Tuesday, March 13, 2012

WRITING A SERIES by: Kara Lennox

A BIG, HUGE thank you to Kara for taking the time out of her busy writing schedule to share a wonderful post on writing a series. You can pick up a copy of Kara's book TODAY and you can also leave any comments or questions you have for her at the bottom of her post.

There’s no doubt readers love connected books. They become invested in a certain world and eagerly await each new installment. It’s fun to revisit the heroes and heroines of former books, like spending time with old friends, and to anticipate the romances between characters you know you’ll see starring in future books.

But writing a connected series is harder than it looks. It takes more than simply moving characters from one story to another. You have to plan, from the very beginning, where the series is going, and you have to plot at least three books ahead so that you can set up the stories you want to tell in future books. For example, you can introduce the hero and heroine for Book Two in Book One as secondary characters and show how sparks fly between them so readers are anxious to pick up that next book. Or, you can set up a mystery that carries over several books.

You also have to keep track of all the people, their ages and descriptions, the locations, and you have to establish a time line so if a character is pregnant in Book #2, you know how old the baby is in Book #5. You think you’ll remember, but you won’t. If you don’t keep track of the details, they’ll come back to bite you. I have the floor of an office building lobby as marble in one book, and wood in another. Dang it! (Now I keep a detailed “series bible” with descriptions of characters and settings, time lines, etc.)

Before I started Project Justice, my ongoing romantic suspense series for Harlequin Super Romance, I’d written several trilogies. I at first envisioned Project Justice as stopping at three books. So I created three heroes and three heroines, setting up a mystery that would carry over for all three books, and planting hints in Book One for the romance in Book Two, etc.

Then, after all three books were turned in, my editor said she wanted three more in the series.

I was jumping up and down with excitement … at first. This was the first time any editor had wanted more of a series from me. But then I realized that I hadn’t set up anyone else to star in their own books. I had to hustle up some heroes and heroines from the existing cast of characters to populate the new trilogy.

Book #4, which is the one that came out this month, Outside the Law, wasn’t so hard. I already had introduced an evidence analyst from the lab in previous books and hinted that she might have the hots for a Cajun computer hacker, so it seemed natural to give them their own story. For Book #5, I still had Billy Cantu in my back pocket. He was one of the Project Justice investigators mentioned in passing in the earlier books. So I gave him a larger role in Book #4, and a starring role in the next book. I paired him with another minor character, a consulting psychologist who had appeared only in one scene, in the first book.

But, Book #6 had me stumped. Who was left?

Then, inspiration struck. The billionaire hero of Book #3 had a personal assistant, Jillian, who had appeared in every book. The problem was … she was a bit of a pill. She tried to break up her boss’s romance, and at one point she was even suspected of trying to kill someone. But I liked her; she was flawed, but real and fully formed in my mind. I just had to find a way to make her sympathetic and show that she was remorseful for her less-than-heroic behavior.

I did it by revealing that she’d been an overweight, homely teenager who had suffered a major humiliation at the hands of her high school crush. Then I made that crush her new boss. I also made it clear that she was trying to repair her reputation by working hard and being a good employee, despite the fact no one trusted her.

Finally, I gave her an admirer. Cranky Celeste, the septuagenarian office manager who seldom has a kind word for anyone, sees something of herself in plucky Jillian and takes the young woman under her wing. (The hero of this book, Hidden Agenda, is an entirely new character. It will be available in July.)

Now, my editor wants more Project Justice books. Having learned my lesson, I tried my best to set up characters for future books. I have at least one couple’s story worked out, but books #8 and #9 are going to tax me. I’m in awe of the authors who plot out a dozen books from the very beginning. It’s like playing chess, thinking ahead several moves, and I never was very good at chess. With each new book, the world gets more complex, the cast grows larger. More and more balls in the air to juggle

Still, I’ve had more fun writing these books (and more aggravation!) than any I’ve previously written. I’m looking forward to expanding the series indefinitely.

Kara Lennox


  1. Great advice, Kara. I'm working on my first series right now and have been trying to make sure that I have enough set up and secondary characters to carry it for 6 books. You're right, it's really hard, but fun too!