The ups and downs of writing a series

As I sent off the final edits for Book 3 of my Little French Guesthouse series last week, I found myself filled with very mixed emotions. It’s been quite a journey, from beginning that first book in the series and finding the right home for it (you can read about that here) to finishing the third, due out on 12th July.

When I sent that first book off to Bookouture, I told them that I had ideas for a sequel. I never imagined they would come back to me suggesting a series!

Eventually, we agreed that three books would be the perfect number Β to tell Emmy’s story and those of her family and friends without getting stale.

Having only written standalone books before, writing that second and third book for the series was quite a learning curve for me.


I am by nature what my American writer friends call a ‘pantser’. My natural instinct is to have a basic idea of the plot in my head, a good handle on my characters, but then to let those characters take over and see where they go, reining them in later if necessary.

It soon became clear that I wouldn’t be able to do that for Books 2 and 3 of the La Cour des Roses series. My editor wouldn’t let me! πŸ™‚ And quite rightly so. I needed to plan ahead – not only the general direction of the books but all the separate story arcs for each of the main characters and some of the secondary characters, too. I had to ensure there were no discrepancies between the books, from events to character descriptions to dates …Β 

Although I knew it was both necessary and useful, I did find that level of planning hard … not necessarily the planning itself, but sticking to the plan. I couldn’t feel free to just ‘let go’.

The sweetener for all this was that for each book, I didn’t have to dream up a whole new setting and bunch of characters – I could just happily immerse myself right back into La Cours des Β Roses and its environs and spend time with the characters I’d come to know and love.

By now, I knew instinctively what they would all say or do, I could expand on their stories far more than I could have in one book, and it was lovely to be allowed to explore some of the secondary characters in more detail than a standalone book would allow. It also meant that I could take Emmy and thereby the reader to even more lovely places in the Loire region of France and have her enjoy further activities there.

Another important bonus – I could explore Emmy and Alain’s relationship in a slower and more satisfying way than in a standalone romance novel, from their initial attraction in Book 1 to their developing romance in Book 2 to their impending wedding in Book 3.

The first book of the series, The Little French Guesthouse, meant a great deal to me. It had spent a long time as an idea in my head before it took a long time becoming a reality on my computer screen and an even longer time finding a publishing home.

To be able to take those characters and that setting that meant so much to me and expand on them, to explore so much more than that single book allowed me to, was an incredible opportunity, and I will always be grateful to my publisher, Bookouture.

Would I attempt to write another series sometime? I’m not sure … but they do say ‘Never say never’, don’t they? πŸ˜‰




11 thoughts on “The ups and downs of writing a series

  1. Karen says:

    That’s interesting, Helen. I’m writing a series too, but each book can be read as a standalone, as although the setting remains the same, the main characters are different in each. I’m a ‘pantser’ too, and would have struggled with that level of planning – and sticking to it – but it sounds like you did a great job πŸ™‚

  2. Tonette Joyce says:

    I am also a ‘pantser’. It never ceases to amaze me how the characters take on lives of their own! However, I have had one story that has been put off and I have found myself plotting it more. I guess different projects need different approaches.
    I have the first one on my tablet, but am way behind in my reading (and writing!).I will enjoy going through the trilogy.

    • Helen Pollard says:

      Hi, Tonette. Yes, I think you’re right – it varies project by project. You have my sympathy re. the TBR list – mine is appallingly long! Hope you enjoy the book when you finally get to it πŸ™‚

  3. Marie Laval says:

    I can’t plan at all, Helen. I do try, but then all it takes to send me back to my ‘pantsing’ ways is a chance encounter with some interesting fact or a new idea popping into in my mind, and I’m off again! I very much look forward to reading the last book in your series. Good luck.

  4. Cynthia Harrison says:

    I contracted with my publisher for a five book series, so I know what you mean. Keeping track of hair color, height, eye color…that gave me fits. I finally wrote a “bible” of the series just for myself. Also the panther aspect! I still write that way…and to my surprise at the end of book 3, one of my key minor characters left town. And I followed her. Since my series is set in a small town and she now lives in Detroit I’m not sure how my editor will feel about that. So many perils with a series, for sure!!

  5. Joy Haefke says:

    I’ve hated when each of your first two books end! I love the characters(and settings, and stories, etc. etc. etc.) so much that I just want them to go on and on. I’m excited about Book 3 and already upset that that will be the last. You could take Emmy and Alain into old age and I’d read every word! Congratulations on providing a wonderful read!

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