What do you find most important about series writing? How are the criteria for a great second book different from those for a great first book?
Some series are like the chef’s table at a five star restaurant. Each book serves as a single course designed to delight for the moment it’s on the tongue, but to never fill the epicurious up until the last sip of coffee. The goal is to tell a complete story in parts, and the author wants to keep the reader hungry for the next covered dish.
Think of the Harry Potter series as written by Iron Chef JK Rowling. In each book the wizardlings had adventures and specific challenges to overcome, but there was a more important over-arching tale that advanced until it was resolved at the end of the last book. When the Iron Chef wipes down the counters, everyone knows it’s time to hand the valet their parking slip.
For chef’s table fans, as important as knowing that the entire story’s going to be (mostly, eventually) told is understanding that the chef intends the meal to progress in an orderly fashion from soup to nuts. While I’m a big fan of eating dessert first whenever chocolate is involved, with this type of prix fixe series there’s usually little reason or point to going back and sampling the carrot soufflé once you’ve filled up on the cherry cheesecake. Knowing Dumbledore’s end game and Snape’s true character spoils all the delicious tension built and sustained throughout the previous six books.
A chef’s table pay-off’s big, but final.
A different kind of series is more like being a tourist in a Parisian crepe shop. You pretty much know what you’re getting when you order and that’s the best part. Crepe lovers are never bored because they know they can experience an endless variety—chocolate and banana, cheese and ham, strawberries and cream—sweet, savory, salty, spicy—but all held together by the same yummy crepe batter.
A lot of serial detective fiction like Robert Parker’s Spencer series falls into this category. First book to last, Spencer changes his underwear and not much else. A crime is committed. It gets solved. Some shooting, drinking, and bed-hopping happens in between. Readers can jump around sampling the novels Vegas buffet-style; the order generally doesn’t matter; it’s all about enjoying similar experiences with beloved characters over and over again.
But maybe this time Spencer’ll find true love and settle down…Ugh! Foiled again! With infinite combinations of new ingredients to offer, a creperie series can give the Energizer Bunny a run for his money—and make consistent bank for an author because it never really ends.
So long story short, what makes a second book great depends on whether it’s the soup course or a variation on a theme.
Regardless, I gotta admit there’s a lot of relief in cooking up plots for a returning cast of characters in a world you already built. At the very least, you know where all the pots and spatulas are in the kitchen.
The Niuhi Shark Saga is really one looooong tale broken into bite-sized MG/YA chunks. In a perfect world, it would’ve been a single book the size of a dictionary—the scary kind that perches on its own stand in the corner of the library. In my head at least, it’s a multi-course luau complete with roasted pig, hula dancers, and coconut cake for dessert.
Book 1, One Boy, No Water, was the maître d’(in spiffy aloha attire) placing an appetizer of ahi sashimi with a shoyu-wasabi reduction in front of the reader. Appetite piqued, book 2, One Shark, No Swim, starts getting into the thick curry stew of Zader’s water allergy and trouble fitting in. Served over sticky white rice seasoned with hints about his true heritage (also scattered like Gretel’s trail through the first book), I hope readers find the second book rich, savory, and chewy—a heartier, more rib-sticking read.
But not too filling. After all, the fish course come next. You won’t want to miss it. Promise.
Thanks for hosting me on your blog, Fiona!
About One Shark, No Swim
Zader’s got a lot of questions, not the least being why he’s hungry all the time, restless at night, and why he feels a constant itch on the back of his neck. It’s making him feel like teri chicken on a pūpū platter, but Zader doesn’t want to think about chicken, not with his growing compulsion to slip it down his throat--raw.
With Jay busy at surf camp and Uncle Kahana pretending nothing’s happening, Zader’s left alone to figure things out, including why someone--something—is stalking him before it’s too late.
Summer in Lauele Town, Hawaii just got a little more interesting.
You can find out more athttp://www.niuhisharksaga.com,
About Lehua Parker
So far Lehua has been a live television director, a school teacher, a courseware manager, an instructional designer, a sports coach, a theater critic, a SCUBA instructor, a playwright, a web designer, a book editor, a mother, and a wife. She currently lives in Utah with her husband, two children, three cats, two dogs, six horses, and assorted chickens. During the snowy Utah winters she dreams about the beach.
You can find her on her website, on Facebook, and on Twitter, or email her here!