We're delighted to have Jacqueline Diamond with us at the Pink Heart Society today, as she talks about writing series that just keep giving...
“One thing I like about each of these Safe Harbor Medical books is that every one of them can stand and be read on their own but together they make an even better story.”
--reviewer Michele Schram, WeReallyDig.com.
Too often, writers seem to prolong series, whether in romance, mystery or another genre, even after the inspiration fades, simply because they sell. I work hard to avoid falling into that trap. It’s wonderful to hear that reviewers agree with me.
My September release, The Doctor’s Accidental Family, is book 16 in my Safe Harbor Medical series from Harlequin American Romance, but to me it feels as immediate and emotional as the first book in the series (The Would-Be Mommy). Before I explain how I do this, I should admit that I never intended to write such a long series.
It started with three books linked by a subplot about a community hospital reopening as a center for maternity and fertility care. Despite the ongoing secondary storyline, I made sure each book could be read separately.
To me, in a series, it’s important not to bog down the reader with too much detail about previous books. I only tell the reader what she needs to know.
After I finished the first trilogy, new characters and storylines kept popping up. There was a second trilogy, then a third, and so on. Book 17, The Would-Be Daddy, is scheduled for February 2016.
Several approaches help me write each story as if it were a stand-alone. For instance, featuring a new hero and heroine in each book allows room for character development.
Finding new plot twists is fun for me, too, whether in the mysteries I’ve written (such as Danger Music), in my Regency romances (A Lady’s Point of View) or in my contemporary medical romances.
I also vary the time frame. Some stories take place in just a few weeks; others, over a period of months. Some of the stories are more humorous (Falling for the Nanny) and others more deeply emotional (The Surprise Triplets). The tone depends on the characters and how their relationships evolve during the writing.
An advantage of a long series is that I can introduce secondary characters before they take center stage. This way, I can try out ideas and angles I might not have explored otherwise. Sometimes, I paint a minor character into a corner, he or she becomes a hero or heroine, and I have to view the world through his or her eyes while resolving these problems.
The Baby Bonanza is a good example. When we met the heroine several books earlier, she wasn’t terribly sympathetic. Her bad choices came crashing down around her, and by the time she became a heroine, she had some hard work to do in order to connect with the judgmental man she fell in love with. He had quite a bit of personal growing to do as well!
Readers have told me they enjoy bumping into old friends, and previous heroes and heroines sometimes figure into later events. Over the half-dozen years I’ve been writing the Safe Harbor Medical series, characters have had babies who’re now old enough to start school. The kids show up in later books, sometimes as friends to a new character’s child.
Another important aspect of this series is research. My characters include doctors in a variety of specialties as well as an ultrasound technician, a family attorney, a police detective and a female bodyguard. I consult the Internet, but that isn’t always enough.
Thank goodness for helpful friends, including a nurse who reviews my books for accuracy and a retired sheriff’s investigator who consults on anything to do with police. I interviewed a friend who’s a judge for a courtroom scene involving the hero’s sister in The Surprise Triplets.
Is there anything I wish I’d done differently when I started? Yes, I wish I’d used a bigger piece of paper on which to draw my map of Safe Harbor. The houses, shops etc. are getting squeezed!
As for the future, I have plenty of ideas for the medical mystery series I’m writing and will be self-publishing, starting next year. I hope it runs for a long, long time!
What are your tips for writing a long series? Join the discussion with Jacqueline in the comments!
Jacqueline Diamond has published over 100 novels, including romantic comedy, romantic suspense, fantasy, mystery and Regency romance. Her latest - The Doctor's Accidental Family - is available now:
Single dad dilemma...
After a disastrous relationship, Nurse Zady Moore just wants a family of her own and a guy with no baggage. With a young, vulnerable son, Dr. Nick Davis is exactly the kind of guy she should avoid. But his offer is too good—free rent in exchange for occasional babysitting. And it comes at the right time, just as Zady's young goddaughter comes to stay with her. It's only for six months—surely she can resist Nick's charms.
Nick likes Zady, and he enjoys the camaraderie of chasing after two little kids with her. But she works for his hated cousin, and with a battle brewing between departments at Safe Harbor Medical, can Nick trust that Zady's loyalties lie with him?