Writing a Series with other Authors
By Sharon Dunn
My new book Guard Duty is part of a larger Love Inspired Suspense series called the Texas K-9 Unit. Each book features a separate police officer and their canine partner and of course has a romance element to it. My book had the only female officer in the series. Valerie’s K-9 partner is a Rottweiler named Lexi.
Though you can read any book separately and get a complete suspense and romance story, all the books are linked together by a big storyline which concerns a missing police dog and a crime syndicate that has taken over Sagebrush, Texas, the fictional town where the books take place.
This was my first time working on a series like this with five other authors. I had a ton of fun. Writing is by its nature a solitary activity so it was a nice change to be a part of a team. The process by which one of these series is built was interesting and I thought I would share it with you.
Once all the authors have been assigned a book to write, we get what is known as the bible, which is written by an editorial staff. The bible contains a summary of the larger storyline that carries over from book to book. A list of all the characters as well as a short synopsis of each book is part of the bible. Something known as continuity elements, which are the events that have to be in your story so it fits with the other books is also included. Because this particular series all takes place in the town of Sagebrush Texas, the bible also contained descriptions of places around town where the officers were likely to go like cafes and churches.
While the bible is a starting point, it’s a somewhat flexible document. What works in a summary doesn’t always work in a full blown story. In the summary, characters might make an appearance and then disappear without explanation, so as the writer, you have to figure out what to do with that character. With this series, there was some debate about a secondary villain. Did he die or was he in jail? The bible didn’t make that clear.
The fleshing out of characters, details and storylines is left up to the writers. Though we each have a separate book to write, the work is very collaborative. We’re all on an email loop as well as having a place online to post files and pictures. A character who was the hero in book one, might have a walk-in role in book three. So we have to coordinate our descriptions as well as how the character’s life has changed from book to book. Also, the setting expands as each book is written, so we have characters frequenting the same businesses and restaurants and going to the same veterinarian.
Once all the books are turned in and the individual books have been edited, a continuity editor reads through the whole series to deal with any inconsistencies. For example, Valerie Hansen wrote the book after mine, Explosive Secrets. Her heroine makes a brief appearance at the end of my book. In my book I said her heroin was four months pregnant. At the beginning of Valerie’s book, the same character was three months pregnant. I just don’t think that is physically possible. All those oversights need to be dealt with.
Like I said, writing the series was a ton of fun and I would do continuity writing in a heartbeat. Below is a list of each of the books in the series.
Jan. 2013. #1, TRACKING JUSTICE by Shirlee McCoy
Feb. 2013 #2, DETECTION MISSION, by Margaret Daley
March 2013 #3, GUARD DUTY by Sharon Dunn (that’s me)
April 2013 #4, EXPLOSIVE SECRETS, by Valerie Hansen
May 2013 #5, SCENT OF DANGER, by Terri Reed
June 2013 #6, LONE STAR PROTECTOR, by Lenora Worth