L.A. Sartor started telling stories before she could write. Her mom patiently wrote them down, and L.A. scribbled the illustrations. She still has them. She’s written award-winning screenplays and has had a contracted adaptation. L.A. will be starting a new cozy mystery series in 2017. Learn more about her and her books at her website and blog.
First off, I’ll give a bit of background. I wrote a Christmas book several years ago, Be Mine This Christmas Night, set in my hometown of Boulder, CO. It did well, went to #1 on Amazon. Everyone told me it needed to be a series. And I blithely thought, “Why not?”
By the time I realized I needed a character and story bible (basically very detailed notes) I’d already forgotten a lot of the reasons what and why Annie Hamilton and Cole Evan’s motivations were for doing what they did. Sure I had notes, but I write organically. Their behavior comes from them. I just get to guide them a bit. I was incredibly frustrated and the clock was ticking. A holiday story needs to be out in time for the holidays.
Taking a deep breath, I reread my character profiles and my scribbled notes. Then I reread the paperback version of Be Mine, and made notes in the margins and stuck page flags everywhere.
So I felt prepared to retackle book two, Forever Yours This New Year’s Night.
While Annie and Cole had parts in this story, this book was about Annie’s best friend, Jennifer Malone and her nemesis, Brice Young, whom you meet in book one.
This go round I was a bit smarter. I knew I was going to have three books (later I realized there will be a novella because my readers asked to know more about a character in book two) and so I added to my bible as soon as something I deemed important happened in the story.
Now here is a bit of advice to writers I learned the hard way…don’t stop the flow of words on the page to make notes. Go back immediately after you’re done and jot down why this important scene happened. The conflict, the motivation for the characters actions, the scene and setting. Even the car they were driving in and the time of day. (If you don’t write down those scene details, you’re doomed to repeat a scene way too similar in the next book of the series.) Not all scenes have to be done, just the important ones.
That brings me to the next point. Read your first book and then the new book and see if you’ve repeated scenes and left out details or repeated and fix. Do that again for the third book, mine is Believe In Me This Christmas Morn. Now if you have a dozen books you may not want to do this, but I’ll guarantee that your fans will find the mistakes and may or may not forgive you for such a transgression.
One last trick: Make a list of all your character’s names, series or not. You’ll be saved the hassle of going back and fixing that repeated name. I have six books out with a seventh due this coming spring. I have literally dozens and dozens of characters.
One last mistake I made. Really two.The titles were intended to be close in context to each other. Th other mistake was to make the covers so close in color and tone. I should have done one or the other, but not both.
Be Mine This Christmas Morn
The Children's Author ...
Annie Hamilton's children's series Star Light~Star Bright is a mega hit. She loves kids and wants nothing more than a family of her own, but twice burned, thrice shy. When a gorgeous man with two young boys moves next door, Annie can't help but dream her impossible dream.
And The Widower Who Moved Next Door ...
Cole Evans is a brilliant scientist, but finds fatherhood a challenge. When his son develops a bond with their enchanting neighbor, the boy's favorite author, Cole discovers just how much he's lost--and how much he needs.
Will Their Wish Come True This Christmas Night?
Can Cole overcome family meddling and alleviate Annie's fears so they can be a ready-made family?