Reflections on Writing as a Many-Booked Thing: Looking at Series

Last night I had the pleasure of attending New York City’s Teen Author Festival panel on writing book series. The panel included Dahlia Adler (Daylight Falls), Sarah Rees Brennan (The Lynburn Legacy), Seth Fishman (The Well’s End), Kass Morgan (The 100), Barry Lyga (I Hunt Killers), Marie Rutkoski (The Winner’s Curse), and Eliot Schrefe (Endangered), moderated by David Levithan (Every Day). 

I am so glad I went! The panelists were funny and insightful. As someone who wants to work in young adult intellectual property creation, it was very helpful to hear about crafting stories from authors and balance it against my editorial mindset.

Brennan, though a staunch trilogy supporter (I do not agree, but I would welcome a discussion with her), had the best trilogy outline:

            Step 1: Set up

            Step 2: Make-out (or complications are presented)

            Step 3: Defeat Evil

After she said that, I felt like my mind had been blown. Sometimes, as readers, we immerse ourselves so much in the plot, we miss the big outlines. Macro plot vs micro plot.

Another aspect all the panelists discussed or touched on was the nature of cannon. Everything in the first book is cannon, and though you can introduce new things, you have to explain it. Adler mentioned how as she was writing her second book, she realized that the romance she was trying to write felt forced and lacked chemistry; it wasn’t until later she realized that character was a lesbian. But because she was in book 2, she had to go back and make sure it didn’t conflict with information from book 1.

Rutkoski likened writing a series to a game: you have to find where all the pieces go. Levithan made a valid point: Of all the books in a series, Book 1 is the MOST important. It is the book that will make your readers come back. In regards to questions about if you should hold onto ideas that might work in other books, Lyga had this to say: Don’t hold anything back. You will have other brilliant ideas.

Highlights from the night include:

Twitter snap

I will be attending the all day Saturday symposium so stay tuned for more on all things YA writing.


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