Learning from mentors helps us to improve and evolve in our chosen field, and I still recall the advice given to me at the start of my writing journey.
To help other writers, I started a feature whereby established authors shared their words of wisdom and top ten writing tips.
It was a huge success and I was delighted to bring the feature back for a second season! You’ll find all the Top 10 Writing Tip articles here.
Meet Catherine Kullmann
Catherine Kullmann was born and educated in Dublin. Following a three-year courtship conducted mostly by letter, she moved to Germany where she lived for twenty-five years before returning to Ireland. She has worked in the Irish and New Zealand public services and in the private sector. Widowed, she has three adult sons and two grandchildren.
Catherine has always been interested in the extended Regency period, a time when the foundations of our modern world were laid. She loves writing and is particularly interested in what happens after the first happy end—how life goes on for the protagonists and sometimes catches up with them. Her books are set against a background of the offstage, Napoleonic wars and consider in particular the situation of women trapped in a patriarchal society.
Catherine also blogs about historical facts and trivia related to this era.
Catherine’s Top Ten Tips for Writing Sequels, Series and Trilogies
I love to read sequels and series, to see how characters and relationships develop as time goes on, to find a minor character suddenly a main character while the dashing hero of yore is content to exchange his top boots for his slippers and sit by his own fireside.
For an author, there are particular advantages in writing a sequel or series; you have already done a lot of the world-building and you have a cast of characters to draw on. But there are also some pitfalls. You need to avoid inconsistencies and must remain true to the books you have already written. So here are my top ten tips for writing sequels and series:
- Decide what will be the focus of the new book? Sometimes the smallest thing can trigger an entire new story. For example, this brief exchange at a masquerade in Perception & Illusion
“The carriage is outside if you still wish to leave early,” Thalia whispered.
“I do. And you?”
“I think I’ll stay awhile”
triggered The Murmur of Masks. I really wanted to know what happened next.
- When you have decided which characters you are carrying over, you MUST go back to the original books and confirm what you and your readers already know about them. I create for each character a document called ‘What do we know of X” and copy and paste from the original text every paragraph of description, back story and important action involving the character that cannot be changed. These are the slalom posts around which you must set up your new narrative. When writing it, you will find yourself checking back with the original again and again.
- Ideally, your readers will already have read the previous book(s) but there will be some new readers too. You need to find the balance between irritating the former with too much repetition and puzzling the latter by not providing enough context.
- You will not be able to avoid spoilers for previous books. It is therefore important to make clear from the outset that a book is a sequel or part of a trilogy or series and that it is advisable to read the books in the correct order.
- Having said this, I was able to write The Murmur of Masks without any spoilers for Perception & Illusion so that they can be read in either order. This only worked because I wrote P&I first but published it second so I was able to tweak it as necessary. When I wrote The Duke’s Regret, the last book in what then became The Duchess of Gracechurch Trilogy, followed the rules as outlined in 2 above.
- If you plan from the outset to write a trilogy, it is worth considering completing all three books before you publish the first one. This allows you to adjust the flow of the overall narrative arc as well as the individual arcs within each book. If this is too much, at least create detailed synopses of all three books before you begin.
- Make sure that each book has a complete narrative arc in its own right, and a satisfactory ending for now although the quest continues. Avoid cliff-hangers. Readers hate them.
- Why must it be a trilogy? If it is because it is so long that it has to be divided into three parts, consider honestly do you need upwards of two hundred and fifty thousand words to tell your story and are there three distinct arcs within it. Are you perhaps confusing narrative (description) with plot (something happens that changes/progresses the story)? Are your readers eternally waiting for something to happen? If so, start pruning.
- By delaying publication of Book One until the other parts are finished at least in draft, you can bring the books Two and Three out more quickly so that readers don’t have to wait two years for the final part. This is especially important if you are a new author. You will be able to generate or retain interest by including teasers at the back of each book and by more complex marketing.
- Marketing your series, sequel or trilogy: If self-publishing, you may need to go back and change the description of your earlier books on Amazon to indicate that they are part of a series. Some six months after you have published the final part, get an extra boost to your sales by bringing out an e-boxed set. Your cover designer will be able to make the ‘box’ –it is really just a cover, and your formatter will be able to put all three existing final versions into one. There is a good market for these, especially in Kindle Unlimited.
Lady Loring’s Dilemma: A Regency Novel (Lorings Book 2)
Delia, Lady Loring has long accepted that a wife has few legal rights and little say in the direction of her life. When she is caught in compromising circumstances, her furious husband, Sir Edward, banishes her to Harrogate where she is to live quietly with her mother and behave at all times in a seemly manner. All contact with their sixteen-year-old daughter, Chloe is forbidden.
In Harrogate, she finds small joys, makes friends and rediscovers a long-forgotten freedom. Most important of all, she meets Lord Stephen FitzCharles, her first love of some twenty years ago. The separation from Chloe grieves her, and she worries about what will become of her daughter but a mother has only the rights her husband allows her and Sir Edward shows no sign of relenting.
Delia resolves to place her trust in Stephen who offers her a new life on the Continent. They leave for Paris, then travel on to Nice. But Sir Edward, determined that his erring wife pays for her misdeeds, counters with new measures.
Napoleon’s escape from Elba and march on Paris to oust the newly-restored French king, bring further complications as Delia must face the most unexpected of decisions. Can she retain her freedom and reconcile fully with her daughter? Or will her wings be clipped forever?