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Maintaining Focus and Consistency Throughout a Series

Just as my primary focus was on Duality while I was writing it, my focus is now on my current novel. That isn’t to say, though, that I don’t have an eye cast upon future books. I’ve mentioned before how I have several projects in the works. To be frank, I have enough material to keep me busy well into the year 2020 – to start. Inside that bag of goodies is a series that will span at least five novels, with potential for an additional four.

That’s a lot – but, I love it!

With that series in mind, keeping everything straight and making sure that character portraits, histories, storylines, and even names remain uniform throughout is extremely important to me because I know what a glittery clusterbomb of goodness (insert sarcasm here) it can be when things go wrong. Losing focus on your characters and stories will go a long way toward ensuring that your readers and fans lose interest.

As a reader and a fan, I have experienced such disappointment twice; once each with two favorite authors of mine. I’ll explain each situation without outing the authors in question. If you’re already fans of them then you’ll know exactly who I’m referring to. If you’re not it won’t matter anyway. You might also have examples of your own that are similar.

We have Series A: very popular to the point of having the series brought to life via the Lifetime network. We won’t even go into the campy quality of those movies… The novels started off wonderfully enough, but I began noticing inconsistencies that made no sense. History was rewritten for at least two of the characters, and yet a third had the actual spelling of his name changed somewhere by the third or fourth novel. I didn’t understand what was going on. How was the author so out of touch with her own work to have made these types of mistakes? You can’t be a history revisionist of your own work. This isn’t a series of comic books or graphic novels, where the occasional retcon helps to keep things fresh. This was a much-loved and best-selling series of novels…and the author seemed to have lost her focus.

It came to be known later on that her estate hired a ghostwriter to write books for her when she passed away. After all, hers was a name at the time (and maybe still now – who knows?) that was bankable, and there was still money to be made. I might understand – MIGHT – if it became known that it was actually the ghostwriter that was responsible (or to blame – however you like) for the way the series in question was transformed. But, after looking into it, I found out that he is not. She finished all of the novels in that particular series herself, except for the last one. As I mentioned, I started noticing inconsistencies much earlier on. That they were blatant in the final book can’t be solely blamed on the ghostwriter. He likely didn’t feel comfortable with doing a retcon on her work to correct things, or he wasn’t allowed to.

I was still put off by it, though, and didn’t read any of her other books. Or, I should say, his other books.

On to Series B: also an extremely popular author that I’d been a fan of since I was thirteen. I’ve read nearly every one of her novels, and she wrote 32 of them. I was enamored with the characters in her most popular series and could recite things about them from memory. That’s why it made no sense to me, slightly halfway through the nine-book series, when things began to change. It was the same as before – history revision at its finest – but, I was invested at this point. As I mentioned, I’d been a fan since I was a teenager and had a deep love for these characters so I wanted to see how things played out.

By the time the final book in the series was released in 2015, I hardly recognized any of the characters anymore. It wasn’t just about character growth and development. It wasn’t that I was resistent to changes in them as a result of the plot. They were not the same characters. Their behavior had changed, their way of speaking was different, and one of the main characters was suddenly about a decade younger than he should have been according to the birth date he was given in the very first novel.

In my previous post, I talked about how I’ve been keeping everything in my head so far but, when it comes to tackling my series later on, I want to make sure to keep a concordance. Yes, mistakes can be made, and I’d like to alleviate as many of them as I can by having timelines, character profiles, whatever I need categorized in a way that will help so that things aren’t confused later on and also kept at my fingertips to reference as the number of books grows within the series.

It can definitely be done, and I’m thrilled by the thought of it. Of course, deciding on when to start the series and whether to write each novel concurrently or if a different novel should be written between each one…there’s time to decide that. I still have to finish the novel I’m currently on, as well as finalize the release date for Duality.