Friday, January 27, 2012

The Domino Effect with Guest Blogger: Laura Kaye

Win a copy of North of Need and
chat with award winning author
Laura Kaye today at the Book Boost!

She's here to chat about lessons learned and here's what she had to say...

Five Lessons Learned from Writing My First Series

I’m so glad to be here at The Book Boost today! It’s hard to believe it’s been almost three months since my contemporary fantasy romance North of Need, the first in the Hearts of the Anemoi series, released. The Anemoi were wind gods the Greeks associated with the seasons and the weather, and the mythology offers a wonderful basis on which to build a series: there are four brothers, the mythology deemed one a repeatedly jilted lover, and another evil and unlucky. All were fathered by a powerful storm god who didn’t always treat them so nice. There’s just so many good stories in all that!

Now, book two (West of Want, releases in April) is totally done; I’m writing book three (South of Surrender); and I’m learning some invaluable lessons about writing a series that I’m not sure I would’ve learned any other way than just, well, writing one. This list is a work in progress, but here’s what I’ve learned so far:

1. Plot out the series arc.

I know some of you just made a face. I would’ve, too, because I hate plotting. I almost feel it steals some of my creative mojo. BUT. In a series, it’s more critical than ever. Across three or four or five books, you must have a continuous and consistent world. You must have a conflict that emerges in an early book and carries through, building in each book, and leading to some ultimate big conclusion that will be satisfying for that final book and for the series.

The conflict of each individual book must be, in part, specific to the story of that book, and contribute in some way to the overarching series conflict. All of this represents a lot of moving parts, and knowing some of them from the beginning will make the writing easier and the read that much more compelling.

2. Separate voices.

In a typical romance, there is usually one hero and one heroine. Generally, it should be easy to keep their character voices separate and distinct. It’s harder in a series, where you have multiple characters. For example, in my series, I have a minimum of five main male characters and four main female characters, plus a number of secondary characters, too, mainly male.

Sticking with the guys for a minute, they can’t all sound the same. I’m kinda fond of a male character saying, “Aw, hell,” but it wouldn’t be believable that all four brothers say this. They have to have different personalities, different motivations, different favorite phrases, different cadences to their speech. This distinctiveness is even more important because, since you’re writing a series, earlier characters will often reappear in later books, and some readers will sit and read all the books in the series back to back—both will highlight any laziness in this area. You therefore need a sense of these distinct characterizations and separate voices for them from the beginning.

3. Unique…everything.

For the same reason each book in the series requires a unique voice for the characters, it also requires unique plot elements. One hero drives a motorcycle and wins his woman over in part by taking her on a thrilling and romantic night time ride? No one else can do anything like that. The bike thing is that hero’s, and the romantic night time ride thing is that couple’s.

You have a heroine with a terrifying phobia she at some point will have to confront? She’s the only one who gets that conflict. You have a hero who needs to practice sexual domination because of some past trauma? Again, that plot element has been used and is now done. You get the idea. Each book needs totally unique elements while tying into a shared world. It can be tricky, and knowing some of these elements in advance helps.

4. Conflict resolution.

Here’s another tricky one. Each book must both resolve the specific conflict of the individual book, and further develop the overarching series conflict without resolving it. The first is critical to giving your reader the feeling that the couple featured got a satisfying happily ever after that resolved their issues, the second is critical to maintaining the tension in the overarching series and bringing the reader back for more.

5. What kind of series?

There are two kinds of romantic series to consider: 1) each book in the series features a new couple, and 2) each book in the series features the same couple getting incrementally closer each time and/or fighting the forces keeping them apart or trying to tear them apart.

An example of the first would be my own series or, to name an absolute favorite *grins*, J.R. Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood series: Wrath, Rhage, Zsadist, Butch, Vishous—they each get their own romantic plotline in a separate book.

An example of the second would be Stephenie Meyers’ Twilight series: each book features Bella and Edward, and each one throws a new obstacle at them that tries to keep them apart or from finding a true happily ever after. Both have challenges.

In the first, the issues of uniqueness and distinctiveness pose challenges—the more characters your series has, the more creative you need to be to make each separate and believable. In the second, you have to find plausible conflicts that keep them apart, maintain your readers’ belief that the couple should have and can have the happily ever after book one seemed to promise, be sure not to frustrate your readers by having them behave in questionable ways while separated, etc.

If you’re a writer, what have I missed? What lessons have you learned from writing series? If you’re a reader, what do you especially like or dislike within a series?

A Note from the Book Boost: Thanks for joining us at the Book Boost, Laura. I've known you a long time (at least since the Book Boost first launched over two years ago) and I'm really happy to see you reaching such a grand level of success with your books. So incredibly proud of you. This series sounds phenomenal. I like both types of series. As long as the "old" characters make a reappearance here and there to let us know how they are doing, I'm a happy camper. Hope you'll come back in April and tell us more about the second installment.


Her tears called a powerful snow god to life, but only her love can grant the humanity he craves...

Desperate to escape agonizing memories of Christmas past, twenty-nine-year-old widow Megan Snow builds a snow family outside the mountain cabin she once shared with her husband, realizing too late that she's recreated the very thing she'll never have.

Called to life by Megan's tears, snow god Owen Winters appears unconscious on her doorstep in the midst of a raging blizzard. As she nurses him to health, Owen finds unexpected solace in her company and unimagined pleasure in the warmth of her body, and vows to win her heart for a chance at humanity.

Megan is drawn to Owen's mismatched eyes, otherworldly masculinity, and enthusiasm for the littlest things. But this Christmas miracle comes with an expiration—before the snow melts and the temperature rises, Megan must let go of her widow's grief and learn to trust love again, or she'll lose Owen forever.

Want More Laura?

Voted Breakout Author of the Year in the 2011 GraveTells Readers’ Choice Awards, Laura is the bestselling and award-winning author of a half-dozen books. Hearts in Darkness is a finalist for the EPIC eBook Award for Best Novella, Forever Freed won the NJRW Golden Leaf Award for Best Paranormal of 2011, and North of Need, the first book in the Hearts of the Anemoi series, was named GraveTells’ Best Book of 2011 and won their 5-STAR Gold Heart Award, and won Sizzling Hot Read of the Year at Sizzling Hot Books. Laura lives in Maryland with her husband, two daughters, and cute-but-bad dog, and appreciates her view of the Chesapeake Bay every day.

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Sebrina said...

5 Lessons I've just learned on why I'm a reader.
1. I don't have that imaginative quirk in me. *pouts*
2. I love reading ♫Books, take me away♫♪
3. Oh, heck I don't know
4. Did I already mention I love to read about those heros and heroines?
5. I do love Laura's books without a doubt.
Laura, I admire 100% what you can accomplish on paper, how you can draw a reader into a story so fast that we (I) don't want to put it down until I've absorbed the entire thing! :)
Thank you both for the chance at snaggin North of Need. *cheers*
Sebrina_Cassity at yahoo dot com

Barbara said...

Oh, I know it was a LOT of work...but it was SO worth it! Your fans sure appreciate all you've learned and everything you do! We LOVE your books! I personally stalk every giveaway I get wind of. That's not a bad thing...really, don't be afraid. Honest. ;)

Laura Kaye said...

@The Book Boost--Thanks so much for hosting me here at The Book Boost, and thank you for your kind words! You're right, though, our friendship goes right to the very beginning of my writing journey! :)

@Sebrina--Aw, geez, more kind words--thank you! You guys are making my day!

@Barbara--LOL I love that! Stalk, er, uh, follow away! :)

Thanks for kicking off the comments, guys! And good luck!

Rachel Brimble said...

I have just finished the first book in my first ever series and wondering what the hell I'm doing, lol! This is my 7th book but it feels so different than anything I've written before knowing number 2 & 3 are to follow.

I'm excited, kind of see everything as it should be but have that overpowering doubt of, 'can I do this?"

You are a fabulous writer, Laura and your tips have come at the perfect time for me! Thank you :)

R x

Laura Kaye said...

Aw, Rachel, I'm glad you found this useful. It IS a different writing experience, isn't it?? But I also love it because you get to keep playing with the characters you love over multiple books!!! :)

Joya said...

Hi Laura,
Great post. You know I loved, loved, loved North of Need. Can't wait to read the rest in the series.
Great advice about writing a series. I'll keep it in mind as I write my ghost stories. Thanks for sharing. :)

Vonnie Davis ~ Romance Author said...

I've just finished book two of a romantic suspense series. Book three is looming in front of me, holding its side and rolling around on the floor, laughing. How will I identify and capture this group of terrorists that I've been slowly unraveling in the first two books? Your list helped remind me of some things, mainly keeping quirks and speech patterns varied between the romantic couple in each book. It's fun, but it's also a tad frightening, too. Thanks for helping.

Laura Kaye said...

@Joya--thank you much! You were a great helping in getting that book ready to submit!

@Vonnie--We're in the same boat then, facing down book #3 and hoping it cooperates! :)

Thanks for commenting!

Tracy March said...

This was a great post, Laura. I'm working on an entirely new book--not part of a series--and all or your lessons are good ones to keep in mind! Thank you!

Robin Covington said...

Laura - Excellent post and so timely. I'm just starting #2 of my 4 book series since I just sold the first.

I'll call you when I panic!

Laura Kaye said...

Thanks Tracy!

@Robin--call away! Though I may or may not know the answer!!! LOL

Thanks for commenting, guys!

Jennifer Probst said...

HI Laura, Your list is dead on - fantastic tips for us to remind ourselves of when we're crafting a series. Thanks!

Laura Kaye said...

Thanks Jennifer! My lovely editor, Heather Howland, suggested another and I think it's so good: make sure each book in the series raises the stakes and that the big bad gets bigger and badder as the series progresses. I love that!

Thanks for commenting!

Sharla Rae said...

I'm writing the second book in a series. Thanks for the great tips.

Natalie J. Damschroder said...

Very good rules! I have to keep them in mind, especially the unique voices one. So far, with my Goddesses Rising series, my heroes are very different so it's a little easier.

But that #1...I don't think I'll ever be able to do that one. I can *plan* what the stories will be in a couple of paragraphs, but I had no clue what the overarching conflict would be until I was halfway through book 2, and I the conflict for the heroine of book 3 didn't hit me until nearly the end of book 2, and then it was so perfect and so exciting, it changed everything. No way I could have plotted those things out in advance!

So...did you decide/learn rule number one because you DID or DIDN'T do it that way? :)

Laura Kaye said...

@Sharla--you're welcome! Hope you found something useful here!

@Natalie--I'm with you, mostly. I wrote book with the idea it could be a series, but it wasn't a series when I pitched it. A lot of the series conflict, like with yours, came together in book 2. But I feel like if I were to write another series from scratch now, I'd have a better handle on what's involved from the beginning, and that would involve forcing myself to plot some stuff out, while still allowing myself to roll with the creative punches once I got underway. Good question!

Lisa Kessler said...

Great post Laura! :)

I would add that in writing both my series, I've started keeping a "Series Bible" for each one with important plot points, chracter traits, any important secrets to save until later, etc.

Since all of my series characters make appearances in all the books, I need to be sure I don't accidentally change someone's eye color, or forget one of them is terrified of flying, etc.

Great post! Good luck with Book 3! :)


Debby said...

Exciting comments. I just thought I would tell you how much I love those covers.
Debby236 at gmail dot com

Ally Broadfield said...

Great post, Laura. The series I'm working on right now involves the same couple through three books, so I don't have quite the same problems, but it is a challenge to keep everything straight and create a different conflict in each book that still relates to the central conflict, but is different (if that even makes sense!). Thanks for the tips.

Laura Kaye said...

@Lisa--your suggestion is excellent. Keep character traits consistent across four books can be challenging! Did he have green eyes, or were they blue? LOL I definitely need to start one of those for myself!

@Debby--aw, thank you very much! I love them too! They're the work of the awesome Heather Howland!!

@Ally--yes, you're right, it's a different set of issues! Good luck with it! :)

Thanks for the great comments, suggestions and questions everyone!

Karen Michelle Nutt said...


What an informative post. I think you hit the key points there.

I love JR Ward's Brotherhood series, where each character has their own romance and the other characters pop in for a visit.

Your new series has me intrigued.
I'd loved to be entered in the contest. kmnbooks at yahoo dot come


Ilona Fridl said...

Laura, your ideas on writing a series are interesting. In my Dangerous Times series, I started with one couple then in the second book, I took two of the secondary characters. The third book was the children of the originals. The first was a suspense, the second a murder mystery, and the third was a war story.

Laura Kaye said...

@Karen--thanks and good luck!

@Ilona--Ooh, what an interesting series that sounds like! Thanks for commenting!

Laura said...

Hi, Laura,

Great advice! I'm just starting on what I hope will be a series, so it's good to learn all of this up front.

Love your books!