Writing a YA Series
When writing a young adult series you have to remember that teens are very detail oriented readers. YA readers often reread books as well, so they pick up on little discrepancies sooner. To make sure I have all my bases covered, I started what I call a “series bible” with all the facts and info I need on the characters, settings, plot lines, etc. For instance, myLandry’s True Colors Series has many scenes that take place in Landry’s school, but in different classrooms. There are a lot of drama scenes involving a mean girl (Yasmin) and popular guy (Kyle) with a cruel streak in Landry’s math class that often pick on a girl named Thalia. This means I have to know which characters are in that class to overhear the remarks they make. It’s important to know who is seated right next to Landry and Thalia for the girls to whisper to or pass notes with in class. I actually have a page for each of Landry’s classes along with which characters are in the class, the teacher’s name, and who sits where in the room.
A lot of the action in my YA novels takes place in the lunchroom as well, so I need to know which characters eat lunch with Landry and who they tend to sit with to keep the continuity. Like in life, there’s always a lot of gossiping in a school lunch line, so I need to know who would be in line with Landry overhearing it all.
In my binder, I make a page for each character in the story—even the minor ones. It’s important to keep track of their appearance and things like if they have siblings. I found that out the hard way when I decided to write a sequel to my novel, Next Door to a Star. Originally that book was going to be a standalone book, so I didn’t make a separate series bible for it. Big mistake! I handed in the sequel, Competing with the Star, and when I got the first round of edits from my editor she noted that one of the characters, Jeremy, in the story was driving and friends with Hadley’s teenage boyfriend, Nick. However, in the previous novel I had named Jeremy as being friends with Hadley’s eight year old cousin—whoops! Luckily my editor, Gillian, picked up on that from reading the first book.
Pinterest is a big help in keeping series info on track, too. I used to make scrapbooks with pictures of how I imaged the characters to look as well as with photos of different settings, but now doing it online is easier. If you’re not familiar with Pinterest, it’s basically an online scrapbook that you can share with others or keep private. I have a Pinterest board for each of my novels. I also use it to keep track of the different places the characters go and, if they are based on real places, then I use Pinterest boards to show them.
Next Door to a Star is set in the beach town of Grand Haven, Michigan and I visited there several times taking pictures of the area. I pin pics of these places on Pinterest. The readers like to see the places I am writing about, but it’s a good reminder for me how close the downtown is to the beach—if the characters can walk from a restaurant to the theater, etc. A lot of people who read the books might not travel to that location to know if the movie theater is near an ice cream parlor, but the novel has been featured in a local newspaper there, so it’s nice to have an accurate picture of the area in the book for any locals who read the books.
I keep my notes in a binder with dividers that are labeled: characters, classes, setting, teachers, and character’s bedrooms. YA and middle grade readers like to know what the characters’ bedrooms look like, so I describe their rooms in the books. Then, I post pics of how I imagine the rooms on Pinterest and I either post a photo in my series bible or I do a small diagram of what the room looks like.
Having the series bible for both the Landry’s True Colors Series, and now, the Star Series, has saved me time in having to flip back and forth in the books searching for details. It makes sure that my facts on the characters and the settings are right.
Krysten Lindsay Hager is the author of the Landry’s True Colors Series, a YA humor series on fitting in, self-esteem & frenemies as well as Next Door to a Star and the sequel in the Star Series. Her work has been ranked #1 on Amazon’s Hot New Releases in Teen and Young Adult Values & Virtues Fiction and listed as one of Amazon's top rated books in Children's Books on Values. True Colors is an international bestselling book and was featured in USA Today. She has worked as a journalist and humor essayist. She received her master’s degree from the University of Michigan-Flint. Her fifth YA novel, Competing with the Star, will be out March 22nd.
Author website: http://www.krystenlindsay.com/
Pinterest page: https://www.pinterest.com/krystenlindsay/