You cannot be series …

Poetry covers compilation
Yes, the fourth word in my title is the proper spelling. It is not meant to be the statment made famous by tennis star John McEnroe, although I admit, I was tempted.
If you’re too young to remember, on more than one occasion the talented and quick-tempered Mr. McEnroe would challenge an umpire’s decision with a wild stare, whilst screaming,                   “You cannot be serious!”
As this post develops I’m sure that most of you guys will see that I could have gotten away with the tennis player’s outburst as my alternative title.

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I’ve noticed that there is a tendency these days for writers, and especially novices, to produce sequels, or even a series of books. Authors have various reasons for doing such a thing, and those reasons cover a wide spectrum. I’ll list a few reasons to help get my point across.
1. The writer wants to explore how far they can push a character whether it be in development or experiences and adventures.
2. The lazy or greedy writer, who simply wants to exploit the market, by producing several titles of very short works; calling them a ‘series’.

Why do I say greedy?
I’ve recently discovered an author who is publishing nothing more than long chapters and giving them the title of ‘book’. In this way he creates a ‘series’. Yeah, whatever.

How do I know that it’s greed?
If somebody has the audacity to consider such an underhand tactic, the least they could do is ensure that the ‘books’ are properly edited and formatted. In the case I’m highlighting, they are not.

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Some books lend themselves to the idea of a sequel, or series, simply by the nature of the original story, whilst others do not.
There is a train of thought that such a thing is easy to do, but in my opinion, in any subsequent books the necessary information must be drip-fed to the reader as the story progresses. It should not consist of massive chunks of force-fed back-story; which I’ve seen in some attempts at a sequel.

My opinion on what works and what doesn’t for sequels and series.

What works?
A series, whether it is 2 books, or 22 books, should have a constant aspect, whether it is in theme or character.
For example:
1. Each book has a different character, but the theme is the same.
2. A fresh case or plot with the same central character since the first book.
For example:
Private Eye, police, medical, adventure, espionage, western, military, thriller, seafaring, Sci-Fi, fantasy, paranormal … and on the list might go.

What might not appeal to readers after a couple of stories?
The certain knowledge that the protagonist is virtually indestructible – and it’s not Superman.

What doesn’t work?
In the right hands just about any genre is good for a series, but the decision to tackle this particular idea is not something that should be taken lightly.
Romance for instance could lend itself to a series if the basis of the stories was to take a fresh story from the point of view of various characters from one central theme.
For examples:
1. Stories detailing the love-life of the members of an office or other business.
2. Stories detailing the love-life of the members of a community. Now this could be a nice little earner if you were prepared to devote half your life to it. Instead of the community being a small village, how about telling of the romances onboard the cruise ship Laid Back Lady, which has 500 crew and 4,000 passengers?

Now there would be a money-spinner.

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To reiterate my point, we must all be aware of giving our customers value for money, so we must be conscious of providing a good product and not creating a ‘series’ out of nothing. In particular we should keep an eye open for those in our business who are prepared to undercut the readership, which includes us.

Integrity is a key factor when considering if a writer is writing a sequel, or series for the right reasons.
As always, I thank you for coming by and reading my thoughts. Please leave a comment if you feel so inclined.

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Why is it good to try writing poetry? Part 3

RT1-Tangmerewing[1]In Part 1, I suggested looking at the idea of writing a simple three verse poem as the basis and precursor to a story.

 

In Part 2, I added three more verses and it gave the story a little more foundation.

In this post, I’ll look at the main ingredients needed to write a short story. The other aspect of this, is of course to use the simple poem as a guide for the story’s plot.

I’ve got the basic story in poetic form, but I know even before writing the prose, the story may well alter from the one I started out with. That’s not an issue to be concerned about, because the main purposes of the poem were: to provide an outlet for an idea, and to form a basic structure.

What else do we need to consider?

1.  A decent title, but that is best left until after the story is written.

2.  A hook in the intro. A good intro will start with dialogue or action. I usually aim to start with action, a point of crisis I create within the first 30 words.

3.  If it’s a short story, we should keep the timescale short. It should be set over hours or days; not weeks or longer.

4. In line with the short timescale we should have a single plot line, no deviation or sub-plots to distract the reader.

5.  We are aiming to place a normal person in extraordinary circumstances and then make them react. We can also consider giving the main character an issue to deal with, which changes them in some way by the end of the story. There should be some progression.

6.  We should aim to keep the character count low; four or less if possible. Keep it intimate.

7.  Just as we should aim to have a ‘hook’ at the start to capture our reader, we should provide some back story to say how the character or characters got in the position they find themselves. Again, not too much information.

8.  As well as a good start with the hook, and back story, we must know how and when to stop. When the tale is told; stop. No extra bits and pieces. On occasion one more line might work, but mainly; reach the end and stop. Make sure the main character has resolved the conflict or crisis.

9. Try to use the senses when writing. Through good imagery, let the reader see, feel, smell, hear, what is going on. No flowery descriptions though; keep it brief.

10. Try to keep dialogue natural. How? Short and sharp exchanges are the most natural.

With all that in mind, and the poem, I’ve already written a few short passages. In my next post, I’ll produce a list of new titles that I’ve come up with to replace the working title.

I’ve imposed a target on myself of no more than 1500 words. That will stop me from waffling on, and it will keep the story tight. If you haven’t been given a word count target – impose one.

Once again, thank you for following. See you next time.