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Hello, writers. Hey, we won! We won!

/enormous relief

Have I mentioned how Wolf Blitzer annoys me?

Did you see CNN deliberately refusing to call states between 10 and 11 pm so the race would still look “close”?

Now I know I’m not here to talk politics, but this just struck me. I gave up on fixing my Sandy-damaged wall—once I got the sheetrock off, things underneath were pretty bad, so I called some guys. While I hesitate to slap labels, these guys are dads and they follow Nascar, so I guess they are Nascar dads. Rural, white, involved in the ripping stuff up and putting it back together industry. And as they ripped they talked about the election.

They were voting for Obama; no drama. No talk about birth certificates or any of the other codewords for hate. They did not mention the sanctity of marriage/life/etc. They said Obama seemed competent, intelligent and experienced whereas Romney didn’t. The end.

Actually it was kind of similar to their discussion about what kind of sheetrock to use. Pragmatic.

Anyway, to the matter at hand. Writing. Tonight I want to talk a little bit about writing a series, because it seems to be a popular sport these days. Here’s what I’ve learned about it.

Serieses happen in two different ways. The first is intentionally: A publisher decides to begin a series by an author (or sometimes by several authors), and see if it catches on. The second is accidentally. A one-off book sells better than expected, and the publisher and author decide to do a sequel, and then another sequel.

When publishers do buy a series, they generally want a shorter one than they have in the past—say three books rather than seven.

You generally need to present the first book as “a stand-alone with series potential” rather than “the first of a series”. And it does need to stand alone. They may end up offering you a multi-book contract, but they still want to see a first book that can stand alone.

If you’re working on your first-ever novel manuscript and thinking of it as the beginning of a series—well, that’s fine, but. Here’s the thing. The average author who gets published sells his or her fourth manuscript. If you’re luckier than average, you might sell the first book of your series—or you might sell the second. Can you start your series there? Or with the third, or with the fourth? Just something to think about.

Technically, I’m finding continuity is quite a mare’s nest, too. But that may be because of circumstances—the year-long hiatus I took in the middle of book two. Hanging guns on the wall in book 1 for removal in book 2 and 3 takes a  lot of organization or, if you lack that as I do, a lot of rereading and rewriting. Keeping characters consistent while continuing to develop them gets pretty confusing too.

Anyway. That’s all I know about series-writing, so far.

Tonight’s challenge:
Let’s say you wrote a book that did rather well. The Quest for the Jewel of Togwogmagog traced a callow youth and his/her stout companion as, following the advice of the ever-absent Froop, they bested the dread Least Grebe and recovered the fabled Jewel of Togwogmagog. The end.

Only now the fans are screaming for a sequel, and you are not averse.

Write the opening of the sequel. Remember an opening should move the story forward without wallowing in backstory. Start off with a bang if possible, either figurative or literal.

Oh, I almost forgot—NaNoWriMo! Here is a list of people who have said they might do it or will do it.
terrypinder
CayceP
Wiseferret
CFAmick (goal is 1k a day for 30 days)
Melanie in IA
Mnemosyne
jabney
These doughty writers are shooting for 50k words in the month of November. Unless otherwise stated. Good luck to all—write on! If you want to give us a word count update, I’ll post your score in next week’s diary.
Write On! will be a regular weekly diary (Thurs 8 pm ET) until it isn't.
Before signing a contract with any agent or publisher, please be sure to check them out on Preditors and Editors, Absolute Write and/or Writer Beware.
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