Research

CURRENTLY WORKING ON: Bachelor Gamble, a contemporary romance

MOOD: Quite pleased with myself, though nervous, since I just submitted a novella to my editor.

I went through a phase where I wrote Victorian paranormal. But the second story in one series ended up on perma-hold under an editor’s desk somewhere, and the first story in my second series didn’t sell as well as I personally liked so I’ve shelved that for the moment too. When I wrote these stories I had piles of research books slung around my desk so I could look up things like fashion and home styles and the types of servants in upper middle class houses and all that good stuff.

Mostly though, I write contemporary romance or some kind of paranormal whether set in present day or in the future. My best friend and partner in crime is Google. I Google my computer into crash mode. Yes, it happened today when I was double checking a quote from Hesiod. I wasn’t happy.

I have been through the questionable joy of a group series, where we had a series bible that grew into a monster that ate most of the joy out of the project. The project manager had a nervous breakdown. I suppose in that case all your research questions can be answered in one place but building the thing was a nightmare. So I prefer Google for all my needs.

Having said that, I think the best research for someone in my position, writing contemporary romance and erotic nearly everything else, is reading. I have to read to keep up with the market. What’s okay to write about sexually? What do readers enjoy right now? When you are epublished your stories are quicker to market (usually) so watching market trends can be quite valuable. My best selling story to date was written because I guessed that the subgenre would be getting popular soon and I was right. I barely read in that subgenre because I was so busy getting the story submitted but it still worked. I knew enough to cover the basics and develop my own take on it.

I should be researching my own work. I have this sad habit of dropping intended series after the first two stories. Maybe this is because I don’t put together a series bible for myself (shudder).

Okay, everyone, comments should be focused on how to get me in gear so that I can stand to write the third book in a series! How should I organize my past research, materials on key characters and so on?


Comments

Research — 4 Comments

  1. Hey, Heather!

    Maybe it’s OK to limit a “series” to two books. Lots of authors preface their advice with “take what works for you and don’t worry about the rest.” Perhaps that’s the best route for a series also. Why beat yourself up if two connected books are what work best for you? Or just a single book?

    Since I just finished the rough plots of a nine-book series, I was very interested in your comments about a series Bible and the project manager having a nervous breakdown. Fortunately, I plan to write my series by myself, which will of course take longer than if a group of authors were writing it. However, I’ll have much more control over where the stories go and can “tweak” the Bible if need be.

    I’m very detail oriented and love to use charts and photos clipped out of magazines that fit with my stories. I’ve also made up my own forms and processes — mutated to what works for me from classes and articles on writing. I’ve done a couple workshops on some of the processes I use. I also have a wall with easel-sized pages for pictures and notes about the stories I’m working on. I posted a picture of this wall on our blog on June 27.

    It’s great that you read to keep one step ahead of the market. That’s not a skill that I’ve developed yet.

    Hope your computer has recovered from your Google research and good luck with the novella!

  2. Thanks, Genene – some great comments! I’m back into book 2 of a series right now, so I’m combing through the first book to put important details into a spreadsheet. It’s great that you’ve developed your own system – part of the craziness of the series Bible was trying to force different personalities to do the same thing and do it in detail when they weren’t getting paid…

  3. Like Genene, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with a two-book series. But if you wanted to have more books, have you tried a more loosely connected concept so that you aren’t tied down to a complicated bible? For example, rather than interweave characters or overarching plot, you could choose an element — say, an heirloom pendant that causes a person’s worst fears to manifest, or a wandering minstrel whose songs leave a clue about a person’s dearest desire. Or something like that. A single repeating element wouldn’t tie you down to hard’n’fast plots for each book but would give a through-line for the series and an end for readers to anticipate. In the pendant series, the last book would be the breaking of the curse; and the last minstrel book would be the minstrel finding love.

  4. Until recently I’ve always written stand-alone single title stuff, and I’m just beginning to realize series can be useful. The advice from editors used to be to not attempt a series until you were a well-recognized published author because it was so chancy. If you left a publishing house, you could unsold manuscripts no one would want to pick up. I have a friend sitting on three orphans now. Scary! But series work a lot better with e-publishers, as you’ve mentioned.

    If you decide it’s just to be two books, then call the second one a sequel, and go on to something else. I remember Mary Jo Putney talking about a “trilogy” that ended up continuing for seven books, at which point she refused to write more.

    I make separate folders for main characters in my books, but as you know, things change. That’s where I like spreadsheets because they keep the essential information in one place. I used to keep all that major info in my head, but that’s become an inadequate storage facility.

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