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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99p Deal – Today Only

I’m delighted to announce that nine of my books are being featured in the Amazon Deal of the Day. That means you can download them to the Kindle for just 99p each for today only. The link to my Amazon Author page is: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Heather-Burnside/e/B008MX8LD0.

Here is a list of the books featured:

The Working Girls Series

The Mark

Ruby

Crystal

The Manchester Trilogy

Born Bad

Blood Ties

Vendetta

The Riverhill Trilogy

Slur

A Gangster’s Grip

Danger by Association

The deal lasts for today only so hurry!

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Amber Launch Day

It’s launch day for Amber and I’m really excited for this one. It’s been a whole eleven months since I last released an eBook and I think that Amber is probably my best to date. Here’s the Amazon link if you wish to purchase a copy: http://viewbook.at/Amber. The book will also be published in paperback on July 8th and you will be able to purchase a copy from Amazon using the same link.

Here’s the book blurb to give you a taster:

NOBODY TO CALL

With a mother unfit for purpose and a brother who despises her, working girl Amber can rely on no one but herself – until the meanest pimp in Manchester, Kev Pike, offers her his protection. Unfortunately, this attracts the fury of Cora, a prostitute no one wants to get on the wrong side of…

NOWHERE TO HIDE

When Cora is found strangled to death, the late-night city streets feel increasingly exposed with a killer on the loose. And as Amber grows closer to Kev, she realises his security comes at a price she might not be willing to pay…

NOTHING TO LOSE

Amber is frozen in fear, knowing one wrong move will risk her life. But then she discovers a horrifying secret that forces her to choose: stay or run?

I hope you enjoy it.

 

 

 

 

Amber Cover Reveal

I’m thrilled to be revealing the cover for my next novel, Amber, which is book four of The Working Girls series. It’s my favourite cover so far of the series. I love the amber colour of the title and the way it complements my protagonist’s hair colouring, and the girl on the cover is perfect for the character of Amber. My publishers have even included the archway in the background, which has a lot of significance in the novel. 

So, here is the cover in all its glory:

Amber

And if you want to check out the fantastic blurb too, here it is: 

NOBODY TO CALL

With a mother unfit for purpose and a brother who despises her, working girl Amber can rely on no one but herself – until the meanest pimp in Manchester, Kevin Pike, offers her his protection. Unfortunately, this attracts the fury of Cora, a prostitute no one wants to get on the wrong side of…

NOWHERE TO HIDE

When Cora is found strangled to death, the late-night city streets feel increasingly exposed with a killer on the loose. And as Amber grows closer to Kevin, she realises his security comes at a price she might not be willing to pay…

NOTHING TO LOSE

Amber is frozen in fear, knowing one wrong move will risk her life. But then she discovers a horrifying secret that forces her to choose: stay or run?

Amber will be out on 1st April 2021 but is currently available for pre-order at: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B08GV1CYX6 in the UK and https://www.amazon.com.dp/B08GV1CYX6 in the US.

My First Author Talk

A while back I was invited to do an author talk at a Manchester based writing group and, although the thought of it made me break out in a cold sweat, I agreed. This sort of thing is well out of my comfort zone and I think the last time I did any public speaking was over 25 years ago. However, I realise that, these days in particular, authors need to become more visible and interact with their readers so it was something I was determined to do.

I decided the best way to start would be with friends and family so I asked my children for some tips as they’re both university students who are used to doing this sort of thing. I was pleased to find that they were really helpful and understood my qualms.

Signing some books

Next I decided to get in some practice on family and friends then extend it to larger groups of friends of friends. It was great to get their feedback and I found that each time I gave a talk I was feeling increasingly more confident. As I tend to over breathe when I’m nervous, one of my friends recommended meditation to practice steadying my breathing, and I have found it a great help.

My friends and family have been such a tremendous support as usual in helping me to overcome my fear of public speaking. I would like to thank each and every one of them as I benefited greatly from their input. What also surprised me was that I wasn’t just relieved after my first practice session but I also felt a tremendous buzz knowing that I was well on the way to conquering my fear. Having said that, I conducted the practice sessions from my own home (bribing friends with snacks and alcohol) so I still needed to conduct the talk in a strange environment.

My talk sparked some discussion amongst the audience.

After several practice sessions I went along to the writing group that had requested the talk. It was daunting walking into a room full of strange faces knowing that I would soon be standing in front of them for the next hour giving my talk then answering questions.  However, I tried to keep calm by telling myself that I had already conducted the talk several times before so it was essentially the same talk but to a few more people. Plus, whenever I start getting nervous and out of breath I pause, take a deep breath and continue. It was also good being able to take along my brother and his partner who helped with some of the practicalities as well as giving me moral support.

I’m thrilled to say that it went well. It took till about halfway through the talk before my nerves settled but I’ve watched a video recording and am pleased to say that the nerves don’t show. The video recordings extend to over an hour altogether with roughly half an hour for the talk and another half an hour for questions as well as a short reading afterwards. Unfortunately I’m a bit lacking in the technical department so I’ve not figured out how to upload a video recording of the event on WordPress. Therefore I’m afraid I’ve only got pictures to share. However I managed to upload a short clip to my Facebook page if you want to check that out at: https://www.facebook.com/HeatherBurnsideAuthor.

Signing for a new Heather Burnside reader

I think that so often in life we are held back by our own negative thinking as we convince ourselves that we can’t do the things that feel scary or alien to us. But I’ve just proved to myself that I can do this so I’m determined to continue giving talks in the future. I am really pleased to have already received some positive feedback from the writing group and I have already been invited to speak some more.

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Touring the Bookshops for Born Bad

I have spent this weekend both celebrating the paperback launch of Born Bad and touring the bookshops to find it on the shelves. It was such a buzz to see it stocked in Waterstones so I couldn’t resist sharing a few pics.

Both pictures were taken at Waterstones in the Arndale Centre, Manchester, but I also visited the Deansgate, Manchester and Stockport branches who haven’t received their copies yet. Neither have WHS Travel at Piccadilly station, Manchester or The Works so I’ll probably be doing a return trip at some point.

My daughter also joined in the fun by having her photo taken with a copy of Born Bad.

I’d like to wish my publishers Aria Fiction at Head of Zeus a huge thanks for working so hard to get my books stocked in bookshops.

Born Bad in Paperback – Blog Tour

I’m thrilled to announce that Born Bad is going into print from tomorrow 4th April and will be stocked by Waterstones, The Works, W H Smith Travel and other independent book shops. Whether the book shops choose to stock my other books in future will depend very much on how Born Bad sells so please spread the word and encourage people to buy a copy.

As part of the launch of the paperback version my publishers, Aria, have organised a wonderful blog tour with lots of lovely bloggers involved. I’ve included details below so you can check them out.

I’ve already received my author copies of the paperback version and they look great. I can’t wait to see them on the shelves of book shops.