Thursday, March 15, 2012

Writing the next book in a series - surprises and pitfalls

I've done six rewrites of Bluewater Vengeance, the second book in the Bluewater Thriller series.  It's almost ready; I'm waiting to hear from two first readers to see if it needs another edit.  I'm hoping to publish it in the Kindle Store within the next two weeks.

If you've been waiting for it, thanks for your patience.  If you enjoyed Bluewater Killer, you should enjoy this one, as well.  Many of the characters will be familiar, and you'll see some different aspects of their personalities as they grow and interact with new people in different situations.

This is my first effort at writing a series, and it's been interesting.  When I wrote Bluewater Killer, I was planning to follow it with a second book.  I laid the groundwork for Bluewater Vengeance, or so I thought, anyway.  As I started writing the second book, I realized that I had a whole new set of constraints related to the characters and the plot.

In the planning stage, before I wrote the first book of the series, I thought only of the positive aspects of carrying the same characters forward.  I was right about that; there are a lot of positives, but there are also some problems.  The characters have to stay true to themselves from one book to the next, or if they don't, their evolution has to be explained.  That made for some interesting work, and constant re-reading of the previous book as I wrote the second one.

The same was true for facts from the first book.  I was constantly checking back and forth to make sure that what was black and white in Bluewater Killer didn't become green and red in Bluewater Vengeance.

Those two things made for some tedious work as I spun out the story, but, for me at least, the hardest thing was making sure that Bluewater Vengeance was self-sufficient.  I've read a number of books that were part of a series, and I have often started in the middle.  Sometimes that happened because I didn't realize I was buying a book that was in a series, and other times it happened because I couldn't lay my hands on the previous book and I was strongly attracted to the one which was near at hand.

The best of those series were perfectly coherent when read out of order; it 's always frustrating when I find myself lost because I'm missing references to the previous work that I haven't read.  Patrick O'Bryan's Aubrey-Maturin books were outstanding, because they could be read out of order without any sense of confusion, and each book still built on the collected experience from the others.

I now have a better appreciation of what a fine writer he was.  The challenge of carrying the characters forward into a new story that builds on their experiences in the previous book without continually summarizing the previous book (boring and condescending) or leaving the reader confused and annoyed was new for me.  I should have seen it coming, but I didn't.  A lot of the re-writing dealt with this issue.

Now that I've been through the learning curve, will I do it again?  I've always been stubborn, and not always bright, so the answer is yes.  On the balance, it was fun to develop the characters further.  I've already started sketching out the next book, which I'm calling Bluewater Voodoo for now.

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