Working on a new book in an ongoing series is amazingly rewarding. It means you have readers eager for what you have to say. It also means you get to spend time with your characters, who, hopefully, are like old friends.
But revisiting those old friends brings its own challenges. Not only do you have to remember what you did before so you don’t repeat a plotline, you have to consider the “rules” of the world you have built for your audience.
For my Layla’s Diaries series, that world is not so much her physical space as both books in the series take place in different venues, but in the storytelling technique. As the series name suggests, everything is told through Layla’s diary entries. There are definite benefits to telling a story in this format—I love the breezy, carefree style of the diary entries, the brevity of the “chapters,” aka each diary entry.
It is this very style has led to some reluctant middle-grade readers to pick up and devour the first book, Layla’s Vistaville Summer, and its sequel Layla’s Sugarland Winter, which was released late last year. I’m thrilled that I can provide these readers with stories they love. (Plus, I LOVE writing Layla she’s a hoot.)
However, as a writer, the limitations of writing in this format present interesting challenges as I try to balance my desire to dig deeper into who the characters and tell more of their stories with readers’ expectations of the series.
For instance, as much as I would like to know exactly what Shira thinks of her cousin, Layla, I can’t delve into that too much. I can, however, allude to it through Layla’s observations of Shira’s actions and words. Readers of the first book, know that Shira doesn’t have patience for her cousin, isn’t fond of mysteries and is bossy. They know it not just because Layla tells them, but because Shira’s been known to fold her arms across her chest, sigh deeply and shake her head at her cousin’s sometimes crazy ideas.
Likewise, readers of my Achdus Club books, expect that at the end of every book the girls in grade four will still be friends. They may have fights and disagreements in the middle of the book, but at the end of the book, their issues need to be resolved because friendship is at the core of the series.
To suddenly have a character decide they are better off without their friends, would betray the connection and trust between me as a writer and my readers.
Staying true to the tone, format and style of an ongoing book series is a pact the writer makes with reader. Finding a way to make that happen and still provide a compelling new story readers will love gives authors an opportunity to grow and challenge their writing and storytelling skills.
WRITERS: Do you juggle multiple stories at one time? How do you ensure that you stay true to the world in your novel?