Writing a Continuity

Today’s guest blogger, Valerie Hansen, will share her expertise with you on Writing Continuity Fiction. Val has been involved in 12 continuity projects for Love Inspired, including one historical, and many suspense/romances. She says, “It’s not a suitable job for everyone. I happen to enjoy getting immersed in intricate plotting with other authors and turning out a book that ties in with their stories as well as having its own romantic conclusion for the main characters who are my responsibility.”
If you’re not familiar with contnuity writing,  it is a novel series set up by an editor or two.Usually six novels are then offered to various novelists and those who are willing to proceed with the story are contracted. The authors receive what is called a “bible.” This is a rough idea of some of the characters who will appear in the stories and a list of very brief plot points–main things that must happen in the individual stories. They’re also told  the two major characters and form the romantic thread of the novel and other characters from the upcoming books who will appear and be introduced into the story.  How these tasks are accomplished or when they happen is up to the individual novelist. It is a challenge.
Now here’s what Valerie has to say about how it works.
Editors will look at a branching story, like perhaps a family saga, then decide which of their authors to approach about taking part in the project. We don’t usually volunteer, primarily because we aren’t aware of the idea until it’s already through the basic planning stage. 
My agent is the one who contacts me with an offer of a contract, just as she would for any book. The due dates can be tight and heaven help any author who is late because we’re not in this alone. Every one of us is dependent upon the others doing their jobs in a timely manner.
WE ALL WRITE AT THE SAME TIME, not one after the other, so we must agree on many fine points up front. That’s why we form a separate email loop and keep in close touch. There’s a fair amount of brainstorming that will take place once we’ve all seen the overall plot and have considered our part in telling the story. Often, we will spot errors or conflicts, such as the time when one of us noticed we had killed off the same secondary character more than once!
There are dates when our individual books overlap, although as the series progresses the later books will have a bit more leeway. Book #1, which is what I’m currently working on for the 2014 Big Sky series, is called HER MONTANA COWBOY and will be a July book. This Dec. my COZY CHRISTMAS will be in stores and is #6 in the Heart of Main Street series for Love Inspired. It will tie up all the loose ends for the first 5 books as well as be the final one in that series.
Yes, it’s a challenge, but I’ve met and gotten to know amazing writers because of these projects. The authors are wonderful and considerate and “play well with others” although some, including me, have been known to “run with scissors” as the old report card jokes go.
I happen to love doing series. As long as I still have time to write books set in Serenity, AR, which is also dear to my heart, I’m delighted to be invited to participate.
Cozy Christmas - Val Hansen

For an excellent example of continuity writing, pick up Valerie Hansen’s Cozy Christmas,  a December release in stores now. This novel ends a six book series and shows you how the stories work together.  If you’re not invited to do a continuity, try planning one with fellow author friends. If you’re not interesting in writing continuity, you can enjoy a wonderful Christmas story to set you in the mood for the glorious holiday.
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  1. Lenora Worth December 4, 2013 at 9:23 pm #

    Val, since I’ve been involved with several continuities with you I can vouch for how hard you work and what fun it is to write with you! Our readers know when they see your name on a book, it’s gonna be a good one!!! Enjoyed the blog!

  2. Lyn Cote December 5, 2013 at 7:52 am #

    Valerie, You are amazing. I don’t think I have what it takes to write a continuity!

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