Success!

Friday, December 20, 2019
Two-thousand-nineteen is ending on a high note. Within the past hour, I finished revisions on the prequel to my new mystery series. Now, that doesn’t mean it’s ready to read yet. I have to put it through ProWritingAid, which will check grammar, spelling, punctuation, and check for style issues like passive voice. And then comes the final step, where I read the entire book out loud. This serves two purposes: to check for typos that my eyes skip over because my brain knows what’s supposed to be there, and listening for cadence. Sentences have rhythm. Short sentences speed up the tempo of the story, while longer ones slow it down. Too many of either kind in a row is boring to the reader. It’s best to vary sentence and word lengths with what’s going on in a scene.

But the essence of the book is done!

Because I also finished the first draft of the first book in this series earlier this month, I’m in a terrific position to start releasing this series early in 2020. And then today, while eating lunch and watching Live PD Cam, I saw an idea for the premise of the second book in the series. This plot has me really excited. Yes, watching TV can be research for writing novels.

Six months ago, I wouldn’t have believed you if you told me I’d be looking at publishing several books in a new series. I was discouraged because my first idea for a change didn’t work out so well. I knew I’d made a wrong genre choice, I had no idea how to continue my African Violet Club mystery series, and I had no ideas for something else new. I was facing the first year in a long time when I wouldn’t publish a single new book. In other words, I was pretty close to hitting bottom as far as a writing career went.

Then three things happened.



Having discovered that I am a mystery writer, not a romance writer, I started thinking about where I’d gone wrong with the African Violet Club mysteries. I’d done what the majority of writing books told you to do: I’d given my characters character arcs. But that was exactly what caused the series to come to an end. If your main character wants to find the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, when she finds it, her story is over. Even if you have her go on multiple adventures in multiple books on her journey to discover where that pot of gold is, you have two choices. She can continue to go on those adventures, and yet fail every time to reach her goal. Or she can reach her goal and take that pot of gold and retire to a mansion on a tropical island. But she has no reason to go on adventures anymore.

So how could I avoid making the same mistake with a new series? I didn’t know. Then lightning struck, and I recalled that television had solved that problem a long time ago. Gunsmoke ran for twenty seasons. Law & Order ran just as long. Heck, The Simpsons has been on for thirty-one seasons and it’s still going strong. How do they do that?

I found a book called Writing the Pilot that was all about how to write a TV series that could continue for multiple seasons. For the first time, here was a method that could be used to write an ongoing series. And not once did it mention character arcs. So that was one piece of the puzzle.

I also knew that the way to success for an indie author is to publish new books frequently. I’d had experience with this myself, and so I knew it worked. I released the first three books in the African Violet Club mystery series only a few months apart each. That was my highest earning year ever. But after that, it took me longer to write each book. The next book was published almost a year after the last of the first three. The fifth book was published in only a slightly shorter time. I managed to release the sixth, and last, book six months after that. Sales dwindled between releases, and with no releases at all, they basically stopped. I had to come up with a way to write faster so I could publish more books without the long periods between releases.

I found Writing and Releasing Rapidly by Elana Johnson. This is part of her Indie Inspiration series, and it definitely was inspirational to me. Elana is such a positive person, you can’t help but share her enthusiasm. While she has published a new book as often as every three weeks, she also had an example of publishing books in a series 11 weeks apart, or roughly every three months. Now, that seemed possible to me if I used the methods I’d been studying over the past year or two. But was she someone I could believe in enough to emulate?

As it turned out, she is. Part way into the book, she revealed that she had a pen name, Liz Isaacson, under which she writes Christian cowboy romance. Wait! What? I knew Liz Isaacson! I’d read three of her books and loved them. That made all the difference in the world to me. She’d given me proof that you could write fast and still write good books.

She also has release strategies for the various rapid release schedules she tried. So here was a plan that might work for me, with a concrete way to use what she’d written about.

Last, but certainly not least, I went to the 20 Books conference in Las Vegas in November. 20 Books is all about positivity shared among indie authors. It took that enthusiasm I’d picked up from Elana’s book and surrounded me with people who shared it. And Elana herself was there!

And that’s how I’ve finished two first drafts in a new series, revised one, and look forward to writing more. Gone are the days when I’d quit writing for the day after one session. In fact, looking at my tasks and deadlines in Things for Mac, I haven’t given myself any excuses to put off writing recently. Including this blog. I didn’t want to carry over this task an extra day or week, which I would have done in the past. I was committed to getting it written and posted by the deadline. Which I have.

2 comments

Irene Sauman said...

Well done Elise. Congratulations. Have just downloaded Writing a Pilot. Thank you for the reference. I've read Elana Johnson too. I don't think character arcs are at all useful for mystery series. We can write ourselves into a corner too easily. Looking forward to reading your new series. Irene

Elise M. Stone said...

I agree. Let me know what you think of Writing the Pilot.

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