Saturday, May 9, 2009

The Pros of Series Writing

By Carol Lynne

I was asked to weigh in on the topic this week by friend and fellow author, Jamie Hill. As some of you might know, I’m a big fan of writing and reading series books. I write them for the same reason I read them. I hate saying goodbye to characters that I’ve come to fall in love with.

Actually, I’m not sure that I’ve ever written a book without a sequel in mind. That’s not to say that I always write the sequel, but it’s definitely in my mind. Because my genre of choice is M/M erotic romance, it can often get me into trouble. I get comments as to why I never have straight people in my books. The answer is simple. I don’t care to write about straight people as a rule. In my books, I try my best to make the side characters every bit as compelling as the lead characters. The few times that I’ve written straight side characters into one of my stories, readers email asking for the side characters stories. This can present a couple of problems.

First of all, yep, like I’ve said, I don’t care to write M/F stories. Oh, once in a while I’ll get an idea and write one, but those are the odd exceptions. Secondly, I don’t think mixing genres in a series is a good thing. I have readers who read absolutely nothing but M/M. They may claim to love me as an author, but they won’t go near a ménage or straight M/F story that I’ve written. I can’t blame them because I’m the same way.

The first series I wrote was the Men in Love series for Ellora’s Cave. It had a mix of everything from straight M/F to a F/M/M/M/F fivesome. The problem is that the series itself doesn’t fit into any one category, so when you go to look up the series, you won’t find them all on the same genre page. Also, a lot of people skipped over the M/F book.

Having learned my lesson, I now only write series with one genre in mind. It helps not only in marketing the series, but in writing it as well. I love, love my men, and I’ve found that writing what you truly love makes all the difference in the world.

In the Campus Cravings series, I focused on the gay men on a typical college campus. I never said there weren’t a lot of straight men and women on campus as well, but they weren’t my focus. Living close to a major university, I know that a certain percentage of the student body is gay. Those men were my focus, and I did my best to portray stories relating to them.

It doesn’t matter what kind of series you write, whether it be gay, straight, sci fi, paranormal etc, the important thing is establishing side characters that readers want to know more about. You know those spots on the CBS news about everyone having a story? Well, I truly believe everyone does have a story. You give readers interesting side characters and it’s natural for them to want to learn more.

A big supporter of the M/M genre is reader/reviewer Elisa Rolle. Elisa compared my series books to gay soap operas. At first I was a bit hurt by the comment until I started to really think about it. What do soap operas have that regular books don’t?

Fans tune in every day to catch their favorite soap opera. If for some reason they can’t watch a particular day, they tape it. Why? Because they feel invested in the storylines and characters. They’ve come to really care about what happens to Sheila and her evil twin, Marcy. Now that Jake has finally married Beth, will they be happy?

What happens when you get busy and miss several weeks of your favorite show? Suddenly Jake isn’t with Beth at all, but with Raven. WTF? You wish like heck you could go back and see what went wrong, but it’s too late.

I look at series books the same way. I often argue with people that series books shouldn’t be stand alone books. I know I don’t want mine to stand alone. Why? Because then it’s easy to skip over several books. Just like a soap opera, I want my characters and stories to be ongoing. I want the reader to anticipate each book in the series so they can catch-up with their favorite characters and learn about new ones. I want people tuning in to see the big lavish wedding of Jake to evil twin Marcy. Damn that Jake gets around.

It’s all about creating anticipation in your readers. It’s fun not only for them, but for you as a writer. Teasing tidbits thrown in here and there are a fun way to get readers involved. On my yahoo group there was a big discussion about my upcoming Cattle Valley book, Eye of the Beholder. One of the men has a big secret, but no one knows what it is. The members of my group discussed it for several days, throwing out ideas of what Rance’s secret could be. I finally asked them if they wanted me to tell them. I mean, some of these ladies really seemed to be stressing over it.

The answer I received was no, absolutely not. They didn’t want to know because it was fun for them to guess. In a way, they were writing mini-books in their heads to try and figure out my characters. I love that! I can’t tell you how rewarding that feels. People have come to know my characters so well they think of them as real people. What greater compliment can a writer get?

So if you’re on the fence about whether or not to write series books, I for one can tell you the rewards far outweigh the stress involved in plotting them out. If you create likeable people in your series, the books will come to you. Like I said, everyone has a story, it’s up to you to find it.

Carol Lynne

...get your feet wet've been branded

Book eleven in the Cattle Valley series.

For a year, Bo Lawson has tried to get closer to his boss, Backbreaker Ranch foreman Rance Benning, but the stubborn ex-rodeo champion refuses to be swayed. Bo can't understand Rance's aversion to being alone with him. Could it be Bo's HIV status?

Rance noticed Bo the first day he laid eyes on him at Brynn's Bakery. Since that time, he's done anything and everything to stay away from the dangerous-looking gardener with the chiseled six-pack and tight-fitting jeans. Rance has seen what pity in a lover's eyes looks like, and he doesn't plan on ever putting himself in that position again.

When one of the ranch's prize bucking bulls breaks through the fence and disappears, Rance and Bo are thrust together to help find the one ton money-maker. Although Bo sees their forced time alone as an opportunity, Rance sees it as torture. Every minute with Bo threatens the secret Rance won't tell anyone, least of all this dangerously sexy man.

Available June 1 at Total E-Bound!


  1. Thanks for guest blogging today, Carol. I always wondered why your series title didn't individually stand alone, now I know your secret! LOL

    Great way to wind up our week on series books! Thanks again, and Happy Mother's Day!


  2. Happy Mother's Day Carol! I'm anxiously waiting for June 1st.

  3. This is a great post, and I really appreciate hearing other people's viewpoints on this. Personally, I love reading series - when I fall in love with characters or places, I want to revisit them again and again.

    I'm also in the process of writing book 2 IN a series, so it's good to know I'm not the only one who likes them *g*

    Elle Parker

  4. Hi Carol,

    A wonderful post and you've given me some things to think about. I can completely understand the concept of being classed in with a soap, but would never have thought of it. I guess it's the same reason Rambo in on number 87 and Aliens is close behind. People want to know, what happens next or to Joe Blow.

    Good luck with your #11 Cattle Valley book!


  5. Hi Carol;

    I'm curious, who are the main readers of M/M books? Men or women? Just curious how it works.


  6. Garce, it's my understanding that most of the m/m erotica or erotic romance is read by women. If it's written by a women, it's even more so.

  7. I love series. Once I like a character I want to keep that character in my life. It is like a soap opera. What is happening to that character? I read so many series that I get behind on them. Keep writing the series.

  8. Hello, Carol,

    Thanks for joining us on the Grip and sharing some of the secrets of your success!

    I wish I didn't get so easily bored...! I must say that you do manage to make your characters live on the pages, including the side characters.

    Congratulations on your success. I know that you work hard for it.


  9. Hi Carol,

    Thanks for joining us :)

    I like the soap opera idea too. One of the things I don't like when I read some series are the re-hashes of what's gone on in previous books.

    Writing without the idea everyone needs to be brought up to speed just in case they missed a book in the middle is certainly an attractive idea as a writer too.


    Kim Dare.

  10. Hi Carol & Everyone,

    I love series. In fact, most books that I read are series.

    I tend to look for authors who write well, and then pray they will serielize their books.

    When I find an author who I like and then find out that thier books are never written in a series, I also tend to only read a few of their books. If they write in series, I tend to want to read every single book they have ever written. (like Carol!)

    I find that I become disappointed if I find a likable author and then realize that none of their books are connected in any way. I am always asking myself, well what happened to this character? It's just so sad! It never really seems like a true HEA if I never get to read about the character again!

  11. Thanks so much for the lovely comments.

    Garceus, Jude is right on. My readers seem to be women most of the time, at least they're the ones who usually email.

  12. Ciao Carol.

    I found only today your post, and I'd like to assure you that my "gay soap opera" definition is absolutely positive. Your Cattle Valley series is addictive like a soap opera, and remember that some of those soap opera airs for years and years always first in the heart of the audience.



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