The kernel of your story: Be clear in your mind what it is that makes each book in the series a stand-alone story. It may be a unique twist at the end, an unfortunate series of events or a simple misunderstanding that’s at the heart of the work, but without establishing clearly that kernel in your head before you put fingers to keyboard, it’s hard to imagine the work having legs.
Establishing your characters: Help the reader build a picture of your main characters as early as possible in the series. Communicate their traits and personalities as clearly as you can. Remember you’re trying to entice your readers to follow these people over many books to come. With regards to other characters who may only appear fleetingly, by all means make these fringe characters larger than life, if you wish, but you do need to retain credibility with the reader, so be mindful of not going too overboard when creating peripheral characters.
Be conscious of your audience: Think hard about who your audience is and tailor your work to appeal to them. I have three people in my head when writing my Carmichael books, and I try to make my work a gripping read for all three.
Be fair to your readers: Your aim should be to produce a well-rounded story with all loose ends tied-up and with the reader fully understanding ‘who did it’, their motive and how they were finally caught. Also, you need to be mindful to place sufficient clues within the storyline to enable your readers to solve the conundrum for themselves – while also, of course, trying hard to mislead them along the way with red herrings and false trails.
Checking your work: It’s important that you have your manuscript checked thoroughly for spelling, grammar, clumsy sentence construction, continuity and even areas of weakness within the plot. If you don’t possess the skills or confidence to do this unaided get some help from people you trust.
Take the time to listen to reader feedback: Feedback is like gold dust. If you can, find a trustworthy group of people to comment on your work before you get published; and, if you can, try and meet your readers to hear their comments about your work post publication. Participating in talks to fans of the genre or getting involved in reading groups are ideal opportunities to glean valuable comments on your books.
Don’t make life difficult for yourself: Writing should be a pleasurable experience. If not, why on earth are you doing it? I have a rule not to write if I’m not in the mood and to only write when I’m free from other distractions. A place of solitude to tap away on my keyboard certainly works well for me.
When the body of Kendal Michelson, a leading light in the local Steampunk movement, is found on a popular seaside beach impaled by his own sword, the querulous Inspector Carmichael is reluctantly drawn into the curious and unfamiliar world of Steampunk. Ian McFadyen’s latest DCI Carmichael thriller is available to buy from Amazon, The Book Guild and all good bookshops.