Friday, March 29, 2013

On Creating A Series by Pat Amsden

Have you ever wondered how Janet Evanovich came up with the idea of doing a series based around Stephanie Plum, someone who loses a job selling lingerie and decides to take a job working for her uncle, who's a bail bondsman? Or J.K. Rowling decided to write a series on a boy wizard?

Better yet have you ever wondered how you'd come up with a series like that? I'm guessing a fertile imagination would help. And then something in your background. Janet Evanovich comes from the area her Stephanie Plum character inhabits. J.K. Rowling went to a British private school and knew what it was like to be a student in one. But I suspect they probably just wanted to write one book to start with. I may be wrong but I don't think either of them really envisioned the success they would have with the characters or the number of books they would write about these characters when they started out.

Now, you can't talk to an editor without them asking if you have an idea for more books based on the book you're pitching them. So far they've yet to FIRMLY commit to the book I'm pitching to them although they've wanted to see more. But just in case they do they'd like me to come up with ideas for several more based on characters from the original book.

This time I'm started out with the idea of a series. But on what? Ok. I like chocolate. I like mysteries and I live in Victoria. What better than a mystery series based on an amateur sleuth who has a chocolate shop and catering business? I started noodling around the type of person I wanted the main character to be. Smart, sassy and too nosy to keep her nose out of other people's business. Really, have you ever known anyone to create a series around someone too stupid to live? On purpose? Especially if they're going to have to figure out who just killed someone else?

Then I came up with a side kick, Heath. Part of it was practicality. Catering requires a lot of heavy lifting so her side-kick Heath is 6'2' and a recent graduate of cooking school. Young, enthusiastic, works for cheap and can do the heavy lifting. I gave her an on again/off again love interest who was a policeman. There's more, but that's the backbone of it.

I started writing it but I can't even keep all the details straight for one book. I can't imagine doing it through a whole series. I started making some notes. I read an article where one writer talked about using Castle's murder board in reverse to figure out what she was doing in her books. And then I saw a course through the Margie Lawson Academy of Writing to develop a series bible. OK. I'm not overly religious but this was really a way to develop and write a series. Perfect!

I signed up for it. So far I've learned what I want to do is a stand alone series which is the writer's equivalent to a subdivision filled with houses compared to a big book which would be more like a huge mansion. I decided to use Power Point for my bible. Someone else is using Pinterest. I like the idea and I'm issuing Pinterest to create a board for my book (secret) it's like a compost heap of ideas for me which ferment around in my brain hopefully creating an interesting book.

And I'm seriously thinking about self-publishing it. I know a few people who are self-publishing and they're doing pretty well at it. I’m planning for later this year. Wish me luck!

Author link:


Leanne Dyck said...

Thank you for writing this interesting article, Pat.

lovindanger said...

Great post Pat.
You've helped me understand the different ways books can be linked in a series, a puzzle that has plagued me for some time.
Can't wait to read your latest chocolate themed work.
Best Wishes

Meg said...

Best of luck, Pat! I'm trying to come up with a mystery series premise, and am working furiously on the first book, learning the whole craft along the way. It's fascinating, but oh, man it is complicated, too. I like your idea of using the location as the tie between standalone novels.

Also think going the digital publishing route is a good bet, too!

Pat Amsden said...


I wanted to reply to each of you separately but that doesn't seem possible.


First of all, thank you Leanne for inviting me to blog here. You have some great posts from other authors and I'm honoured to be included with them.


I'm happy if I've managed to she'd some light on series for you. I know sometimes I read one of your blogs and a light goes on for me so it's good to know it's a two way street.


I'm having great fun creating my chocolate series and am using the same ideas for some of my other work! You're right, it's fascinating but it also gets complicated sometimes too. Best of luck with your series!

Lisa McManus Lange said...

Great post, Pat. Well done! Got me thinking about my own writing. Thank you for sharing what you do, how you do it, and how you come up with ideas. Like the 'bible' idea! Well done! Lisa McManus Lange

Jacqui Nelson said...

Very interesting post, Pat. Your series and your characters sound very intriguing as well!

Laurie Buchanan said...

I loved reading this post! I'm working on a series as well. I have a large 3-ring binder with a "chapter" that contains details for each character (hair color, eye color, height, weight, age, country of origin, temperament, etc). I also have a "chapter" for the geographic location so I can remember what I've said about that, and the town's people as well.

Shereen Vedam said...

I love your idea of using powerpoint or even Pinterest as a story board. Will have to try that myself.

Good luck with your series, Pat, it sound intriguing.

Pat Amsden said...

To everyone who left a comment to my post, thank you. If you enjoyed it and found something use-full in your own writing I'm honoured.

A special thank you to you Leanne for having me on and hosting such an interesting blog. Not only that but you have me ready to pick up knitting needles for the first time in years!


Leanne Dyck said...

: ) Ah, yes, I thought I heard that familiar click, click.
Thank you, Pat, for your interesting article. And, of course, everyone who read/comment (on) this post.