On the first Friday of every month, Novelista Annie Burrows has been sharing a very personal view of what it is like to be a writer. And is dealing with themes in alphabetical order. This month, she's reached S...so she'll be talking about whether to write Series or Stand alone.
I have taken part in a couple of series, where each book has been written by a different author, but never, so far, created one of my own.
Harlequin quite often creates mini-series, where each author is assigned a small part of a longer, over arching plot, whilst also writing a story which can stand alone. And I've been involved in a couple for the Historical line. I was responsible for part 5 of the Regency Silk and Scandal series, in which a couple of aristocratic families search for the man responsible for a murder committed in the previous generation. My instalment, The Viscount and the Virgin, dealt with the fate of the Murdered Man's daughter. I found it tremendous fun brainstorming the murder mystery plot, which became the backdrop for 8 individual love stories, with the other authors involved. We drew up a complicated family tree, and created spreadsheets galore to keep track of who was doing what, when, and with whom.
There's a tremendous amount of extra work involved in taking part in such a series, and both times I've done one, although I've really enjoyed it, I've also found it a bit of a relief to coming back to writing just one story, about just one couple.
However, I often find that a minor character in one book will wander into another one. And that the more often they appear, the more real they become, until I have to give them their own story. Captain Fawley, for example, first appeared in "His Cinderella Bride" at a ball. Then took a larger role in "The Earl's Untouched Bride." So large a part, in fact, that my editor at the time made me cut him back severely. But I did get permission to write his story (even though he had only one eye, one arm, and a wooden leg!)
But anyway, earlier this month I went down to London to visit the new London offices of my publisher, Harlequin UK, and to have a serious chat with my editor. I've just been awarded a four book contract, you see, but only had one full length book and one novella completely outlined and agreed upon. I had a lot of vague ideas...dramatic meetings between characters who had tortured back stories...but no real idea of where to take them.
I sent these rough outlines to my editor and during lunch, (during which some wine may have been consumed), she gave me the most insightful feedback. In one of the rough outline openings, I'd suggested that the hero pursue the heroine as part of a wager between himself and a group of his friends. And she asked me whether I'd considered writing stories about these friends, and tying them together as a trilogy.
The moment she made the suggestion it became obvious how other snippets that I'd had floating about in the back of my mind for a while could become parts 2 and 3 of a trilogy. It would probably have happened naturally, the way it's happened before. But this time, as I set out to deliberately write a set of linked stories, I can actually plan my own overarching story which will tie them together more firmly, rather than having the loose connections I've come up with before.
And, more importantly, I can actually let readers know in advance that it's going be a trilogy.
Do you know, I feel as if I'm finally getting my writing life organized!
(It has only taken me until S!)
Annie's current release is "The Captain's Christmas Bride", available from Amazon, Harlequin, Mills & Boon UK, Amazon UK, Mills & Boon Australia, etc...
It is a stand alone book.