My main writing project last year become THE SKYWARD SAGA, a six novel + two short story adventure starring a young woman and a murderous alien. You know, the kind of story that comes along all the time.
As we’re coming near the close of the story, I’m taking a look at what I’ve learned writing it (6 books is twice as long as my prior trilogies), including the challenges, the fun, and why writing longer series is so satisfying.
Constructing a Galaxy takes time, but it’s a lot of fun
This might seem obvious, but choosing to set a story in a wholly ‘new’ world means you have to, well, create that world. So far as I know , Amazon doesn’t offer worlds on two-day delivery, yet.
With a longer series, world-building requires more than a trilogy, and far more than a standalone, even ones of huge length. Because every book ought to have a complete story, you need that many more places for characters to go, that many more things to interact with and explore. With Science Fiction, too, the setting itself is part of that story, so it’d better be an interesting one.
Every planet, species and space station offers a chance to let the imagination run wild and chase an idea to it’s over-the-top conclusions – given the genre, there’s no reason not to follow a thought to it’s most amazing. A real-world thriller might not want eyeless monsters roaming the caves, but a sci-fi/fantasy series? Absolutely.
You’d better like your characters, because you’ll be in their heads for a long time
This is one I underestimated – spending a book or two, or even three in the heads of a couple characters is fun; you get to see them grow, see them adapt to challenges, fail and eventually succeed.
When the series goes longer, however, the track to success takes longer. Their flaws have to stick a little more, and as the stakes rise and rise, you have to stay with them when it would be easier to jump to a new, fresh soul.
In part, that’s what makes writing a creature like Sax so fun – the alien’s drive is different than a humans, and the way he reacts to situations is vastly apart from Kaishi, giving not just a different POV, but a wholly different frame for story-telling.
The other part of this, too, is that having complex antagonists is a must. Villains-of-the-week are going to get too repetitive for reader and writer alike during a long series – it’s more fun challenging characters in different ways than just having them charge into battle again and again.
Leave room to tell the other stories
I wrote 2 shortish stories set in THE SKYWARD SAGA’s universe, largely because I wanted to spent some time with side characters that didn’t get the main stage. Neither one is necessary to enjoy the full scope of the core story, but the point of writing is to, well, write what you want, and I wanted to see what these two would do if set out on their own journeys.
While the core story of THE SKYWARD SAGA ends after six books, there’s plenty more universe there to explore. I’d like to go back to it someday and tell some of those other stories, because, well, all that world-building noted above leads to a lot of things that wind up getting cut from the main story.
Just like Star Wars has dozens of spin-offs, and Harry Potter has its Fantastic Beasts movies, there are stories worth telling that’ll take place in parts of the galaxy not seen during these books. Viera, especially, deserves a starring turn, and I’d love to see what trouble she gets up to after the end of the series.I
I’ll stop the post here for now and continue next time, looking a little more closely at the plotting, and the challenges involved in planning a longer series. Because there are many, and they’re worth defeating so you can wander a long path in a world you like, with characters you love.