This post was originally published at Novelicious.com and is now at WritingTipsOasis.com. WritingTipsOasis.com acquired Novelicious.com in June 2022.
I’m currently writing a prequel to my novel Millie and the American Wedding –a novel I planned to be stand alone. And it got me thinking: do authors usually plan the whole series of books before they start or can a series grow organically?
I personally love reading a good series of books. I don’t know whether it was all my teenage years of reading about the Wakefield twins in Sweet Valley High or the kids that lived on the island in the Making Out series by Katherine Applegate, but there is something comforting about continuing to read about characters that you’ve grown to love. Some of my favourite chick lit characters are also part of series; Becky Bloomwood, Annie Valentine and Lizzie Jordan. And I might have just got a little over excited about the news that Jane Green might be bringing Jemima J back in some form.
I always wonder whether the authors have the series already planned before they write the first word. I’ve read many times that J.K Rowling had planned all seven Harry Potter’s before she started. But then in contrast I read an interview with Suzanne Collins-who wrote the Hunger Games- hadn’t set out to write a trilogy at all. Collins felt that when she reached the end of the first book there were characters that wouldn’t have let it end as it did, so there had to be a follow up.
For me, with Millie, I never expected to write a trilogy. Yet one of the most common conversations I have with readers of Millie, is that the ending isn’t what people were expecting; they naturally assume there will be a sequel. And that got me thinking… what would happen to Millie in the future? But to know will happen to Millie in the future, I'd have to know the story of Millie's past. So I decided that before I could write the sequel, I needed to write a prequel.
Writing a prequel, when you hadn’t planned it originally, is difficult. I’ve had to read Millie and the American Wedding again and focus on all the little facts that I’d put in there about Millie and her university days (when the prequel is set). If I’d planned out the series first, I perhaps wouldn’t have added in throw away comments, like the gangster-wannabe that Millie dates in her first few weeks at uni. But in some ways having these odd little restrictions means I am having to be creative to tell the story of how Rob and Millie met so that readers don’t think they already know the story.
Have other authors written books that were initially meant to stand alone, but were extended because of the need to further explore the characters? Or do you find books in a series are essentially just dragging out the concept and destroying the happy ever after you imagined for the characters?