Friday Speak Out!: The Fantastic Fun of Writing in Series

Friday, April 20, 2018
by Denise Jaden

The title of this post is a bit tongue-in-cheek. You see, I’m about to launch my first series of connected novels, and while there are some elements of writing it that have definitely been enjoyable, I would say it would stretching it to call the process “fun.”

Even if it has been an overwhelming endeavor, I have learned so much about writing and characters and plotting through the process that I don’t regret it. I remember with the first book I published, a mystery, I swore I would never write a mystery again, as I felt my brain was simply not big enough to contain all the important elements. Of course, like the pain of childbirth, I quickly forgot this vow, and soon launched into writing another mystery.

Writing a series was taxing to my brain capacity in the same way, but multiplied by about a hundred. However this time I’m not vowing to never try it again. Instead, I’m focusing on what I’m learning, and what might make the process easier next time. I wanted to share these takeaways, in case they are helpful for others.
1. Make sure you’re working with characters you really love, and that you know them inside and out. Before writing my series, I hadn’t realized how little I had known some of my former characters. With Kass and Eli in my series, I can not only tell you the superficial stuff, like what they eat for breakfast, but also how their biggest wounding in their lives still flavors their speech and actions. Knowing these characters well has helped keep my interest alive through seven books, which is important, because if I lose interest, my readers certainly will. 
2. Use software that will help you keep everything straight. For me, this software is Scrivener. In the past I’ve heard many-a-writer tout the divine and ethereal all-powerful qualities of Scrivener. I had it on my computer, and used it from time to time, but didn’t think it offered much more than my usual writing software, Microsoft Word. When undertaking the task of writing a whole series, though, I found a whole new respect for Scrivener. I can divide my books into sub-folders upon sub-folders, and scenes and chapters, and see at a glance what is in my entire seven books. Not only that, but I can easily look up if I’ve already used a character name in any of the books, or use the project replace feature to quickly replace words or names throughout the entire series. Plus, I can easily format my books, including header images, pretty scene breaks, and small caps at the beginning of chapters, right from the Scrivener Compile tool. As you can tell, I’ve joined Team-Scrivener-Love, but for good reason! 
3. Write out of order, if it helps. I’ve always been a linear writer, writing a novel in order from start to finish. But it seems I often have to rework my beginnings many times after reaching the end, in order to get them right. With a series, I’ve felt more freedom to jump around throughout the different books I had planned, and write scenes as they came to me. This, I think, helped flavor my characters and helped me get to know them in a deep way, so my early chapters of early books hinted at the depth of these characters. This helped to create a thread of growing characterization over time.
Those are a few of my tips for writing series, but because this is my first and I’m by no means an expert, I would LOVE to hear any other thoughts and suggestions of helpful practices. It’s still a little overwhelming for me to even think of trying to embark upon a new series, but I am starting to see how it might be considered fun…some day.

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Denise Jaden’s novels have been shortlisted or received awards through the Romance Writers of America, Inspy, and SCBWI. The first draft of her debut novel, Losing Faith, was written in 21 days during NaNoWriMo 2007 and she loves talking with writers and students alike about her Just-Get-To-The-End fast-drafting process.

Jaden’s other young adult novels include Never Enough, Foreign Exchange, A Christmas Kerril, Avalanche, and Outcast. Her non-fiction books for writers include, Writing with a Heavy Heart, Fast Fiction, and Story Sparks: Finding Your Best Story Ideas and Turning Them into Compelling Fiction.

In her spare time, she homeschools her son, acts with the Vancouver film industry, and dances with a Polynesian dance troupe. Find out more at

Would you like to participate in Friday "Speak Out!"? Email your short posts (under 500 words) about women and writing to: marcia[at]wow-womenonwriting[dot]com for consideration. We look forward to hearing from you!


Angela Mackintosh said...

Denise, these are useful tips! I admire anyone who has written a series. I don't know if it's something I have the patience to do! It's great to hear another positive review of Scrivener, and I think I'll check it out. Write out of order is a great tip as well. I guess I'll add that I've heard from authors who write series that it's important to remember to add closure/resolution to all unanswered series arc questions. Thanks for the post, and I'm looking forward to checking out your books!

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