Ladies and Jellybeans, Wonderful Readers, much to my delight we have author William Hahn joining us to talk about how he tackles (tackled?) writing a series. William taught Ancient-Medieval History for years, which wonderfully supports his journey into the realm of fantasy. He has written, in fact, an entire compendium about the lands in his novels—which is amazing bonus material for his readers and inspirational for those of us who write. Be sure you read through to the end of the post for a chance to enter a giveaway! Take it away, Will!
I’m very pleased to be invited to address Robin’s readers, and the topic could not be hotter. On the one hand, I’m a huge proponent of working tales into series for several reasons:
•First and foremost, because—as indie authors and particularly using e-pub—we can shake off the chains of artificial constraints on length and form, which are often just echoes of the paper-pub model that does not serve us. •Also there seems no question that today’s mobile and tech-savvy readers like shorter forms. It’s not that their appetite for reading overall has gone down. But “bite-sized” reading is more enjoyable for them because reading time has also been chopped up. It’s more often the twenty minutes’ commute to work, and rarely two hours curled up by the fire with cocoa anymore. And a short e-book is all set to become a right-sized audiobook! •Shorter formats turn pricing pressure on e-books into an advantage. You can justify a lower price for your work, and the reader doesn’t need to risk as much to take a flier on you, especially at first. Win-win.
Having said all that… I’m probably the worst example of a series writer you’ll ever meet!
Part One: The Accidental Series
I write epic fantasy tales; guys like me look at a 40,000 word novella and say “nice first chapter; where’s the rest?” Once I decided to put my hand to describing The Lands of Hope, I cranked out an 85,000 word… thing, that I immediately recognized was not a full story. Not even one! It was instead the latter two-thirds of a full length novel, of which I had not envisioned the right starting place. Later on, I would finally locate that spot, and now The Plane of Dreams is a proper novel, tending towards long by other genre standards, but nothing special within epic fantasy at 114,000 words. In the process I realized it is in fact the middle book of a series; there’s a full-length novel behind it (name TBD) and another coming after it (entitled “The Test of Fire”). But that’s old school, LoTR thinking about a classic paperback trilogy—today, series are supposed to be SHORT! Patience.
Meantime, I had turned to another subject and out sprang Judgement’s Tale, my upcoming release. I wrote and polished it for about a year, and wound up with a 200,000 word “monsterpiece.” I know, “get to the series already.” Well, this is it! I polished and re-read the work, and wondered what to do with it. First I ran it out there on query to twoscore agents—gee, unknown author in the ice-cold epic fantasy genre with a bulging first manuscript, I still can’t understand why they passed. But I was still thinking “paper” and “representation” and “advance” and all kinds of other things I should have known from the start were the REAL fantasy! My mind moves slowly.
Part Two: A Series on Purpose
After a month of drowning my sorrows (which turns out is incredibly hard to do when you don’t drink alcohol), I discovered the indie/e-pub path and have been very happy since. But I knew the long form wasn’t going to fly well there either: something in me said to hold back. I turned to an idea I had for shorter tales, novellas in a real no-kidding series. The Ring and the Flag and Fencing Reputation, first two of four tales in the series Shards of Light, are on the web now. Each focuses on a different hero in the set of three who are at the center of the plot; I designed the first two tales so you can start with either one, they stand alone and come in at nice novella length (33 and 45 thousand words). The third tale, Perilous Embraces, is half-done at 35 thousand words and unquestionably the hardest thing I’ve ever tried to write. I want to keep momentum, try to build that slow burn as so many bloggers advise. Shards of Light is going to be a terrific tale but this third installment (well, honestly the heroine) is giving me a tough time right now. So, what to do…
Part Three: When I Wasn’t Looking
That’s when it hit me. Well actually, that’s when a good friend hit me, right on the forehead like those V-8 commercials. And virtually, with a pleasant email invitation but still—pow! Take Judgement’s Tale, the epic monsterpiece that no agent or publisher in their right mind—barring one—would touch, and break it up into a series! Oh sure, you guessed it all along, right. I was skeptical but intrigued, and looked over my manuscript. And sure enough, the chapter breaks I already had in the tale worked out really well—first installment a little shorter as you would want, the others getting a bit longer as the tale develops.
I worked out a release schedule with my publisher—oh hold on, tiny detail—
I HAVE A PUBLISHER!!
I signed a contract and everything. Two or three times a week I take it out, read it, see my signature at the bottom and just giggle like a schoolgirl.
So—contract terms, release schedule, cover art, editing service, and right now this very blog tour you’re reading. All part of the plan, thanks to the flexibility brought about by e-books, self-publishing and a jot of ingenuity. Truly, it is a marvelous time to be an author. The freedom to publish when I choose, in the length and form I want, has been more joy to me than I can describe. My most ambitious work is coming to the world starting July 4th, and by creating a series I make it hopefully easier for readers to take in, and gain a little time to continue working on my other material knowing my “slow burn” is set for the future.
Think seriously about series! The advantages of publishing your work in installments go far beyond the list I started out with. I’d be interested to hear your thoughts, thumbs-up or down, when it works or not. I hope you will look into my upcoming series, beginning with Judgement’s Tale Part One, Games of Chance. Who knows, it could be the start of something for both of us.
Games of Chance
For twenty centuries the Lands of Hope prospered from their Heroes’ peace, but suffer now from their absence as a curse thickens over the central kingdom known as the Percentalion. An immortal omniscient conspirator schemes to escape the extra-worldly prison restraining his tide of undeath, using a demonic ally in a plot to bring back hell on earth. Solemn Judgement steps onto these Lands both a stranger and an orphan, driven to complete the lore his father died to give him.
In a world beset with increasing chaos, the bravest Children of Hope must take mortal risks. A young woodsman’s spear-cast, a desperate bid to save his comrades; the Healers Guildmistress’ cheery smile, hiding a grim secret and a heavy burden of guilt; the prince of Shilar’s speech in a foreign tongue, a gambit to avoid bloodshed or even war. As a new generation of heroes, scattered across the kingdoms, bets their lives and more, Solemn Judgement- soon to be known as The Man in Grey- must learn to play… Games of Chance: Part One of Judgement’s Tale.
Will Hahn has been in love with heroic tales since age four, when his father read him the Lays of Ancient Rome and the Tales of King Arthur. He taught Ancient-Medieval History for years, but the line between this world and others has always been thin; the far reaches of fantasy, like the distant past, still bring him face to face with people like us, who have choices to make.
Will didn’t always make the right choices when he was young. Any stick or vaguely-sticklike object became a sword in his hands, to the great dismay of his five sisters. Everyone survived, in part by virtue of a rule forbidding him from handling umbrellas, ski poles, curtain rods and more.
Will has written about the Lands of Hope since his college days (which by now are also part of ancient history). With the publication of Judgement’s Tale Part One, Games of Chance, he begins at last to tell the tale of the Land’s most unique hero, The Man in Grey.