A Comprehensive Guide to Writing a Fiction Series

A Comprehensive Guide to Writing a Fiction Series

Writing the Fiction Series: The Complete Guide for Novels and Novellas, by Karen S. Wiesner, was a book specifically about the techniques and best practices we should use when creating a fiction series. Trilogies, quartets and series aren’t really books that you can just begin and see where the story goes, because there are important methods to use when bouncing from book one to book two or book twelve to book thirteen.

Wiesner takes her readers through all the elements that keep readers reading an entire series. She outlines different kinds of series ties you can have, like characters or groups of characters, location or setting, or plot. She highlights the importance of at least having a bare bones structure in place for what the entire series will look like before you even release the first book in the series. Since I now have the first books of a series under my belt, I completely agree with that advice. Having a plan, at least a vestige of one, is better than making it up as you go when you’re writing a fiction series. Otherwise, you’ll have a whole lot of open loops and things that don’t really matter, and that just gets annoying for readers.

Wiesner also takes her readers through the series arc as well as the individual story arcs for each book in a series and talks about the plants, which are, essentially, mysteries, that series authors use to keep readers engaged and reading.

Chapters detailed things like story arcs versus series arcs, stand-alones versus cliff-hangers, single genre versus multiple genres, novel series versus novella series, and probably the most crucial chapter: organization of a series.

At the end of the book, Wiesner talks a little bit about marketing a series and the importance of creating a brand with your series name, which is something I’ve been thinking a whole lot about lately.

What were probably the most valuable features of the book were the series brainstorm worksheets, which you could replicate, and the very end of the book, where Wiesner includes some appendices that detail the story arcs and series arcs of several different series in several different genres. I found it helpful to look at an actual book as an example. Some of them I hadn’t read yet, but Wiesner’s breakdown of them was still incredibly helpful.

I’ll definitely be using Wiesner’s tips to continue planning for the rest of my Fairendale series and also for the many other series I have in the works right now. I found this book highly valuable to me, and I hope it is for you, too.

*The above is an affiliate link. I only recommend books I find valuable myself. I don’t even actually talk about the books I don’t find valuable, because I try to forget I wasted time on them.

13 Books Perfect for a Reluctant Reader

My 6-year-old is reluctant reader. This summer, I aim to change that, so I’ve put some fun fantasies, lots of animal books, and some entertaining, danger-filled stories on his summer reading list.

Here’s a look at the books he’ll be reading.

1. Maybe a Fox, by Kathi Appelt (a wonderful story about sisters and a fox, illustrated by one of my favorite artists: Alison McGhee)
2. The Whipping Boy, by Sid Fleischman (a short, sweet read about a spoiled prince and his brave whipping boy)
3. Inside Out and Back Again, by Thanhha Lai (a wonderful story about an immigrant girl. It’s written in verse, which means it’ll make him feel like he’s reading fast.)
4. How to Train Your Dragon, by Cressida Cowell (an imaginative story with dragons, Vikings, and brave children.)
5. Shiloh, by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor (a heartwarming story about a boy and a special dog.)
6. Woof, by Spencer Quinn (a fun mystery with a girl, a dog, and a stolen prize marlin.)
7. The Tale of Despereax, by Kate DiCamillo (one of my favorite fantasies about a mouse who becomes a knight.)
8. The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, by Kate DiCamillo (another of my favorite fantasies about a stuffed bunny who goes on a trip and rediscovers love.)
9. Because of Winn-Dixie, by Kate DiCamillo (a beautiful story about a girl named Opal and a dog named Winn-Dixie.)
10. I Survived the Sinking of the Titanic, by Lauren Tarshis (an adventurous tale of a kid who survived the sinking of the Titanic. The whole I Survived series would be great for reluctant readers.)
11. I Survived the Destruction of Pompeii, by Lauren Tarshis (another adventurous story about a kid who survives the destruction of Pompeii.)
12. The Wild Robot, by Peter Brown (a wonderfully entertaining tale about a robot stuck on an island. Brown’s sequel to this one comes out this year!!!)
12. Where the Sidewalk Ends, by Shel Silverstein (another of my favorite poetry books by Silverstein—because poetry is good for kids.)

You’ll notice that Kate DiCamillo makes quite a few appearances on this list. That’s not only because she’s one of my favorite writers but also because she has a way of wrapping a story around a kid that makes them feel like they’re not required to sit and read for an hour every day—they’re actually choosing to. And this is exactly what I want my 6-year-old to get from this summer’s reading list.

The books mentioned above have affiliate links attached to them, which means I’ll get a small kick-back if you click on them and purchase. But I only recommend books I enjoy reading myself. Actually, I don’t even talk about books I didn’t enjoy. I’d rather forget I ever wasted time reading them. (But if you’re curious whether I’ve read something and what I thought about it, don’t hesitate to ask.)

The Fight Club Summer and How to Survive

The Fight Club Summer and How to Survive

With so many children in my house (and home for the summer!), it seems like there’s a fight every other minute. Research has proven that children fight 3.5 times every hour—which, I suspect, seems like every other minute to their parents.

While research tells me this is quite normal, it still doesn’t calm my shattered nerves.

Some fights, of course, are more important than others. Sometimes kids take a toy away from another kid, sometimes they’re arguing over a memory, sometimes they are genuinely trying to work out their feelings and arguing is the only way they can do it.

Sometimes they argue just to argue.

Here are some of the most ridiculous things my kids fight about:

1. How many snacks their brothers have had.

Husband and I are not the kind of parents who let our kids have multiple snacks every day. They have to wait until 3 p.m. until it’s snacking time. And when it’s snacking time, older boys get two snacks, younger boys get one.

The problem is that once Husband or I get started on dinner, the attention lags a little. And then boys start raiding the fridge. If one brother gets an extra snack, another brother wants an extra snack. They fight about who had what, how unfair it is, and how terrible this household is because they’re all starving to death.

It’s one of my favorite fights ever.

2. Who’s going to use the dish wand first.

When our boys finish eating, they are expected to wash out whatever bowls or plates they use. It’s a shame there’s only one dish wand. That means when boys finish their snacks at the same time—or, when they’re in school, they all get home at the same time—they will fight to the death about who gets the dish wand first. I should probably save myself the trouble and just get a couple extra dish wands, but what can I say? I like torturing myself.

Chores also see this delightful little argument, usually because we only have one sponge, and one boy is assigned to wipe off the counters and cabinets while another is assigned to wipe off the tables and chairs. Who’s going to do it first? Depends on who’s fastest or strongest. Because boys.

3. What color their shirt is.

Is it red or maroon, or maybe brick red? This fight can sometimes last up to twenty minutes. Every time I think they’ve resolved it, someone else will throw another color out (thank you, Crayola, for your ten thousand shades), and it will start all over again. This fight will evolve into which shade of red is the best, who has the better color judgement, and who knew their colors best at the youngest age.

What does it matter? They don’t care. They just want to fight.

4. Who put the shoes where.

If my boys are exceptional at one thing (they’re exceptional at more, but they’re really exceptional at this), it’s blaming. They will blame until they’re blue in the face (and they’ll blame someone else for turning their face blue). The most frequent place this blaming can be found is when they’re trying to find their shoes.

They put their shoes where they belong, they say. Their brothers must have moved them.

I know, however, that all of them left their shoes out by the trampoline yesterday, because, even though we reminded them to bring all the shoes inside, they were too tired after jumping for so long. When they shockingly find their shoes out by the trampoline like I said, they will point fingers about which brother is responsible for five pairs of shoes sitting outside. It certainly was not them.

5. Whose LEGO piece it is.

All my boys get different LEGO sets for their birthdays, and they will try their hardest to keep them separate. But, alas, LEGOs like each other, and it’s impossible to keep sets separate, at least in my house. And, also, the pieces for individual sets look mostly the same, with a few exceptions. So when one is holding up a plain yellow LEGO piece, and another sees it and says it’s his, they will fight about it for hours, even though both their sets came with a yellow piece exactly like this one.

I don’t know how they know whose is whose, but they believe they do. And they will not rest until they convince their brother it’s true.

6. Who turned the light on.

The rule in our house is if no one is in a room, the light must be turned off. When I mention this about forty times a day, the boys will fight over who was the first one to turn the light on, unaware that this is not necessary information to have. When I remind them that the responsibility for turning off a light lies on the last one who left room, they will fight about that, too. The one who is first in the room is the one who should turn it off, they say—he’s the one who turned it on in the first place, after all.

I’ll remind them of that when they’re in the middle of peeing and their brother, who was first in the bathroom, turns the light off mid-stream.

7. Which vitamins are better—dark or light.

We have the sort of vitamins that come in two different shades: light mauve and dark mauve. Somehow the boys have gotten it in their heads that the dark ones mean they’re bad and the light ones mean they’re good. We don’t even use this language—good and bad—around our house, but their imaginations have conjured all sorts of ridiculous realities.

If, in the random dishing out of vitamins, one boy gets two dark vitamins, he will cry like the world is ending because he doesn’t want to be bad. He will ask a brother to trade, and thus ensues yet another fight.

I think it’s time to change vitamins.

8. Who gets to sit next to the baby.

Every time we sit down to eat, our boys will fight over who gets to sit next to the baby. At home, we have assigned seating, which is much easier, but out at restaurants or when we’re eating dinner at church, this fight happens with such regularity that I can almost time it.

I, of course, need to sit by the baby in case he chokes while he’s eating. But that other place? Everyone wants it every time. They don’t realize that what usually happens during the course of a dinner is that the baby will turn to them with his messy fingers and try to touch them. They’ve even been the victims of this. It doesn’t matter. They’ll still fight over that coveted place. I guess I should be glad they love their baby brother.

9. Who is responsible for that awful smell.

This is not what you’d expect. Rather than blame the awful smell on someone else, my boys will all willingly take the blame for this one. They are incredibly proud of the smells that come out of their feet, their mouths, or their rear ends, and they will fight over who was responsible for that last one, which, if its odor cloud had a color, would be a perfect blend of green and brown.

The best thing about boys and their constant arguing is that the emotional side of arguing is over almost before it begins. Boys don’t hold any grudges or keep their hurt feelings balled up inside. One minute they’re ready to pound each other’s faces, the next minute they’re tripping each other on the floor for a lively game of “Who Can Stand the Longest.”

Which means I have a few minutes to recover before the next fight breaks out. Exactly what I need to pop a few dark chocolate squares without the scavengers noticing.

It’s the little things.

A Helpful Resource for Successfully Revising Manuscripts

A Helpful Resource for Successfully Revising Manuscripts

Thanks, But This Isn’t for Us: A (Sort of) Compassionate Guide to Why Your Writing is Being Rejected, by Jessica Page Morrell, is a book about all the things writers do that turn off not only potential agents and editors but also readers. Morrell is an independent editor and sees all sorts of books come her way. She puts together all her expertise on what makes and breaks a story and compiles it in this helpful guide that breaks down into chapters on conflict, dialogue, theme, characters, first pages and much more.

Morrell writes in a very conversational tone. She’s blunt, but it comes across in a humorous way, rather than a know-it-all way, which I appreciated.

I liked everything about this book. It was very informative and helped highlight some of the important things that writers can go back and revise in their manuscripts that will make their stories so much better. But probably the thing I liked most about Thanks, But This Isn’t For Us is how once Morrell was done getting her point across about whatever it was she’d chosen—like dialogue or conflict or first pages—she then had a whole list of deal breakers, which were essentially the most common mistakes she sees in the manuscripts she gets. Sometimes it’s incredibly helpful not just to know what to do, but to know what not to do. Not many books tell us what not to do, and that was probably the most helpful aspect of this book.

I found that the deal breakers were simple enough to compile into a list that I’ll be using to assess my manuscripts before calling them finished.

One of my favorite sections of the book was where Morrell talked about revisions and new drafts. I pretty much do what she does, and I actually have some additional drafts that I do for perfecting purposes, but her guide was really helpful, because it included a checklist for the drafts she recommends all writers do. I’ll definitely be incorporating this checklist into my process and also developing some checklists for my own additional drafts.

All in all, Thanks, But This Isn’t For Us, was a highly valuable book to read. Morrell knows her stuff inside out and back again.

*The above is an affiliate link. I only recommend books I find valuable myself. I don’t even actually talk about the books I don’t find valuable, because I try to forget I wasted time on them.