In the previous post, I went over some of my experiences with making a series. Hindsight, that blessed beast, shows me that, for my first book, I bit off way more than my immature mandibles could handle.
Breaking it up into a series was a mixed blessing: it took the pressure off in terms of editing, narration, plot, premise and publishing. At the same time, it put the pressure on to complete the series, tie off and start up the story for every book, and it disallows canonical changes from previously published titles.
The Most Important Book
Grosvenor Lane Ghost started life as a single book. It starts, introduces characters, explores a central premise upon a setting with a theme, and ends. It was only after I finished that hindsight rolled its eyes and smacked me over the head: it could easily be part of a bigger, better thing.
If, I reasoned, it were to be part of a series, why, the characters have already been established. Likewise the setting. Likewise the tone. In fact, I continued, since all of the boilerplate* was out of the way, I was free to spend more time exploring the premise and less time establishing the world!
Look at it like this: If I’m building a house, I need to find a plot, clear the area, dig foundations, pour concrete, put in stumps, get the basic plumbing in, sign off on council permits. All of that has to happen before I can knock up walls.
Yes, I could do it in (almost) any order, but it has to be done or the house won’t be fully functional.
That means more time is spent by the author, and the reader, going over the who, what, where and when. That means that there’s less time for interior decorating, furnishings, features, etc: the what and how.
So, picking up my notepad once more, I made a decision to keep the Professor and the Narrator, along with Missus Ferguson, and make another book, concentrating more on the Professor’s struggles against his benefactors.
Beaumaris Road Ghost was written and, with it, the Paranormology series was born.
The Good Bits
So I realised that with this particular series, I wasn’t so pushed for the next one since each book was a comfortably paced story, able to stand on its own. I got the benefits of being able to modify the premise, introduce new characters and build old characters.
That’s right. I literally slapped my jaw when I figured that one out. The series allows the protagonist to develop incrementally: In Grosvenor he is naive, in Beaumaris he is arrogant, in Hampton he is cynical. In each he is allowed to mature, to grow past his own ignorance and share his discoveries with the audience.
So too with the Professor. We learn very little about him in the first book but, by Beaumaris, we understand that he has more on his mind than science.
And I think that’s one thing I’m going to stick with: I don’t need to cram in an intricate picture of a character, since this will organically develop by itself over the course of each book.
I also found that writing subsequent books is easier since all I need to do is have a quick read of the previous one to get my head around the tone, the language, the style of narration.
I imagine that, for the audience, the contract that has been put in place to create the series is a blessing: No need to take a punt on a new book. If you liked the style, pace and tone of the previous, then the next should be ‘same but different’.
*coding term, look it up.