Are you writing a series of novels, stand alone books or something in-between?
A series of novels is a set of novels featuring the same cast of characters. The central character often has a personal story running through the series. Stand alone books are exactly what they say. One cast of characters for one novel only. You could pitch your skills in the middle e.g. Ian Flemming managed this with James Bond. Each book was a stand alone story but the central character re-appeared for each new assignment.
Series novels are like chapters of one very large book. Harry Potter, A Game of Thrones, Family Sagas etc. If you're going to write these you need to have a longer term vision. Often, the main characters re-appear, and their individuals stories are spread over several books. You'll need to map out what you're doing over several book plots without leaving the individual books lacking in any way. This is where strong characters will help you out. Each should have a great back story, even if you don't use all or any of this straight away. Throw in the little details as you go so that when you come to use part of this back story, say in book no. 4, the following reader will think, ah yes, of course, that makes sense.
You'll need to keep track of where you're up to. Here are some ideas to help you:
- Flash cards. You can shuffle them around the table top and they won't crash and burn like technology!
- Notebooks - keep notes for each character and the main plot lines, so you can refresh your memory at any stage.
- If you're fond of looking at a large visual map, get a whiteboard or a corkboard and pin your post it notes into position.
- Build your character profiles as you go. Each time your character tells you something new about themselves, add the detail to their growing file.
- Keep a "where I'm up to" file so you can see what you've discovered so far, what each character is thinking, what they've found out and where they're heading next.
- Plan your plotlines, at least the key turning points and always think ahead, not just the current novel but three or four ahead of that.