2016-12-04

Writing a Series

Update
Peacekeeper Pathogen now has 68,279 words. I have two or three chapters left to finish (by my seat of the pants estimate) and that puts the final word count at around 75,000. Not as much as I would like, but a good start. As I close in on the end, my notes of things I need to go back and fix is starting to grow. Most of it involves having to add stuff. But, if the book turns out to be 75k, then it's 75k. I'm not going to add scenes and chapters just to fill the space between the covers. That's what turns a good book into a boring book.

Writing a Series
If you are a new writer, here's a piece of advice: Keep a detailed historical log of what happens in the universe you've created. This applies even if you don't plan on writing a series because your single-story book might very well turn into a series. Plus, having a historical record helps you keep your facts straight. It's very difficult to remember when something happened, who did what, and who was where when, in a complex story that takes place in multiple locations over a long period of time.

I've lived in the universe of my Galactic Alliance series since I was in high school. I actually had a fairly detailed technical reference manual before I became a writer. It's changed over the years, but I had a good place to start. Chroniech was the first complete novel I ever wrote. I finished it while at sea in the Navy back in 1988. I wrote it using WordStar on a CPM machine. The printed version was retyped into a program I no longer remember the name of running on a CPM computer built by my dad. It was moved from machine to machine, translated, retyped, and converted as necessary until it was finally sent to Amazon as my first book in 2009. In between all that time, the book was modified and edited many times. I got to know it very well.

While working on what would become Chroniech, I built up an elaborate history and set of facts for the Galactic Alliance. I turned my Galactic Alliance Technical Reference Manual (GATM), into a collection of facts and then a timeline. I've kept it current ever since and I refer to it very often. Today, I use Aeon Timeline to track the timeline of the entire Galactic Alliance series. So what's in the GATRM? have a look:

  • Distances from one planet to another.
  • Names and descriptions of all the member races.
  • Cultural information associated with the various races.
  • Important dates and events.
  • Details concerning the major vessels.
  • Descriptions of weapon and defense systems.
  • Details of many of the main characters.
  • Other bits and pieces of interesting information (such as converting joules to kilotons).
Having all this information in one location has been a huge help in keeping the facts straight over the years. If I say its xx light years from Earth to a specific planet in one book, it had better match in the others.

I had the GATM on my website at one time but it changes too much for me to continually upload it. One of these days, if I ever decide that the series has worn out its appeal, I will finalize the GATM and make it available.

Writing a series is tough. You have to keep facts, names, places, dates, and all sorts of stuff consistent. If you don't, a sharp reader will point it out! Even though I have the GATM, there are times when I must go back and look at past books to verify a fact.