Friday, March 29, 2013

Guest Post: 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!