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The Accidental Series

marriageImpossible-200x300When I started writing Marriage: Impossible, it wasn’t supposed to be the first book in my Voretti family series. It wasn’t supposed to be the first book in any series. It was a one-off experiment to see what would happen if I threw all my favorite romance tropes into a single novella.

It never occurred to me that it might be the first in a series, because I’d never written a series before. After writing a book I’d always been so sick of the characters and the world that I was more than happy to go somewhere new and interesting as soon as I reached The End.

But a strange thing happened as I started writing Marriage: Impossible. The heroine had a brother, Ty. Everyone thought Ty was still in love with his ex-fiance, but part way through the book, he announced that he was marrying someone else.

At the time, I just needed a reason for the hero and heroine of Marriage: Impossible to return to San Diego from Reno, and a sudden wedding seemed as good as anything. But then I started to wonder—who was this woman Ty was marrying? Why were they getting married so quickly—practically before any of their family and friends even knew they were dating?

loveAndLearnSmallestI had to write Ty’s story, Love and Learn.

As it turned out, this was a somewhat traumatic experience. Because the timelines of Marriage: Impossible and Love and Learn were largely overlapping, I had all kinds of constraints before I even started writing the book. This resulted in revisions. Lots and lots of revisions for both books.

But, finally, I had two books that worked on their own and together. And, for the first time, I wasn’t ready to let go. I wanted more of the Voretti family. And, thus, my first series was born.

I have the first three books written. I’m working on books four and five now—and hoping that by plotting both at the same time I can pull off the overlapping-timelines thing without so much rewriting this time.

What about you? Do you prefer to write series or standalone books? Any tips on how to plan ahead to minimize rewriting when working on connected books?

27 responses to “The Accidental Series”

  1. Gwyn says:

    I seem unable to write a stand alone book. Every story spawns new ideas, and there is always one character–at least–clamoring for further attention.

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  2. jbrayweber says:

    Great post, Ava.
    Like Gwyn, my stories end up becoming parts of series. But that’s okay because I like being in their worlds. I really enjoy building on the foundations I created. The one book I wrote as a stand alone book (under my pen name) that was never meant to have companion books has had readers asking for more from the hero and heroine. Go figure. I’ve tossed the idea around, even wrote the first chapter. But ultimately, the book has remained alone. For now.

    Jenn!

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    • Interesting. I think it would be much harder for me to write a second book with the same hero and heroine than with a hero and heroine who were secondary characters in book 1…but some authors do it really well.

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  3. I only write connected books. I have three different series and am starting two more. In the past I’ve written them one at a time so I had revisions and lots of constraints.

    With these new series (especially one of them that will have 7 books – yikes!), I’m creating a story bible from the get-go, tracking all the little details about setting, time lines and characters as they come up. I’m hoping to save a lot of time doing this.

    I also try to think ahead into the other books. If something jumps out at me as a scene or character trait that will definitely go in one of them, I write a hint about it in the previous book. But I haven’t gone so far as to plot out each book first. Maybe one day I’ll be that organized, but it doesn’t seem to be in me at the moment : )
    Good luck! Your books sound so fun!

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  4. Kate Parker says:

    I write in series, but that is a given in the world of cozy mysteries. The same sleuths each time exploring their relationship while investigating different crimes.

    I think our reader brain craves series, learning more and more about a group of characters. It’s the same craving that causes us to binge watch favorite series or go back and watch them again.

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  5. Ava, What a timely post for me. I NEVER seem to be able to think in terms of series, but I am trying to plan ahead in a new series I am thinking out. I like the idea of plotting the timelines simultaneously—brilliant!

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  6. Elizabeth Langston says:

    I like series, too. I think it’s partially because I fall in love with the main characters of the first book–and I don’t want to completely let them go.

    My first series have the same 2 MCs in three different stages of their relationship. It was hard to write that 3rd book; I cried. I didn’t want to say goodbye. I have an idea for a couple of companion novels for it, just so that I can check in with the MCs again.

    For this series, I have a big EXCEL spreadsheet that has a timeline with dates and notes–which helps me keep things straight.

    My 2nd series has 3 friends and a genie. The 3 friends each have their own book and the genie is an MC in all three. But even though each girl has her own book, the other 2 show up a lot.

    To keep this 2nd series straight, I had all 3 books set up in Scrivener from the beginning. I didn’t write them all at the same time, but I did put notes into books 2 and 3 as I was writing book 1. Once I started adding sequels, I do a binge-reading marathon through the entire series to make sure they flowed, just like a reader might experience.

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    • I have all my notes in Scrivener too, but it’s not an ideal system. I have separate Scrivener files for each book, so info about a particular character has to either be only in the file where he or she is a main character, in which case I have to open a multiple files when I need info about a secondary character, or it has to be copied into each file in the series, in which case updating is a pain. I feel like there has to be a better system, but I haven’t found it yet.

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  7. Ava, I’m the opposite – I can’t seem to write something that isn’t part of a series. 🙂 I enjoy the characters too much, and once I’ve created the “world” it’s hard for me to leave. It certainly brings more challenges, though, such as having to keep a bible to keep things straight between books.

    And I love overlapping timelines in series books. Cherry Adair did a fabulous one with three brothers who had paranormal abilities. I’m trying to remember the name, but in the third book, the brother was able to bend time or something like that, so it really made the timeline interesting!

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  8. Liz Talley says:

    Well, this is pretty much how it happened for me with my first book Vegas Two Step. I never intended to write a contemporary romance in the first place. But then I got this idea that I love – dowdy librarian makeover story – and I had to write it. After I completed the book, I had a decision to make. I was at a fork in the road and had to decide between my Golden Heart finagling book and starting a new contemporary. I was at the beach with my family and I took a walk by myself. Standing there, kicking the waves and staring out at the horizon, I made the decision to abandon Regency romance and write Jack’s (hero from Vegas Two Step) sister’s story. From there, I continued to write contemporaries. I’ve done Four series to date – Oak Stand, The Boys of Bayou Bridge, Home in Magnolia Bend and now Morning Glory Girls. I guess it’s safe to assume I like series. LOL.

    Congrats on the new venture – it’s fun to see where the paths we choose take us!

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    • What a great story–I didn’t realize your 2009 GH final was in Regency. Do you think you’ll ever go back to writing historical?

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      • Liz Talley says:

        I’m not sure. I LOVE to read in that genre, but perhaps, it wasn’t right for me. But maybe one day when I’m bored (Ha!Ha!) I’ll meander back to that pretty little path. For now, I’ll stay where I am because I think it’s where my voice and talent lie.

        But never say never, right?

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  9. Tamara Hogan says:

    Ava, I don’t think I know how NOT to write in a series. I agree with Anne Marie: once you create the world, you don’t want to leave. But yeah, as you go on, it becomes harder and harder to remember details of character, paranormal species abilities, setting, and plot. My series bible is pretty comprehensive when it comes to character and plot, but I still need to flesh out settings and species. And I keep meaning to make a comprehensive list of dangling (minor) plot lines…

    It’s always something! 😉

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  10. Rita Henuber says:

    I live in a world of many stories. Some connected, some not. It does seem every character has a family member or friend who has a story to tell 🙂

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    • I love the way you said that. I really do feel like I live in a world of stories. Which is, most of the time, a good thing. But it might help me to be a bit more aware of the real world every once in a while. 🙂

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  11. I know there are a lot of readers out there that love long series, but I’m not one of them. I do prefer single title, especially in longer word counts novels. I’m a slow reader and there is such a wide, wonderful collection of stories to read in every genre. (I guess you can tell I’m the one who loves an assortment of chocolates.) If I see the author has written a series of twenty long books, my eyes cross. I won’t even take advantage of a free book, because I know I won’t invest the time in the whole series. Now, if each book is written as a stand alone, that is a different story.

    I do like short series (3 books), or short in length series collections. That is just me.

    With that said, my first three books were stand alones. The next four are two different series; one series written as stand alones, longer length. The other, short and sweet, but they still can be read as stand alones.

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    • I also find long series a little intimidating as a reader. That having been said, if I find a new author I love, I’m always thrilled if that author has a big backlist, whether the books are series or standalone.

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  12. I love reading both series and stand-alone, but I have the same problem as you, Ava. I start writing a stand-alone and by the end it’s a series. I wrote Marrying Mister Perfect as a one-off, but by the time I was done with it I wanted to write a trilogy. And by the time I finished the trilogy it was five books long and had a spin-off series planned for another three… So yeah, I have a series addiction. I wonder if there’s a twelve step plan for that. 😉

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