Avi WordCraft blog

Writing a series

I may be wrong, but I think it was Ross McDonald (he wrote the highly successful Archer series of crime novels) who suggested that if you intend to write a series, start off by writing three or four of them, so you get, not just the sequencing right, but the main characters right.    

I have written a number of series—the Captain Gray books, Crispin Books, the Poppy books, Midnight Magic books—and never having done what he urged, I think he’s right. 

The Secret SchoolThe thought comes into my head as I attempt to write a sequel to The Secret School. The original was written twenty years ago and was composed for serialization in newspapers—published by Breakfast Serials. It was subsequently rewritten and published in book form by Harcourt. Harcourt was acquired by Little Brown. Little Brown requested a sequel and I agreed to do it. 

That seemed reasonable, but— 

Since I never intended a sequel, I had no idea what the plot might be. 

The daughter of an editor friend of mine who had loved the original, when I asked her what the sequel should be about replied, “It has to be about how Ida (the protagonist) goes to high school.” 

That made sense, but– 

The original story covered a time period of some six weeks. 

High school is a four-year project. 

And when I went and re-read that original, other than describing Ida Bidson’s height—which is important in the original book–there is no description of what she even looks like. 

Beyond all that the original story was much-loved. How could I possibly capture its attraction and energy? 

But I have agreed to write the book.

It’s been a process of getting back into character, psychology, place, style, vocabulary, historical moment, life in a small-town high school—in the year 1925. 

I should have listened to Ross McDonald. But I didn’t. 

Would you be surprised if I tell you it’s going slowly? 

Stay tuned.

9 thoughts on “Writing a series”

  1. Oh I will stay tuned. I am sure it will all come to you eventually. I love you letting us in on your process!

  2. PS My friend attended a one room school near Buffalo, NY. She is a poet and writer and about 81 or 82 with a good memory so if you would like to hear her stories I am sure she would be very eager to share.

  3. Can’t wait to see what happens with Ida next! I adore the original book which I now will view as Part 1 in a series!! Lots can happen in high school!

  4. By some astounding coincidence I just picked up The Secret School today and read it entirely in the afternoon. It was so marvelous that I had to find out more which lead me to this blog and the possibility that my kids and I will be able to read a sequel. Joy!

  5. I never write my stand-alones with the intention for a series, but now I find that a couple of them could be, *if* the first sells and does well. (No small IF, that 😉 )
    I think Ross MacDonald’s advice is right, though it also feels presumptuous in a way for mid-listers. But we have to get over that, don’t we.
    Good luck with yours. If anyone can, you can.

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