"All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us." —J. R. R. Tolkien

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Series & Backstory

So the dentist told me yesterday they thought my (3-year-old) daughter would lose her front teeth early. They're already wiggly. She bumped them a couple years ago, and, well, the trauma and all... They also advised she stop sucking her thumb. Uh, OK. I told her that, and she said "No."

I submitted ten pages for a workshop coming up in June. At first, I was stressing, wondering if it would be good enough compared to all the other awesome writers who are going to be in attendance. But, you know, what's the point of a workshop after all? My piece doesn't need to be perfect.
Did I put effort into it? Yes.
Did I just throw something together? No.
Am I genuinely interested in getting feedback on it? Definitely!
Am I excited? Oh yeah!

It's the first ten pages of the second book of a series. Perfect for me as I need to make sure to
1) Hook the reader as if it were a standalone novel.
2) Not inundate the reader with too much backstory.
3) Give enough backstory to not utterly confuse the reader.

I'm heard a couple things about books in series.
1) A reader should be able to pick up this book, enjoy it, and not be utterly lost and confused if they haven't read the books before it.
2) Regarding backstory, if it's not relevant to the story ahead, don't include it. After all, then what reason would there be for the reader to go back and read book 1?

Anyone written series books and have some great advice they'd like to share?


Kelly said...

Hah! Re: dentist's advice.

I was TEN years old before I stopped sucking my thumb. I was bribed with a hamster which I named Olga after Olga Korbut. I STILL sleep on my hands.

So, good luck with that :)

(And your revision sounds great. I can't wait to read this one, especially as we read the first 8 chapters or so in group.)

Sheri said...

No. I'm still on book 1. In my mind I would like it to be the first book in the series, but I haven't the faintest idea what the next one would be about yet. And I think I won't until I finish writing this one.

But, about the dentist... My daughter was also a thumb sucker. Everyone around me told me how horrible and she would never be able to quit and it is the hardest thing to quit, etc.

Well she did suck her thumb until she was about 8, I think, but only at night while she was asleep. She didn't even realize it was in there. It all came to a sudden halt when she was getting her expander put in. She knew she wouldn't be able to suck it with that contraption in there, so she just one night said, I guess tonight's the night I quit and just like that - stopped.

So I think kids just know when they no longer need to suck their thumb anymore - they feel comforted in other ways perhaps and so they are just ready to let it go.

HipWriterMama said...

I say study the series of the authors who did it right--Megan Whalen Turner in the Attolia series, Rick Riordan in the Percy Jackson Series, J. K Rowling (Books 1, 2, 3, 6, 7) are just a few I can think of right now. They are genius with weaving in the backstory and keeping things interesting.

I can't wait to read this next part!

Jill Douglass said...

Well, at Anna's dentist appointment last month, the dentist said it would probably be another year before Anna loses a tooth. She took the news with aplomb. Whew!

TJBrown said...

WAH! I wanna write a series!


Patty P said...

I love how you plan out your week....setting and then actually achieving your goals. Hmmm. I think I might try this technique.
Oh, and my daughter still sucks her thumb. 9 years and counting.

PJ Hoover said...

Hey Kelly! A bribe. So did it work? Would they really have taken away the hamster if you started up again? And if my revisions go as well as planned, you won't even recognize it!

Hey Sheri, this would be ideal for my daughter to quit this way. I used to be a nail biter and quit one day, all on my own!

Great idea, HWM! Like I need an excuse to read a Percy Jackson book. And you know number 4 comes out on Tuesday!

Hey Jill! You should check out "Third Grade Baby" when it comes out. Anna would probably love it. But it's not due out until September.

Write one, Teri! You certainly have the drive in you!

Thanks, Patty! I've just started actually listing the five things on Monday and it really seems to be making me think about what I want to get done and actually doing it!
And 9 years and counting!

So are we talking major orthodontics here???

beth said...

I sucked my thumb for years...until my mom started putting hot sauce on my thumbs! That didn't work entirely...now I love hot, spicy food! (Actually, what did work was bandaids on my thumbs. For some reason, I never thought to take them off)

As for a series...I've tried writing a sequel, but as it's not published yet, who knows how successfully I've done in bringing in a hook and backstory. I do think JK Rowling did it the best with books 2 and 3. I think it helps to have a new character (i.e. Dobby) to contrast with the old characters (i.e. Dobby taking Hermione's and Ron's letters, which brings up their importance).

keri mikulski :) said...

I'm working on book 2 right now and yes, I'm having the same issues.. Please let me know how it goes. At the moment, I'm spending lots of time reading the second books of some authors I love - Megan Mccafferty, Melissa Walker, Meg Cabot, etc.. Good luck at the workshop.

PJ Hoover said...

Hey Beth! Spicy food, huh? And band-aids. The spicy food may be worth a try, but she won't ever put a band-aid on her special thumb! And I'm definitely going to re-read Chamber of Secret.

Hi Keri! Good luck on book 2. I'm thinking I need to go through and reread "second books" with an eye for what the author is doing. Maybe even with a highlighter. Good suggestions on the authors!