Writing a Multi-book Story

When I started to write my first fantasy book, I had no idea whether it would be one book or multiple. Given the fantasy genre lends itself to multi-book stories, I had hopes that my imagination would last … and it did. Unlike the type of series where each book is a standalone chapter in the main character’s life, The Gifted is one story broken into four parts. That’s alot of content and details to remember from book to book; even I can’t remember all the details I finally decided to include from one book to the next. What did this mean for each book? Carry over. You know, bits of information and reflection from previous books reminding the reader that the current scene is made possible because something happened earlier. There were other challenges as well.

Reminders. Consider this sentence: “Stepping further into the tent, she called to her little helpers to repeat what she’d done in the Young’s kitchen, when she looked like a ghost.” In this scene, Rhea wants to grab someone’s attention and recalled something that happened in a scene from the previous book. I didn’t want to repeat the process she went through so I had Rhea remember. If the reader doesn’t understand fully what she is doing with her gift and why she thinks of them as “her little helpers,” hopefully the reader will understand that she is going to appear as a ghost. And, if the reader skipped book one, maybe he will be enticed to read it now.

Breaking Points. Providing quick reminders, as to what has happened before and how previous events are about to shape a current event, was one challenge I faced writing a multi-book story. The next challenge was deciding where to break the story, how to create an adventure for the characters such that each book comes to a resolution … of sorts … but still leaves the reader wanting to know the final ending. I have a confession to make; I didn’t plan the breaking points for books two through four. For book two, The Channel, I could have ended the story right there, but after some consideration, I realized that Rhea was special and needed more of a challenge. So, I decided there would be a third book … and ultimately a fourth.

Starting Points. When I went from The Guardian to The Channel, I didn’t want to simply pick up where my characters left off. That strategy seemed boring. So, I opened with small scene with a couple new characters and took a quick look to see how a couple others were doing, before reconnecting with the three main characters. As I write this blog, I am waffling on how to open The Dark Healer. I have an opening; in fact, the book is getting its final tweaks and edits. But one of my beta readers is making me rethink. Oh the challenges and listening to those from whom you requested comments. Bottom line, I doubt there is one right way to start a book in a series. I just hope I choose best for this story.

Maintaining a Viable Tale. The last challenge was creating a story that could be told over four books and keep the reader engaged. Of course, only you can tell me if I have succeeded. My goal was to build the story, to stack one challenge after another, to unveil the secrets one at a time, to allow the story to crescendo to the end. Did I know the final ending when I started? No. Did I have all the secrets planned before I started? No. I did create a premise: “A young woman learns that by design, she has been gifted with the ability to save a way of life and she must decide how she will proceed.” I created some basic belief systems for the world and way of life she will face: balance and free will. I created personas for my characters and asked them what they would do going forward.

My fingers are crossed that you believe I have met my goals, that I have written a multi-book story worth reading. If you agree, please feel free to let others know. Thank you.

Published by Cindy McCourt

I wear many hats: author, website planner, Drupal consultant, instructional designer, trainer.

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