Monday, March 25, 2013

Tips on Writing a Series Successfully by J.S. Marlo

Give a warm welcome to the FANTASTIC J.S. Marlo. I have had the privilege of being Mrs. Marlo's editor and I am so pleased to have her talented-self on my blog today.

Writing a series is seriously an art and I wanted to have her over to dish out some tips on writing a series. Take it away J.S. :-)

Book One, Book Two, Book Three…I have a series!

As a reader and a writer, I love book series. My first question about series is always the same. Do I have to read the books in order?

It's an important question, especially if I already bought or downloaded Book Two and Three, but not the elusive Book One.

There are many types of series. Some share a main storyline within all the books, some share recurrent characters, some share a theme, some need to be read in order, some don't, and some are a mix of all the above.

When I first wrote Unscripted, it didn't intend for the book to be part of a series. It wasn't until I finished it that I realized I wasn't ready to say good-bye to my characters, so I wrote two more books. The three books of the series are stand-alone novels, but they have some recurrent characters and Duty as a common theme. The series is called Duty Bound, and the title of each book starts with Un.

In Unscripted - Duty Bound Book One, we meet Riley who's a screenwriter and a mother. In Unearthed - Duty Bound Book Two, we reconnect with Rowan, Riley's daughter, who inherits a Bed & Breakfast with a deadly history. In Untamed - Duty Bound Book Three, we follow the tribulations of one of the previous guests at Rowan's Bed & Breakfast.

Does the Duty Bound Series need to be read in order? Not for comprehension purposes, but each book reveals a few details of the previous book, so there is a spoiler alert in effect.

I'm currently working on another series called Heart & Endurance. Each book features a high performance athlete embroiled in a complicated relationship. The three books are stand-alone with different characters, only connected by a common theme and double-meaning titles. Cold Sweat. Slippery Ice. Hot Water. There is no Book One, Two, or Three. It's just three books part of the Heart & Endurance Series.

So, how do I proceed to write a series?

#1- Common element

To make a series, I need to identify a common element featured in each book to tie them together. It can be:
- a main storyline encompassing the entire series with different sub-plots in each book
- recurrent characters
- a common theme, a common place, a common activity, a common profession…

All the books in my series have different storylines. In Duty Bound, the stories revolve around duty and obligations while sharing some recurrent characters.

#2- Stand-alone VS Sequel

Sometimes a reader stumbles onto a book by accident, and that book may not be the first one of the series.

If the subsequent books in the series are sequels of the first, I need to decide how many details from the previous books to incorporate in the following ones. If I don't summarize the important points, the readers will have no choice but to read the books in order. If I do add some details from the first book, it may arouse the readers' interest in the series while allowing the subsequent books to stand alone. If I give too much away, the readers may not go back to the other books.

#3- Consistency

I need to be consistent with the timeline, recurrent characters, previous events, familiar settings…

#4- Length

As a writer, I try to keep the books the same length to give the series a uniform presentation, but as a reader, I show no preference.

In Duty Bound, my books contain between 75,000-85,000 words.

In Heart & Endurance, they contain between 40,000-50,000 words.

While some publishers have strict "words" requirement when it comes to series, others welcome books of different lengths. And example of the latest is the Harry Potter Series.

#5- Titles

Carefully chosen, the titles of the books can further tie them together and to the series.

#6- Writing

The final step of creating a series—and the most challenging: sit down and write the books.

So, what do YOU like and dislike about series?

J.S. Marlo

Duty Bound Series

Unscripted – Book One 

"Shaped by fire. Bound by duty. Driven by love." Riley's tumultuous life rivals the television scripts she writes for Wild Rescue.


After a bullet shatters his world, actor Blythe Huxley befriends Riley Kendrick, a new writer on the television show Wild Rescue, never expecting to discover a kindred spirit.

No stranger to tragedy, Riley lends a compassionate ear to Blythe's difficulties and soon becomes entangled in a web of illicit affairs and deadly intrigue.

When an arsonist and a killer both strike, Riley's fate intertwines with Blythe's, and her life and her heart hang in the balance. Will they be able to protect their past? And save their future?

Unearthed – Book Two 

"Shaped by regrets. Bound by duty. Driven by secrets." Rowan's future is jeopardized by the regrets she harbors and the deadly secrets she unearths.


Obligated to give up the man she loves, Rowan O'Reilly takes over Buccaneer Bed & Breakfast. Though her heart is in shambles, she is drawn to Avery Stone, a mysterious guest who reminds her of Bjorn…and everything she lost.

Haunted by a fatal decision, Avery escapes his past in Buccaneer's attic, but he can't ignore the previous owner's peculiar death, the strange bones exhumed by the spirited Rowan…or the annoying doctor vying for her attention.

As visitors wreak havoc on Buccaneer, Rowan stumbles onto deadly family secrets and unknowingly unearths a murderer. Yet nothing, not even the threat of her predecessor's fate, can stop her from digging for the truth.

Untamed – Book Three 

"Shaped by tragedy. Bound by duty. Driven by justice." Avery trusts his instincts, not the law, to protect a deaf woman and her young son.


Posted in the heart of winter to a remote detachment in Newfoundland, Constable Avery Stone is a freshly demoted Mountie with a rogue streak. As he looks into the death of a disgraced officer, he stumbles onto a plethora of unresolved crimes. His troubling investigation throws him into the path of Hannah Parker, the feisty deaf mother of a young boy.

To escape her past, Hannah moves into her grandfather's secluded cabin. She catches a glimpse of his killers in the woods, but her credibility is damaged by recanted accusations. The birth of a fatherless son further tarnishes her reputation, and hinders her ability to trust. When shadowy forces threaten her family, Hannah is forced to rely on Avery.

Tangled in a web of deadly deceit, Avery seeks to protect Hannah and her son while desperately trying to retrieve the crucial evidence locked inside their minds. Can Hannah recapture her past in time to save her only child and the man she's come to 

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