The Challenges of Writing a Book Series

Up to now I have only written books as part of a series starting with The Riverhill Trilogy then The Manchester Trilogy and then The Working Girls series and, to be honest, I am well ready for a break from series writing. My next book to be published in August, Guilt, is a spin-off from The Working Girls series so it presented me with the same challenges as with a series. Thankfully, I now am working on a standalone novel, my first of three, and it makes life so much easier.

So, what are the challenges that are unique to a series? Here are a few to consider:

Thinking of Enough Ideas to Sustain a Series of Books

Before you start writing a series you need to make sure you have plenty of ideas. With my first trilogy I only originally intended to write one novel. The ideas for the other two books flowed from the first one as I wrote it so I didn’t have the problem of having to think of the ideas for all three novels in advance.

With The Manchester Trilogy, my intention was to have one long continuous story spanning three novels but with each book being a complete story within itself. At the time I felt confident that it would work as a trilogy and I was fortunate in that the ideas kept coming but I dread to think what might have happened if I had become stuck for ideas especially as the first book was marketed as book one in a trilogy.

With The Working Girls series, each book forms a separate story. It is the setting that links the books as well as the fact that some characters appear in more than one novel. In that respect it wasn’t as trying as The Manchester Trilogy but my main challenge with this series was in managing the timeline per below.

Keeping the Continuity Going

As with any book you have to be sure of things like plot and character development but this is even more challenging with a series as you have to keep it going throughout. There are some series where each book can work as a standalone such as my Working Girls series, but there still has to be something that links it in to the rest of the series e.g. you might have the same characters reappearing in each novel or the novels might have a particular setting in common. This can sometimes be restrictive and you might end up wishing you could break away from the series.

Managing the Timeline

Timelines are my biggest bugbear when writing a novel. I’ve tried various approaches from working it out roughly then completing it at the end to tracking the date and time as I go along. No matter which method I use, I always seem to come unstuck and have to rework the timeline at the end of the novel.

With the book I’m currently writing, I tracked the dates as I went along but unfortunately the novel had a lengthier timescale than I envisioned. This meant that when I reached the middle of the novel I was already in the current day. I therefore need to rework it so that it ends up in the recent past. I find that this task requires mathematical skills more than writing skills and it isn’t one I’m looking forward to.

With The Working Girls series the problems of managing the timeline were multiplied because I had overlaps between the novels. This meant that as well as working out the timeline for each novel, I also had to work out the series timeline. So, when I came to write Sapphire, I had to work out what age she was at different points in each previous novel and where she was in her life at that particular point. Without the series timeline I wouldn’t have been able to manage it as it may have led to contradictions per below.

Being Careful of Contradictions

One thing I always dread when writing a novel is contradicting something that occurs earlier on. There are ways that help to avoid this such as keeping a list of all the characters and their characteristics as well as a list of places and a sequence of events. The latter is where you keep a track of each scene by writing a few lines summarising the events in that scene. Despite all these techniques, there is still always a chance that by the time you get to the later stages of the novel, you will have forgotten the details from earlier. With a series this problem is even more evident.

My spin off novel, Guilt, follows on from Crystal, book 3 in The Manchester Trilogy. Therefore, before I started to write it, I did a full recap of Crystal by checking the sequence of events including the timeline and by reading through Crystal to refresh my memory.

And the advantages:

Reader Feed Through

This is probably the biggest advantage of writing a series, and the reason why publishers love them so much. If readers enjoy one of your books and they find out it is part of a series, then there is a good chance they will hunt for other books in that series. This doesn’t just happen with book one. Often readers will discover a book later in the series and then go back to the previous books.

Reader feed through is also more common with series than standalones because readers often become engrossed in the characters.

Pricing Strategy

Because of reader feed through with series, it is easier to tempt readers to try your latest novel by reducing the price of the previous ones. This also has the advantage that you can keep your new publication at full price and still attract new readers.

Those are the advantages and disadvantages that spring to mind for me but if you think of any others, please feel free to share them in the comments below.

If you would like to check out any of my books, my Amazon author page is: http://Author.to/HBurnside.

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Vendetta – Launch Day

Today I’m thrilled to launch the last book in my Manchester Trilogy, Vendetta. After working with the characters for approximately two years it’s such a joy to finally publish book three. Here are all the links to the online book stores so you can bag your copy. I’ve also included the book blurb below to tempt you:

Amazon: http://viewbook.at/VendettaMcr

iBooks: https://apple.co/2MpVHz7

Kobo: http://bit.ly/2OYW3JI

Google Play: http://bit.ly/2OW79PR

 

When Adele’s brother, Peter, gets banged up for GBH she reluctantly agrees to run his nightclub, The Golden Bell. Strong opposition from Peter’s thuggish number two, Glynn, who isn’t best pleased about answering to a woman, isn’t the only challenge she faces.

The Manchester club scene of the 1990s is a dangerous place, at the mercy of illicit protection rackets and rampaging gangs, and, despite Adele’s efforts to keep everything legal, the club is beginning to feel like a poisoned chalice.

Meanwhile, Glynn is playing his own ruthless game, and when a savage gang attack has devastating consequences Adele is ready to walk away. But Peter has always stood by her and she owes him big time. Besides, where else would an ex-con find work? And someone has to protect her brother’s empire from his enemies. Right now, Adele knows she is the only one that Peter can trust, but the stakes may soon get too high…

 

I hope you enjoy the concluding book in the Manchester Trilogy.

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Vendetta – Cover Reveal

I am delighted to reveal the cover for the third book in my Manchester trilogy, Vendetta. It will be published on 2nd October but the Kindle version is already available for pre-order on Amazon by following the link: http://viewbook.at/VendettaMcr.

Here is the lovely cover with the book blurb below:

When Adele’s brother, Peter, gets banged up for GBH she reluctantly agrees to run his nightclub, The Golden Bell. Strong opposition from Peter’s thuggish number two, Glynn, who isn’t best pleased about answering to a woman, isn’t the only challenge she faces.

The Manchester club scene of the 1990s is a dangerous place, at the mercy of illicit protection rackets and rampaging gangs, and, despite Adele’s efforts to keep everything legal, the club is beginning to feel like a poisoned chalice.

Meanwhile, Glynn is playing his own ruthless game, and when a savage gang attack has devastating consequences Adele is ready to walk away. But Peter has always stood by her and she owes him big time. Besides, where else would an ex-con find work? And someone has to protect her brother’s empire from his enemies. Right now, Adele knows she is the only one that Peter can trust, but the stakes may soon get too high…

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A Gangster’s Grip on Offer

Here’s your chance to grab a copy of ‘A Gangster’s Grip’ for the special reduced price of just 99p (UK) or 99c (USA) on the Kindle. The price is reduced for three days only from Friday 5th August till Sunday 7th August. To download a copy, just follow the link: http://viewbook.at/GangstersGrip.

Gangster's Grip V4

‘A Gangster’s Grip’ is a gritty crime novel and is book 3 in the Riverhill Trilogy. Although part of a trilogy, it can also be read as a standalone novel. To give you a taste of what the book is about, here is the book blurb:

When Rita returns to Manchester after a few years away, she doesn’t expect to find a spliff smoking, beer swilling thug called Leroy firmly ensconced on her parents’ sofa. Rita is horrified to discover he is her sister Jenny’s new boyfriend, and she senses trouble.

The more Rita finds out about Leroy, the more she mistrusts him. As she uncovers the truth about his shady dealings, she becomes anxious about Jenny’s safety and is desperate to lure her away from him. Rita’s mettle is tested as she tries to protect her sister while battling with personal health concerns.

But it’s worse than Rita could ever have suspected. Through her association with Leroy, Jenny is about to become embroiled in the most dangerous phase in Manchester’s recent history.

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I hope you enjoy it.

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Early Reviews for ‘Danger by Association’

I’m thrilled with how well ‘Danger by Association’ has been received. It’s had some glowing reviews already. Authors are generally advised not to respond to reviews on Amazon but I’m always tempted to thank the customers who have bought the book and taken the trouble to write a review. So, here is a big thank you to all those customers who have reviewed ‘Danger by Association’ (or any of my books) on Amazon or Goodreads and/or left a rating on Goodreads.

Here is a sample of some of the reviews that have come in during the last few days:

4.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyed this book

By Ann on 13 July 2016

Enjoyed this book have read a lot of Heather Burnside books and must say they have all been good so yes roll on the next one .

 

5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent read can’t wait for her next book

By Kindle Customer on 11 July 2016

Excellent read can’t wait for her next book. Is there one on the way?

 

5.0 out of 5 stars A gripping read.

By Amazon Customer on 5 July 2016

It was a great read though very hard to put down , knowing the characters from the previous book it was so easy to get into, if you hadn’t read the previous books it might have not been as easy to understand the story would recommend this book to all mancunians.

 

5.0 out of 5 stars Feedback

By Amazon Customer on 2 July 2016

I’ve read the trilogy in 5 days absolutely brilliant. Total suspense throughout and will be recommending this series to all my friends !

 

5.0 out of 5 stars A belting story

By Angela lockwood on 1 July 2016

A belter of a read . A real page turner full of twists and turns

 

In answer to the reader who asked whether there is another book on the way; yes, I’m currently working on a new book which I intend to publish early in 2017.

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Bowie Tribute

There’s a legend gone up to the sky

He wrote fantastic music

And his talent blew my mind

 

There’s a legend gone up to the sky

It’s sad he had to go now

But his presence was worthwhile

 

He taught me:

 

Express yourself through lyrics

Express yourself through music

We won’t forget his music

 

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So sad to hear the news today. R.I.P David Bowie.

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Chetham’s – The Oldest Public Library in the English-Speaking World

In my quest to blog about some of Manchester’s wonderful historic libraries, I thought I would start with Chetham’s in view of its claim to be the oldest public library in the English-speaking world. It’s a fascinating place to look at and I am amazed that I have only recently visited it for the first time considering how long I have lived in Manchester. With my joint loves of books and poking about in old buildings, I was in my element.

Chethams Entrance

Chetham’s entrance

Although visitors are advised to book in advance, I arrived on spec because I was going into Manchester city centre anyway. After a 10 minute wait due to a service taking place in the adjoining school, I was allowed access to the library and entered a beautiful medieval courtyard.

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Visitors have to be accompanied by a guide (I presume it’s because of the value of some of the old books and other relics). I think my guide soon realised that progress around the building would be slow as I continuously stopped to take photographs and admire the paintings, ornate windows, beamed ceilings etc. etc. I suppose there are only so many ‘wows’ you can contend with so she eventually left me to cover the top floor unaccompanied – yippee!

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History

Here’s a little of the history:

The library was established in 1653 under the will of Humphrey Chetham, a wealthy Manchester textile merchant, banker and landowner. It began as a school for the poor, although the building that houses the library dates back to 1421 and was built as a college for priests. Chetham’s is now a music school with the library attached.

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Humphrey Chetham’s portrait above the fireplace in the reading room

The history of the building is very much in evidence as you walk around Chetham’s. The walls are built from sandstone quarried locally in Collyhurst, and I marvelled at the thickness of the doors, and the beautiful oak furniture in the reading room.

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Original doors

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The oak table and leather backed chairs (also oak) in the Reading Room were purchased in the 1650s. Two students were working at the other end of the table during my visit so I wasn’t able to take a picture of the whole table. The chairs are of Cromwellian type, characterised by the square backs, turned legs and scroll work on the leg connectors.

The collection of books in the library dates back to the library’s inception in 1653, and continues to expand. Nowadays the collection focuses on the history and topography of Greater Manchester and Lancashire as well as other topics of local interest. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to examine the books as they’re kept in gated alcoves.

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The gated alcoves and beamed ceilings with a view through to the Reading Room

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Some of the wonderful old book collection under lock and key

Lastly, I’ll finish by adding a few images of the Baronial Hall although it was difficult to capture in all its glory.

In future blog posts I’ll be visiting some of Manchester’s other historic libraries.

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Happy Birthday Cupid’s Way

Talented and prolific author Joanne Phillips is celebrating the first birthday of her romantic comedy “Cupid’s Way” today. This isn’t Joanne’s first book. She also writes contemporary romance and cosy mysteries, and I have personally read and enjoyed a couple of Joanne’s other books.

“Cupid’s Way” is based on an actual street and Joanne has included some interesting background details about the book in her blog post. You can find out more and take a look at the enticing book blurb by following the link below:

Happy Birthday Cupid’s Way.

Reasons to Publish in Print

 

Opinions are divided on whether or not it’s a good idea to publish in print as well as digitally nowadays. Certainly it can save a lot of time and added expense to only publish digitally, and some authors are achieving success without releasing a print version. However, I like to see a book in print, as do many readers so I thought I’d put together some of my thoughts on the argument for publishing a print version of your book.

1) Book shops – They attract a local readership and local publicity. For example, if you hold a book shop signing, you stand a good chance of being featured by the press in the area where the book Bookshopshop is situated. Regional authors often start by building up a following in the area where their novels are based. This makes sense because these readers will identify with the places and customs explored through the author’s books.

It’s a mutual arrangement with local book shops – you are supporting the business by giving something of interest to draw in extra customers e.g. a book signing event, and the book shop in turn is helping to get your book noticed.

2) Libraries – With a print version of your book you can sell to libraries, which gets the word out to a wider audience. Every copy sold to a library could be read by numerous people who may recommend your books to others. Some people who borrow books from libraries also buy books so they may become firm fans who will buy future books by the same author.

3) Reader preference – Some people still prefer print and, in particular, many people like to get their hands on an author signed version.

4) Goodreads Giveaways – This is where you put up a few print copies of your book on the Goodreads site to be given away to participating readers. Goodreads chooses the winners from the participants. The advantage of giving away a few copies is that many people add your book to their “to be read” lists when they enter the Giveaway.

Having only published one novel, the jury’s still out on this one for me. I would surmise that the benefits from having a Goodreads Giveaway are ongoing rather than an immediate route to sales. This is because many readers on Goodreads have thousands of books on their “to be read” lists so it could be a couple of years (if ever) before some of them read my book.

I wouldn’t underestimate the power of Goodreads though and I think it could be especially advantageous if you have more than one novel available. If my book reaches the top of a lot of lists in a couple of years’ time, and those people like my book, they may decide to purchase other books as well as recommending my book to other readers on the site. I can therefore see how the snowball effect could kick in.

5) Other opportunities – I have been invited to take part in a literature festival in the summer as a result of having my book stocked by a Manchester book shop. Having your book in print can open up similar opportunities.

6) Presents – It’s easier for people to buy print books for birthday and Christmas, presents for their family and friends. Although the bulk of books sold are now digital, sales of print books will boost your overall sales figures.Clipartsalbum_31410 Child

7) Amazon – Having a print version of your book available looks good on Amazon because Amazon shows the savings that purchasers are making when they buy the Kindle version. The majority of people buying books on Amazon choose to buy Kindle rather than print versions, so this is a good thing especially as independent authors tend to price their Kindle versions low.

N.B. Having said all the above, I have published my short story book in digital format only, but I have based this decision on the fact that it isn’t cost effective to publish in print for a book of that size.

Please feel free to share your thoughts on this topic. Do you prefer to publish only a digital version or do you like to see your book in print too? Are there any other reasons for publishing a print version which I have not covered above, or are there any disadvantages?

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A Change of Plan

Now that I’ve published my debut novel, ‘Slur’ and my short story book, ‘Crime, Conflict and Consequences’ I’m pressing ahead with my second novel. I originally intended the second novel to be a disturbing psychological thriller called ‘Bad Brother and I’. Having already written about 10,000 words of this book, mostly in outline form but with the opening and concluding chapters drafted, it seemed the logical next step. In fact, I had also published the blurb for ‘Bad Brother and I’ in the back of ‘Slur’.

Then something happened.

As I was writing ‘Slur’ I thought of a great idea for a sequel. I had grown attached to one of my main characters in ‘Slur’, called Rita, and through my debut novel I had alluded to the fact that she hadClipartsalbum_31410 Child a rather colourful home life with a father who was a petty criminal and a sister who hung about with some dubious characters. Rita is feisty, foul mouthed and brash but she’s also loyal and has a strong sense of right and wrong as a result of her grandparents’ influence when she was a child. Therefore I thought it would be interesting to explore her character further and place her in an extremely challenging situation.

I decided that I would push on with ‘Bad Brother and I’ once I had published my short story book, and then write the sequel to ‘Slur’. My reasoning behind this was that I was much further forward with ‘Bad Brother and I’ than with any of the other novels I had planned. However, whilst I was getting ‘Slur’ ready for publication, additional ideas for the sequel were forming in my mind. I already had the plot roughly sketched and I was adding notes to it daily.

I was so excited about the idea for the sequel that I also typed up the opening chapter in draft form. Then, one morning I woke up at 5 am after a dream and I had the whole of the ending in my head. I couldn’t wait to get it down on paper. Fortunately, I have a notepad at my bedside because of my overactive imagination (these ideas always seem to come to me in the middle of the night – sod’s law!)

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The following day I typed up the ending in draft from my handwritten notes and I could see the novel starting to take shape. I knew then that I didn’t want to put it off until I had written ‘Bad Brother and I’. After all, I was still immersed in the world that I had created and the characters were fresh in my mind so I decided to go for it. I changed the blurb in the back of ‘Slur’ and started work on the sequel as soon as I had launched the short story book.

I am now four chapters and 10,000 words in and I’m so glad I made this decision. There is no way I could have focused on ‘Bad Brother and I’ when all my enthusiasm was for the sequel. I’m really enjoying working on this book although it may have to take a back seat for a couple of weeks as I’m currently organising a couple of client jobs.

Although I was further forward with ‘Bad Brother and I’ than with the sequel to ‘Slur’, I actually think that this book will flow more quickly because I’m full of enthusiasm for it. There’s another advantage in writing this book next, and that is the fact that it is similar in type to ‘Slur’. Therefore, I can target them to the same readership.

Clipartsalbum_16620 BooksMy husband actually came up with an idea for a third book in the series. At first I wasn’t sure if it could be developed into a full-length novel as it was just the bare bones of an idea. However, the more I thought about it, the more it appealed to me and I began fleshing out the plot and adding detail. It is now definitely workable as a novel and, as a result, ‘Slur’ has become the first part in a trilogy.

So I think my Bad Brother will have to wait a while longer before he gets his turn in the limelight. Sorry Bad Brother but my female characters are just too dominant. I will get back to it one day though and I think that once I’ve taken the characters from ‘Slur’ as far as I can, I’ll be ready to work with a new set of characters and give them my undivided attention.

Authors, have you ever had a writing dilemma that has caused you to make a complete change in your writing plans? Or, perhaps you’ve had a character who has taken on a life of his or her own. I’d love to hear your comments on this.

 

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