How I Juggle Multiple Ongoing Series

ColleensCovers_2_4_16I asked over on Facebook which topics people wanted to hear about during my NaBloPoMo attempt, and a few people asked for a post about how I juggle multiple ongoing series.

Right now, I have five ongoing series in progress. Five.

I just realized that.

I must have lost my damn mind. What the ever-loving hell am I doing??

FIVE?

Holy shit.

Ahem. So, right now, I’m working on Hidden, StrikeForce, Copper Falls, Exile, and the upcoming Paradise Bay series. One urban fantasy, one superhero series, one science fiction/dystopian/ fantasy romance mashup series, one paranormal romance series, and a contemporary series. In all honesty, the fact that each series is in a different genre helps. It enables me to keep the tone unique for each of the ongoing series, and makes it easier to remember story arc details.

I think the question of how I juggle these series really consists of a few questions, so I’ll try to address those.

How Do I Decide What to Release/Write Next?

In all honesty, I don’t really plan this all that much. I know, before the beginning of the year, which books I’ll be working on that year. Once I know that, I really just tackle whichever book I feel like writing most, and, usually, I’m working on a couple of those books at a time so that if I get stalled on one, I can still make progress on the other book. I want to be more strategic about this. I think there’s a lot of benefit in writing and releasing books in a series or story arc one after another before moving onto something else. That was how I handled the original Hidden series, and I think it’s part of the reason that series did as well as it did. My goal for next year is to get back to that, rather than switching back and forth between series. It’s easier to stay in flow and I’m less likely to forget details.

One reason I’ve switched back and forth was that I was trying to make sure that people haven’t had to wait years between books in their favorite series. Not all of my readers love every series, and I want to be able to ensure that it’s only a few months between books in a series. Copper Falls is coming up on almost a year between books two and three, and I am really annoyed by that. I just haven’t gotten it together enough to do book 3 justice, but I’ll be working on it soon.

How Do I Keep the Details Straight?

How do I remember whether Jolene’s eyes are brown or blue, and what kind of food Molly likes, and what Nain’s term of endearment is for Molly when I have so many series going on? In some cases, I have it written down in the notebook I keep for each series. In others, I find myself going back through the books to refresh my memory. I know there are very organized writers out there who keep “series bibles” for each series, which includes timelines and character details and backstories and information about settings…. I’m not that organized, but I’d like to be. Right now, I’m winging it and relying on my really amazing memory. (My husband and kids are laughing right now. I have the worst memory ever.)

How Do I Plan Each Series?

I know, when I start a series, how the series or story arc is going to end. So I start each series with a general idea of where my main character is starting, and where they have to end up. From there, I try to figure out what the individual stories are that will lead the main character to that point. For example, Molly’s main arc in Hidden took this path:

  • Book 1: Molly starts realizing she’s more than she thought she was.
  • Book 2: Molly discovers who and what she really is.
  • Book 3: Molly is forced into her birthright, whether she wanted it or not, and has to learn how to make it her own.
  • Book 4: Molly starts to grow into the hero she was meant to be.
  • Book 5: Molly accepts and owns her destiny.

Obviously, a lot of stuff happens in those five books. Molly falls in love (more than once). She loves and loses and fights and mourns and makes friends and loses some more. Because it’s a romance-focused urban fantasy, a lot of her individual character arc is tied to her relationship with Nain (who has his own story arc in there as well — I love this stuff!)  Once I have a general idea of where I want my main character to end up, I can get an idea of where each book needs to go. And then from there, I do a detailed outline for each book.

I should say… this sounds like a lot of work, maybe. This shit, though? It’s so much fun. I love the whole planning part of the process. And sometimes, things go off the rails and the series doesn’t go exactly as I planned. Characters evolve in ways I didn’t plan. It’s good to be flexible. I can always tell when I’m trying to force something. The writing is much harder when I’m forcing it. When I’m playing, and letting the characters grow into themselves, it is always a lot more fun.

That’s pretty much it. I take a lot of notes. I mark up my paperbacks and Kindle files for my books, highlighting stuff I might need to remember. I outline and write and when I’m done, I get going on whatever seems the most fun. It isn’t the most business-like, organized approach, but it’s mine.

I hope you enjoyed this little look at my process. Thanks for stopping by!

(I’m participating in NaBloPoMo this month — National Blog Posting Month — with the goal of posting every day in November. Is there a topic you want me to tackle? Let me know in the comments!)

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