Writing a series vs. a novel

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I am finally writing the post I’ve been wanting to write ever since I first started Clara and Claire. For those of you who are planning to write either, I’m hoping this can be helpful. There’s a lot of different ways I thought of tackling this, and mind you I’m going to include a lot of personal experience with this too. I think that’s a big part of writing. There’s no right way of doing something, but everyone’s experience varies.

Let’s face it a series takes a lot of planning. You might not have it all planned out at the beginning of book one. Unless you’re one of those people who have the whole series planned before you begin –to which I say bravo! But you can equally put just as much time into a standalone novel.

A series is a lot like a butterfly effect. If this happens, this will happen in the next book. If this character dies, this character won’t be in the rest of the series. It’s a lot of playing around with different ideas to see how they’ll fit into the puzzle. Because a series is, in a lot of ways, like a puzzle. You have to test the ideas, see how they work, and then if it doesn’t fit with the idea you have for the overall series you start over again.

With the Magicians series there were a lot of times I didn’t decide on the exact nature of the next book until I was finished with the current one. That’s just the way I write. But I constantly reminded myself after this book there would be another and another until the series ended.

There’s some other major points that make a series so different from a standalone novel:

  • Setting -There’s going to be a lot more time you’ll be spending with the setting of your novel. Even if your characters stay in the same place throughout all the books, there’s still a lot of development and thought you’ll need to put into it. You want this to be the world that’s special to your series, that separates it from other books.
  • Character development -Your characters need to be constantly developing throughout the whole series, just like real people do throughout their life. This is where the butterfly effect is huge. If something traumatic happens to your MC, we want to see and feel what effect that has on them. If they make a huge lifestyle change we want to know why and how it changes them afterward.
  • Voice -Maybe the voice changes throughout your series. For example, in my series the narrator changed with each book. So every book there was always a change in the voice because never the same person was telling the story. Even if this isn’t the case for you, your MC is going to be growing and changing throughout the series. What might have been a bitter MC at the beginning could end with a satisfied one.
  • Endings -endings are so important for series. I really can’t stress this enough. You have to end each book in a way to convince your readers to come back for more. Always leave them wanting more, which is easier said than done. My best suggestion for this is to read the endings of your favorite series and see how the author kept you coming back.

As for standalone novels they’re massively different from a series. This is a one time book. Afterwards you want the reader feeling like they’re just read an amazing book and can’t wait to read more from you.

A novel has everything a series has : character development, settings, a great ending, and your MC’s voice. Except all of these things you have to cram into one book. From someone who was used to only writing series, I found this to be the most challenging part. Like huh, how will this all fit into one book? So it’s important to plan and also recognize what’s in your novel’s ending. If at the end you still feel there’s more to tell, that it can’t all be said in one book, then maybe you need to write a sequel. But if you’re aiming for a standalone make sure you have everything wrapped up at the end.

With standalone novels this means you have one chance to impress the readers. By the end they should know whether they love it or hate it. And if you’ve done it right they should be searching your name to find other books by you. This is also a great chance to gain readers who don’t like series or don’t have the time for them.

Every author has their preference just like our readers do. As for me I’m still a sucker for series, but I loved the work I did for Clara and Claire and it has me excited for my next project –which I’ll be announcing after the release. But regardless I think it’s important for us to step away from the things we’re comfortable with and try something new. For me it was a standalone novel. For you it might be that romance novel you’ve been debating on writing. It can be anything, and if you don’t at first succeed keep writing. You can only get better!

Lindsey Richardson

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NaNoWriMo: Day 2

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Day 2 of NaNoWriMo. My current word count: 5, 486. Words left: 44,514. Mood: hopeful.

You know when I write up two blog posts in one day it’s been a productive (and busy!) day. Today is the second day of NaNoWriMo, and I can’t help but feel hopeful. I reached over 5k today in my novel. It’s interesting to watch as people announce their progress because everyone’s at a different place right now. Some people write crazy fast, and I admire that. And then there’s people like me who are more on the slower side. But at the end of the day we’re all working toward the 50k goal, and the great thing with this challenge is it doesn’t matter how you get there.

If you’re feeling down on your progress –believe me we’ve all been there, and I’ll be there at some point this month too. And what I say to that: Don’t be! Be proud of how far you are, whether you’re only a few hundred words in or you’re way past where you ever expected. Progress is progress no matter how small.

Something I’ve been struggling a lot with (and this is always a problem I have when writing) is analyzing my work. My inner editor keeps begging me to go over that last sentence, that last paragraph, the last three chapters. And I have to keep resisting! NaNoWriMo is all about writing that 50k. And I think the best lesson this challenge teaches us is that it doesn’t matter if you write crap. Right now I’m not sure if I’m over the moon with my first few chapters. Honestly I might hate them later on and be wondering “who wrote this?!” But I’m not letting that stop me.

As for some NaNoWriMo necessities to success, here’s what I’ve been using (that helps a lot):

  • coffee (notice how this is always the first bullet point? It’s that important!)
  • “Wordly” –this is a writing app. I’ve talked about it many times before, and I’m going to keep talking about it because it’s amazing. It’s entirely free, and it’s how I keep track of my word count. I set it to remind me about writing at certain times in the day, and it keeps up with my goal of reaching 50k. I used it for Clara and Claire, and now I’m using it with NaNoWriMo. Seriously get this app or something close to it!!
  • Ommwriter –I wish I could suggest Scrivener, but I don’t have it. If anyone wants to gift it to me this Christmas, I’d love you forever! Ommwriter isn’t free (I think it’s $4-5), but basically it’s really cheap for what it offers. Distraction free writing is huge. It’s so important, especially if you’re like me and get distracted by everything.
  • stationary: journal/paper, pen

So it’s not a lot, but that’s what is keeping me on my toes during all of this.

Remember that you determine your own pace. You might not go as fast as someone else, but it’s easy to fall in love with a story. If you have to leave spaces for parts of the story you’re not sure about for right now and move on. Don’t stay stuck in one place. Just keep writing, and remember after this month you can go back and fix it. (Or if you want never look at it again.)

As for me, I’m working outside my comfort zone with this new novel because it’s unlike anything I’ve done before. So it’s both thrilling and terrifying at the same time. But who knows, maybe after this month I’ll share the first chapter or something on Wattpad for a limited time.

Writing is a beautiful thing, and so long as you know where you are and where you’re headed, you’re covered! At this point I’m glad I’m taking on this challenge again because it reminded me how simple writing can be sometimes. To take away the stress of “oh my gosh this is my next releasing title” and just write is a beautiful thing. I had my break from writing for long enough, and now I’m just glad to have a break from “serious” writing to explore into a genre I wouldn’t usually write.

How far are you into NaNoWriMo? Leave your book title and link to your profile below, and I’ll check out your progress!

I’m not sure if I’m done with writing for the day, but I wanted to write up this post just in case. Keep up the writing!

Lindsey Richardson

NaNoWriMo 2016

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With October almost being at an end, it’s time to talk about NaNoWriMo. I’m going to do my best job making this post friendly and useful to people who are new to this challenge and those who are familiar with it.

For those of you who have never heard of the challenge, November is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). The goal is to write 50,000 words in 30 days. And of course if you have the energy and sanity to write more, you don’t have to stop at the 50k mark. It’s not a challenge that’s for everyone, and that’s okay. NaNoWriMo requires a lot of hard work in a short amount of work. Some authors hate it, others love it. It’s a challenge that I myself debate about every year. So if you’re debating and you can’t make up your mind, probably the best suggestion I can give you is it never hurts to try. The great thing about NaNoWriMo is you can write anything. Write fan fiction if you want to. If it’s your first time just write for the fun of it because that’s going to help you move closer and closer to your goal.

But most importantly, and I can’t stress this enough, don’t make it about winning.

I’ve been a member of NaNoWriMo for 8 years –and 6 of those 8 years I participated. Only once did I officially win (though technically in 2013 I would have wrong but uploaded a few minutes after the deadline). I never do this challenge because I want to win, though that’s a great motivator to keep in your mind. I do this because I love to write, and NaNoWriMo is the time to bust out the novel you’ve been neglecting or the story you were afraid to write. It’s just one month, and then if you absolutely hate what you wrote you can move on with your life. Sounds like a good enough deal to me.

Reasons to not do NaNoWriMo this year? It differs for everyone, but only you know your time management and schedule. Last year I didn’t do it because of my wedding and honeymoon all happening in November. This year I’m going to try to do it, despite the fact that by November I’ll be in a whole new state. It never hurts to try the challenge and then take it one day at a time. With this challenge that’s all you really can do because if you start analyzing it too much you’ll lose your mind.

If you’re eager to learn more and join, go ahead and stop by NaNoWriMo‘s official site. Feel free to stop on by my profile and add me as a buddy. I’ve uploaded my NaNoWriMo novel for this year, and I’ll be sharing more details about it later this month, but for now I’ll leave you with the mock cover I designed.

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Only Parts of Me will be my 2016 NaNoWriMo novel. I don’t have any more details to share at the moment because I’m still prepping, but I’ll let you know more before the start of November. And keep in mind this isn’t the novel I’m planning to release next after Clara and Claire (but it may possibly be for a future release).

What about you? Are you doing NaNoWriMo this year, and what’s your novel? Leave links in the comments, and I’ll go check out your novels. I’ll be sharing more tips and details about the challenge later on.

Lindsey Richardson

Preparing for Publication

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This is the part I both love and hate at the same time as far as self publishing goes. You would think after doing it three times I would have it memorized, but I’m terrible at remembering. (I think this time I’ll save what I have as a template for my next book that way it’ll be all ready and I won’t have to do as much.)

I am going to do one final read through of Clara and Claire. But as of right now I’m working on getting it ready for publication. I’m doing the interior design (in terms of the formatting) myself, since my original plan fell through. And so far it’s not as difficult as I thought it would be, but once I put it into Createspace that’ll be the real test (because nothing is easy there).

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To give you an idea of what I’m working with so far, this is what I have so far, though this picture was taken before I actually edited it slightly. But you get the idea. I’m moving on to headers and footers and inserting page numbers on all the pages. And I’m also speaking with people in the Createspace community to make sure any of my last minute questions are answered.

The thing with self publishing, not matter how many times I do it, is that it always reminds me how much I’m actually capable of. It’s a lot to take on, but knowing I’ve done it in the past and it can only get better, I’m feeling better about the whole experience. Later tonight I’m also going to start planning a cover reveal date, so I’ll let you know when that is and have a sign up sheet for anyone who’s interested. The cover reveal will also include a release date, so I have to plan both of those together (and around my schedule with moving and all…).

I also need to set up the ebook and format that, so either tonight or tomorrow I’ll start working on that conversion as well.

But finally being at this point with Clara and Claire has me excited. I’ve seen my author friends releasing their books, and now I’m eager to release mine. And since I’m now working with just my schedule alone I’m aiming for a 2015 release. I’ll be able to determine for sure the date and everything once I have a proof of the book. I’ve been so eager to see the book cover physically in my hands!

Keep an eye out on my social media, as I’ll be sharing as I go through the different processes. And if you have any tips for formatting please leave them below in the comments –I’ll use anything I can get!

Lindsey Richardson

Your Next Novel

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Since my last post I’ve been more silent (or at least more lost in my thoughts), thinking about my next novel. Or, in reality, my next next novel. I thought by already having the book after Clara and Claire planned I would feel some kind of relief. But instead over the past few days I’ve been wondering about what comes next.

When I first started my new blog on WordPress, I did a series of posts about writing your next story. Looks like I need to go back to those and perhaps take my own advice. But once you’re actually searching for your next book –whether it’s the next one, or the second to next, etc–it’s easier said than done. I’ve found myself searching on Pinterest for inspiration and looking to books and music. Honestly anything to grab an idea and run with it.

And perhaps that’s the hardest part to explain to anybody. It’s easy to grab the beginning of an idea, but it’s much harder to actually dedicate yourself to that single idea. There’s actually so many ideas and possibilities that at times it’s downright overwhelming. I’ve only grasped at ideas and characters, but I don’t think I have anything solid right now that I feel confident with.

But I’ve been trying to remind myself, and others from this, that this doesn’t mean you lose all hope because it doesn’t work out after a few days of trying. With Clara and Claire I actually didn’t feel confident with the story until this time last year. Sometimes you really do just have to take a leap of faith and see where it takes you.

NaNoWriMo is quickly approaching –way faster than I’m prepared for–and that offers a lot of hope too. I want to talk more about the pros and cons of NaNo in a later post, but that’s also a great opportunity to take an idea and literally run with it. 50k in a month with a story you barely know? Yeah, why not! (But make sure you have a lot of coffee…)

I thought in this post I might give more tips on how to plan out your next novel, but perhaps this ended up being more of a reflection. The writing world is huge. The possibilities when it really comes down to what you want to write are endless. Whether you’re creating a world from scratch or relying on history, there’s a lot to work with and a lot of resources. (Shoutout to Twitter for answering my questions about steampunk this week!)

Every writer does their job differently. Some have multiple books planned out over a certain timeframe. And then there’s people like me who might only have one book at a time planned (unless I’m working on a series). Part of this new adventure with Clara and Claire is diving into the unknown and scary reality of not being attached to a series (like I was before with the Magician series). I don’t have four books all at least planned out in front of me. I just have this one and the plot and purpose of my next one. Other than that, it’s anyone’s guess where I go from here.

Hopefully this was helpful to someone who’s in the same position as me right now. And even if it wasn’t, I hope it at least gives you more insight into the work going on inside my head. Thanks for reading what might be the rantings of a thoughtful writer during a crazy busy month!

Lindsey Richardson

P.S. I’m now on Goodreads as Lindsey R. Sablowski AND Lindsey Richardson. Most of you already know about my account under the name Sablowski, but here’s the Lindsey Richardson one if you want to follow me there too.

Writing Your Next Story part 2

Copy of writing next story

First off I want to give a huge shoutout to everyone new to the blog. It’s such a pleasure to finally be on WordPress, and I am loving the experience. The excitement and the structure of it all makes me thrilled to blog even more than I did before (on Blogger), and this gives me a nice break (but also practice) from writing.

As promised, here’s the second part to my segment about writing your next story. If you missed part one, please check it out and let me know if between the two of these I left out anything major. I am so eager to hear you thoughts on the topic too. I cannot stress enough that everyone has a different way of writing a story, so don’t hesitate to add in your own tips in the comments below. And now without further ado…

Whether you have a story in your head or not, there’s no way around outlining. Even with your story idea, characters, and a working title it’s going to be difficult to altogether skip outlining. Everyone’s preferred method is different, and granted there might be writers who say “hey, I never outline!” But I’m certain at some point or another you open up a journal or Word document and write something down for later. Unless you have an amazing memory –which in that case, you deserve more credit than can be given.

So while you can outline however you want and as often (or not often) as you want, there is one rule to keep in mind. Never let your outlines define your story. Never let them overwhelm the story you’re trying to tell. Personally I’ve outlined in different ways (depending on the book I’m writing), and sometimes I keep an entire journal just for outlines. Each chapter’s importance is written out all the way until the very end. And that’s fine. But don’t have your outlines force your hand into writing the story like an essay. Sometimes your characters are going to want to tell the story. Their feelings or actions might jump ahead of what was planned or take a turn (for better or for worse). Sometimes what you think will happen doesn’t happen in that chapter (or at all in some cases). And the important thing is to remember all of this is okay. No matter what your method is, your story needs to have feelings running through it. Remember you can always change your outline or add more to it as you go.

We’ve talked about developing ideas, outlining, and first chapters. While I touched briefly upon building your characters, I wanted to talk more about this. Characters are the key to everything. Ever read a story without a character? Without them the story can’t happen, and without them your readers have no way or relating to anything in the story or toward the characters. The way you choose to develop them and create them is an unique process. Each character, though fictional, needs to be given life. You are the reason for their existence, and you’ll be in charge of their survival from the moment you write (or type) their name until their death (or the end of their story). I won’t go too deep into characters, since it’s a large topic for another post, but don’t forget you need them before you write the first chapter. You need them even as you’re writing down the plot and determining the genre. You might not have names right away or know their appearance or have ideas about their backstory. But develop them with your plot; the two go hand in hand. One does not exist without the other. Give life to them, and they in return will give life to your story.

Lastly, you’ll want to have some level of organization. A writer’s workspace isn’t always the cleanest place, but where you store the important information (ex: your outlines, character backstories, notes, questions, etc.) is going to affect how quickly (or slowly) you work. If this novel isn’t your first one odds are you’re working against a deadline. If you lose important paperwork or lose track of a chapter you’re writing that is going to slow you down significantly. I think it’s safe to say we’ve all had that scare of “oh no did I back up my entire novel?” I won’t go as far as saying make a copy of everything, but you’ll definitely want to know where everything is and have multiple ways to access it. Keep journals, papers, and clipboards all in one place. Dedicate journals for specific purposes, title your notes, and back up your novel (send it to your email and put another copy on a USB). You never know when something unexpected could happen, and you don’t want to lose any of your work. For those of us who have we can tell you, it’s not fun.

 

And that’s all I’ve got! There’s likely some points I’ve skipped over (or should have gone into more detail about), and I apologize in advance. Leave a comment with any additions; I want to hear about your own methods too.

Lindsey Richardson