5 Secrets from a Series Writer

5 Secrets from a Series Writer

Posted on October 26 by Philippa Dowding in Kids
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I’ve been lucky enough to create two middle-grade series: The Lost Gargoyle series (2009-2012) and Weird Stories Gone Wrong (2014-2016). Readers often ask if I plan my series from the start. The answer? No in the first case, yes in the second.  

Here are a few more thoughts from the series-writing trenches:

When does it end? I’m pretty sure every series-writer asks themselves this. Personally I think if your characters have a deep back story, if you’re disciplined about tone and style, if your publisher wants more … you can dance with your characters until one of you dies or develops carpal tunnel syndrome.

The horrors of catching up the reader. We’ve all read books that laboriously fill us in about earlier installments in a series (hello, J.K. Rowling!), or books that leave no clue to what’s going on if you start the series in the middle. Which is worse? I’ve decided less catch-up is better than too much. Hopefully readers will go back to earlier books to fill themselves in.

The creativity myth. Kids often ask me how I come up with ideas. The character of a lost gargoyle that followed me home popped into my head one day in an antique store full of gargoyles. My horror stories for kids have been brewing in my imagination my entire life. So creativity seems to be a mixture of inspiration and life-long noodling in my case.

How many characters is too many in middle-grade?  Personally, I like to get to know the main character really well as a writer, so my series tend to focus on one or two main characters and 4-5 secondary characters in each book, although main characters may change throughout the series, like tag-team partners.   

The art of picking a series name. The most important thing for me when I’m picking a name for a series is to LIKE IT, since I could conceivably be using it for years. I use an old copywriting trick: 30 ideas in 30 minutes. I write down every series name possibility that comes to me in half an hour no matter how offbeat or strange, and something always stands out … at least it’s worked so far!

Philippa Dowding

Posted by Kendra on October 30, 2014
Philippa Dowding photo

Philippa Dowding

Philippa Dowding is an award-winning children’s author, a poet, musician and a copywriter. Her many literary nominations include the Silver Birch Express, Red Cedar, and Red Maple awards. She lives in Toronto.