Lynne Milford (aka LM Milford) won my Twitter competition last year to feature on my blog for twelve months. Her debut novel, ‘A Deadly Rejection’ sounds really good and I am still enjoying learning all about it. This month Lynne is talking about writing a series.
Why you should write a series
The definition of a series is probably quite fluid. It could be over a short period of time with a definite beginning and end – like Broadchurch – or over a longer term with the same characters but different plots – like Midsomer Murders. Whichever way you choose to do it, it takes some long-term planning.
When I was a very green writer, scribbling away desperately on my first novel, I envisaged vaguely that it could be a series. I had no firm plans about how to accomplish this (crazy, isn’t it?) apart from that I’d go about it slightly differently. Instead of the series being led by the main character, the link for the series would be that it all happened in Allensbury with a different main character for each book. The police officers would remain the same, because the series is set in the same town, but I wanted a different protagonist to keep things fresh. One of the police officers has his own novella, but in theory that sits outside the series.
However, when I had Book One structurally edited, it was suggested that the protagonists would make good series characters. This pulled me up short, because clearly it wasn’t something I’d considered before.
If I was going to turn the books into a series, there were a few questions I had to ask myself:
- Are the main characters strong enough to carry a series? If not, then I needed to beef them up, or come up with some new ones.
- Is it realistic that they could come across so many murders without people asking questions? I read somewhere that you shouldn’t have a journalist as a main character because their motivation, as reporting on the story, wouldn’t be strong enough. This is another piece of advice that I ignored and gave him a damn good reason to investigate.
- Do you have enough legitimate plot ideas to turn into a series? You need to make sure every book is believable or you’ll lose the readers. I’d say you need to think up at least four ideas before you start working on a series, and have a skeleton plan for each of them to make sure they’re sustainable.
At first I decided that I’d stick with my original plan and change the protagonist for Book Two, but when A Deadly Rejection was published I got some positive feedback about Dan, the news reporter who leads the story. I decided that if people really like Dan then he needs to continue. His job means that he will constantly come up against crimes and have a legitimate reason to want to solve them. He’s also ably supported by Emma, the crime reporter, who can also become the protagonist if necessary. In fact, that will happen in the next book in the series – titled at present Book Three.
I already had Book Two written from start to finish, with Dan only playing a cameo role. It took a lot of thinking and replotting to get the book to a point where he would convincingly fit in as the lead character. I was concerned that it may look like he’d been shoehorned in, but early feedback from beta readers suggests that, in the main, the story works. There is still work to do on the book and it’ll soon go off to my professional editor for her feedback. I’m fairly confident that she’ll be happy with it, but I’m sure there’ll also be plenty of suggestions to make the book better.
At present I have plans for another two Allensbury novels – they’ll be badged as the Allensbury Mysteries once I have more than one, and there are also 2-3 novellas to come as part of the series. However, once I’ve finished those I’ll be considering whether to continue to come up with Allensbury-related ideas or whether to strike out and try something new. All I can promise is that there’ll be more murder and mayhem, and that it’ll be another series.
A Deadly Rejection is available in ebook and paperback from Amazon. UK address is https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B0768WP1SB
Catch up with me on Twitter @lmmilford or visit my website www.lmmilford.wordpress.com
Previous Guest Posts
First guest post (January 2018) – My writing journey
Second guest post (February 2018) – Where did A Deadly Rejection come from?
Third guest post (March 2018) – Creating the perfect cast for A Deadly Rejection