writer chewing on pencil

What I Learned from Writing a Series

 December 31, 2020

In November of 2013, I wrote the first book in what was to become my Dancing Through Life Series.  I had no idea at the time that this book would lead to eleven other books. Here I am, seven years later with nine books published and three more in various stages of the writing process. I’ve learned a lot through the process of writing a series.

Writing a Series

I wrote that first book with no plan to create a series. It just evolved over time. I liked the characters so much, I decided to write another, then another and another. The first three books of the series, I consider “Joy’s Trilogy.” They tell the story of one family’s struggle with cancer and how that challenged their faith.

After reading more on writing a series, there was a side character from the first three books that I loved so I wrote a novel focusing on him and his Irish war bride, An Irish Slip Step. Then I created new characters, all members of St. Luke’s Church in the setting of the series, Cascade Falls, and wrote, Delicious Secrets, Beautiful Questions, and Man of the Month. And I went back to some of the original characters from first three books, further developing them for Lyrical Dance and Freedom Dance.

For my last three books, I’m focusing on Joy’s children, Ashley, Jacob, and Grace, showing how their mother’s death has affected them as adults. Book ten, Rebound, is in the final proof stage in preparation for publication in February. Book eleven, Amazing, is in the revision stage, following input from beta-readers. And the twelfth, Prima Ballerina, is in first draft stage, after writing it for NaNoWriMo this year.

Rereading Earlier Books

Before finishing these final three books, I decided I needed to go back and reread the earlier books. Easier said than done! What I had anticipated as being a quick process has become a time consuming one as I’ve ended up making changes to the first three books in the series. The plot hasn’t changed, but I’ve cleaned up point of view issues.

On the positive side, I can see how much I’ve improved as a writer. I’m also in a position to make these changes.

On the negative side, it’s a lot of detailed, time-consuming work. Something that has taken up most of my December.

What I Learned

I’ve gotten much better at point of view, moving from third person omniscient to third person limited, deep point of view. While I had some understanding of this when I started this series, it’s only been over the years of writing, getting feedback, and learning, that I think I may actually be getting a handle on this. I can see how using deep point of view is helping me avoid the dreaded “telling instead of showing” which all writers are told. It’s far too easy with omniscient to jump into a person’s head and tell the reader what’s going on rather than allow the reader to figure it out themselves through showing.

Other improvements – I’m much better at avoiding unnecessary dialogue tags, substituting he said/she said with body movement and action. And I’m cleaning up unnecessary words, like that and just, which can clutter a person’s writing. I continue to work on including all five senses in my writing.

After eight years of writing almost full time, I would hate to think I’m not getting better, so it’s a blessing to see this. Some writers just keep writing without seeking feedback or learning more about writing. They continue to churn out books with the same problems. Maybe by the time I’m eighty I’ll know what I’m doing, or not.

If Only I Had Known Then What I Know Now!

It’s a lot of work to go back and revise already published books. So much better if I would have known then what I know now. Some suggest starting with writing short stories to fine-tune your writing skills before writing a full novel, but that just wasn’t me. My ideas were always too big to fit into a short story. Still, never too late to learn. I suspect that if I go back after eight more years, I’ll find more to change.

Writing a whole series then going back and revising is not the most efficient way to learn how to write. If I had known then what I know now, it would have been easier. But the best way to learn how to write is through writing, getting feedback, and writing some more. You don’t have to know it all before you begin. You can learn on the go, like I did.

And hopefully in the process, you have some fun. I know I have!

What about you? Are you considering writing a series? Are you in the middle of writing one? I’d love to hear from you!

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