Hydra Voices: Bill Noel on Writing a Series

Hydra Voices features the talented authors who make up the Hydra Publication family offering up their takes on writing, publishing, book marketing and life in general. Today’s post is from Bill Noel,  author of  Boneyard Beach, the latest book in the Folly Beach Mystery series. On August 8th Hydra will release Silent Night: A Folly Beach Christmas Mystery, available now for preorder.

 

WRITING A SERIES

I recently read an interview with a woman who was the country’s oldest living citizen. When asked the secret to her long life, she replied, “I guess I just forgot to die.” I completed my first novel, Folly, in 2007 with no intention of writing a series. To paraphrase that insightful, seasoned citizen, eleven more books later, “I guess I forgot to stop writing.”

Series novels are generally more character driven than plot centered. Readers like to make a connection with the main characters and the series format fits the bill. A series also works well for the author. It provides a built-in fan base. Readers anxiously await the next book to learn what will happen to the characters they have already met and have established a relationship with.  As a consequence, not only do sales increase with each book, but new readers to the series will often go back and buy the earlier novels.

Writing a series gives the author the opportunity to develop and grow the main characters, to give greater depth to the relationships among characters, and the chance to add more complex sub-plots. Readers have told me that they felt that they knew my characters so well that they would like to invite them home for supper. Visitors to the real island of Folly Beach, South Caroline, the primary setting of the books, have shared that they have actually seen the novels’ characters in the local restaurants and stores. None of this would have been possible if the books were not presented as a series.

On the other hand, there are a couple of negatives with the format—one obvious, one less so. If readers don’t like your first novel—as hard as that may be to believe—they probably won’t buy the second book, or the third, or …. You get the point. The less obvious drawback is the increased difficulty of reintroducing the main characters in each subsequent book. Each installment must be able to be read as a stand-alone novel, but continuity of the series is critical. How do you share with the first-time reader enough about the characters without boring the returning reader who has already traveled hundreds of pages with each recurring individual?

From my experience, the advantages of writing a series far outweigh the drawbacks. Besides, I continue to write so I can learn what happens next to my quirky cast of characters.

 

 

Bill Noel

 

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