As you know, I’ve written a long series in the Jane Yellowrock world. Book 12, DARK QUEEN will be released on May 1, and I have two other JY books under contract after that. (Also 2 more Soulwood books.) That’s 14 JY books and 3 Soulwood books. That’s a lot of books.

I’ve been asked many times how I could plan for such a long-running series (and dozens of shorts and novellas) when publishing contracts come in 2s and 3s. So I am sharing the answer here for the first time. It’s 4 writing devices. I know. That sounds boring. But it really isn’t. The most important one for a long series is what I call the Device of Unanswered Questions. This means that I introduce partial information about a character or a plot line, enough so that the reader is satisfied and the answer looks complete. But embedded in the facts offered is the opportunity for more information from which new conflict can come.

Example? Jane has no memory of her early life. We think it’s traumatic amnesia, not realizing it is much more. Those hidden memories (not totally lost memories) are some of the Unanswered Questions. When JY series opens, we know very little about Jane. There are a lot of Unanswered Questions! I don’t just tell you everything about Jane’s character and history on page one. Or even in book one. In fact in book 12 we are both are still learning who Jane Yellowrock is. Yes, I am still learning too! Not knowing everything about a character keeps her fresh for me. Those unanswered questions and that new information drives the plot and conflict. 

And here’s another way I make it work — Conflict. Conflict Makes a Book. (Yeah, that’s a writing rule.) And there is a LOT of conflict in Jane’s world, both her personal life and her professional life. That conflict is the very reason you remain so interested in Jane. Why? Because conflict is both interesting, and because Conflict is the Driving Force to Character Development. (Another writing rule.) Jane changes, develops, grows because the conflicts are forcing her to.

Then you can toss in the Device of Unintended Consequences. Things happen that the reader is not expecting. And yes, sometimes I am not expecting them to happen. (Writer rolls eyes at myself.) Example: To protect herself in a dangerous situation, Jane lied and claimed to be Leo’s Enforcer. Leo made it real and forced to her to accept the consequences of that claim, which is still ongoing. And yea, that one was kind of a surprise.

Here is another example: Jane was vomiting up blood every time she bubbled time. Why? I didn’t say. Device of Unanswered Questions. That lack of an answer lasts over several books. She also has a new strand of DNA. Humans and most earth creatures have a double strand. When Jane bends/bubbles/twists time, certain genes are turned on and off and now (Unintended Consequences) Jane is growing a third strand of DNA. New genes are changing her. She also has discovered that when she messes with time, things in her world change, often in not-so-good ways. This results in Unintended Consequences and Increased Conflict.

All that personal conflict rides on top of the conflict of the Mithrans. All this conflict is leading to a climax of change in the vamp world and a change in Jane’s personal character development. And this means what? It means that I can add new books to a series and not get bored with it. And hopefully not leave too many unanswered questions that make it look like major cliffhangers which I HATE!

There you have it:

1)  Device of Unanswered Questions
2)  Conflict (and Increasing Conflict) Makes a Book
3)  Conflict is the Driving Force to Character Development 
4)  Device of Unintended Consequences

Now you know all my secrets. Knowing these four rules allows a writer to create a long-running series without killing off every single character and starting over with new ones.

If you want a signed copy of DARK QUEEN, watch the blog for the order link. It will be coming soon!

Hugs, all around!