It’s no secret that my creative brain works in series. Contained stories? What in the world is that? Over my lifetime I have written a number of fictional series, most you will never see. But one thing always remains the same: the approach, the feeling, and the experience of writing the first book in a series is always much different from writing books later in the series. However, I don’t just mean the whole “starting a new series of getting to know all your characters” type of thing. There is a fundamental difference between planning a first book in a series and later books. There is usually a shift in tone and author attitude as well.
I suppose the most relevant example I have for this is my current REN’AI RENSAI series I’m publishing. I’m almost to the one year anniversary of beginning to write “Daisuki.”, the first in the series. I remember writing that book (well, novella) well. The scenes were short, poignant, and yes sexy, but also minimized for the reader to digest easily, especially since I’m giving them a culture they may not be too familiar with. I went through great pain wondering if there was any marketability, or if it was even any good. Originally “Daisuki.” was meant to be a short (as in less than 12k) story, but became a novella as I realized there was more to say about these characters than I originally thought.
Man, that changed!
I’ve recently reread parts of that story in paperback, and honestly, it’s so bizarre! I wonder if my readers who have read everything in the series has noticed this? I feel like my overall tone and approach to the series has changed. Well, this always happens. Every single series I write is like this. The first book is meticulous, and I go over everything again and again to make sure it’s accessible to new readers. I went through something similar with book 2, “Hatsukoi.” because it was the first chronologically and I wanted readers to be able to pick up from there too if they wanted to read it like that. Starting with book 3, however, I took a different approach. I no longer took great pains to go over everyone’s identity as a refresher or introduction. I figured you weren’t reading book 3 unless you had read the previous two. I jumped in with recurring characters and didn’t care how many new ones I introduced. (And there were quite a few! Important characters for the rest of the series, no less!) Inside jokes were born and carried over; subplots would carry on from one book to the next. In “Daisuki.” I tried to keep things simple and clean – in book 5, coming out at the end of this month, I’ve gone ~balls out~ nuts with cameos, wrapping up subplots three books old, and some recurring characters only get one scene. I decided I didn’t care for this book. This is not a book meant for someone new to the series. This a book for those who have read all the others. See, this is going to be the last RR novel for at LEAST a year. (Sorry fans! You get the spinoffs, though!) I didn’t want things left hanging. Picking up the pace, toning down some of the sex in favor of more plot, and if I were George RR Martin I’m sure I’d be killing off half the cast at every other turn. (As it is, I’m just mating them off.) So it was really strange to re-read “Daisuki.” The mood and tone are just so different in certain aspects. I could tell that I was writing the first book in a series. Of course I am not disparaging my own work, as I am still very proud of it and what it has accomplished for my career, but as an author it creates a certain dissonance.
Anyone know what I’m talking about, readers and authors alike? I don’t mean specifically with my works, but in general. I was thinking of this recently as well as I contemplated re-reading Game of Thrones (the first book.) It’s short(er), more compact, and while it has its usual crests and climaxes it also has the air of “this is the first story in a series. You will now be grounded in this world so we can totally GO BUCK WILD starting in book 3!” You can see this same thing in Harry Potter as well.