lives. Whether it be growth in an entirely wrong direction or growth toward a more positive self-being.  Throughout a series, characters are put through the wringer (at least they should be).  Everything they thought they knew will be tested.  Their faith, their friendships, their hearts and even their souls.  Nobody should come out unscathed.  What were you like ten years ago?  Before you had your heart broken; before someone you loved passed away; or before your best friend stuck a knife in your back.  It's a good bet that you're a significantly different person now than you were then because of all you've experienced between then.  This kind of growth needs to be reflected in your characters as well. Everyone changes and life is hard on both the living and the fictional.

6.  Aim to make it better--I believe the goal of any writer should be to constantly improve upon themselves. If you aren't progressing forward, you'll remain stationary; stagnant and left alone floating in an ocean by yourself while everyone else sails away toward uncharted territory. Most of the time, sequels fail to live up to the original.  If you're writing a series, strive to change that.  Look at all the elements that made your first book great and enhance them in the forthcoming books.  Even if it's just a slight improvement upon the original, it will still make for a welcome read for your readers (who will already be poised to critique your subsequent novels within seconds after finishing the final paragraph in your first book).

7.  If your book series was made into a series of movies can you honestly say that each movie would be worth the cost of admission?--When I write, I often imagine how what I'm writing would translate over to the silver screen (oh come one, you know you do too). After I've completed a draft of something I've written I read it.  If I can't honestly picture myself enjoying it while sitting in a theater shoving snowcaps in my face, then I redo it.  After all, just like movies, books are meant to be entertaining.  However, unlike movies, you can't just wait for them to come to video.

All right readers, it's your turn.  Are you writing a single novel or a series?  What do you believe is important in order for a series to be successful?

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Picking up the Pieces/The Liebster Blog Award

Picking up the Pieces

After a very brief and heartbreaking battle with bowel cancer, my dad passed away on Sunday, August 7, 2011 at 8:15 p.m. est.  As he wished, he died peacefully at his home surrounded by family and friends.  Despite the fact that he died from such a terrible disease, my dad was truly a lucky man in that he knew without a doubt that he was loved by many, many people.  During his illness his house was never empty and the love and respect people had for him was evident.  In the three short weeks between his diagnosis and his passing, my dad knew more love and support than a lot of people realize in a lifetime.  For that, I'm truly grateful.

Those people who know me know that I was very close to my dad.  No matter what I did or path I took he was behind me 100% .  These past few days have been a roller coaster of emotion for me.  On one hand, I'm happy that he's at peace and is no longer suffering; but on the other hand, I'm furious/sad/confused with everything that has transpired.  Just mere months ago my dad was a healthy, active man readying himself for his retirement.  He knew he didn't have a world of time left ahead of him, but he thought he'd at least have a decade or two.  At the very least he thought he'd see all of his grandchildren grow into their teens and the dawning of his seventh decade.  At the very least, he thought he'd get a chance to fight for his life. 

They say that only the good die young.  To me, my dad epitomizes that adage to a tee.

I've never been a huge church going individual.  I have a strong faith and a belief in God, but I've chosen to worship outside of church (most churches I've been to have contained some of the most hypocritical people I know).  It's my belief that faith is faith and a person can practice it any way they choose.  Still, as I tried to come to terms with everything going on around me these past few weeks, I found myself asking God for a lot of favors.  Please make my dad's death as comfortable as possible Please let someone be there so he's not alonePlease give me some sort of sign that he'll be okay. Remarkably, all of my requests were answered.  My dad passed peacefully and without pain; he was far from alone; and I know without a doubt that he's all right.

Within five minutes after my dad's passing, a double rainbow appeared directly outside his home. As luck would have it, I happened to have my camera in my purse and I snapped the photographs that  I've included below.  The second rainbow is very hard to make out in the  photograph and appears faintly over the more prominent arc.  Despite the ominous dark clouds, it had not been raining before or during the appearance of these rainbows and in fact had been relatively sunny up until then. 

Through our grief, the appearance of these two rainbows gave us all the comfort we needed to get through the night.

RIP Dad.  You will never be forgotten.

The Liebster Blog Award

Now on to a much more cheery topic...

When I first started my blog, I figured that I'd pretty much be talking to myself.  As time passed I started gaining followers, comments and overall praise for my posts.  What started out as an aspiring author blogging about writing in the hopes of becoming a better writer herself has turned into a blog with nearly 100 followers and a slew of amazing writers/authors stopping by to render their opinions.  To each and every one of my followers/readers, thank you.

The wonderful Jennifer at  The Writing Cocoon bestowed the Liebster Blog Award (information below) upon me during my hiatus from blogging/socializing with the world. Jennifer writes a highly informative blog filled with her own writing insights, resources for writers and pretty cool photographs.  Check her out! 

Thank you, Jennifer.  I'm honored to be one of your award recipients!

The goal of the Liebster Blog Award is to showcase up and coming bloggers who have less than 200 followers. The rules:
  1. Thank the giver and link back to the blogger who bestowed the award on you
  2. Reveal your top five picks and let them know by leaving a comment on their blog
  3. Copy and paste the award on your blog
  4. Have faith that your followers will spread the love
  5. Have bloggity-blog fun!
In compliance with the rules of the award, my five picks to pass on the Liebster Blog Award lovin to are:
1.  Megan Rae Lollman @ Meganraelollman

 2.  Sarah Pearson @ Empty White Pages

3.  James Garcia, Jr. @ Dance On Fire

4.  Kate Kyle @ Gone Writing

5.  Linda @  Wistfully Linda

All of the following are either authors or aspiring authors who have more talent in their left pinkies than I do in my entire body.  Their blogs are informative, interesting, entertaining and highly resourceful.  If you haven't checked them out already, I strongly recommend that you do ASAP.
Congratulations to Jennifer and all of my Liebster Blog Award recipients.  You deserve all the bloggity goodness coming your writerly ways.

Now that I'm officially in the process of picking up the pieces of my life, my blog posts will become more frequent and hopefully worth it to those who follow/subscribe to this blog.  Thanks again for all of your kind words during what has been the worst period of my life.  Without people like you I wouldn't have been able to make it through it.