Writing a Series Out of Order – Learnings, Benefits, and Problems

Author Keira Morgan discovered the Renaissance when her grandmother gave her a book about England’s queens when Keira was five. A passion for that era led to studying Renaissance and Reformation history in university to the doctoral level (!!) and now Keira has three novels in a series to her credit: The Importance of Pawns, The Importance of Sons, and her recently released The Importance of Wives. Keira confesses to writing them out of order – something I can relate to.

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On May 31, I released Book 1 of my series, The Importance of Wives. It received a Readers’ Favorite five-star review that said, “Once I started reading The Importance of Wives, by Keira Morgan, I could not put it down. . . . One of the best historical novels I have read.” 

A Serendipitous Benefit: Better Writing and Reviews 

I was thrilled. It is the best review I have received for any of the books in my series. I did not receive that review for my first book.

It demonstrated the most important benefit of writing my series out of order. My Book 1 is the third book I have published. I was a neophyte when I released The Importance of PawnsDuring the process of writing and publishing my first three books I have become a better, more polished writer. 

The Chronicles of the House of Valois series

In The Importance of Wives, orphaned duchess, Anne of Brittany confronts betrayal by her guardians and war with France when not yet 12 as the series opens. But she has a mission, to keep her beloved duchy independent from her expansionist neighbour of France. As she braves unthinkable dangers, she learns the bitter lessons of compromise and grows into a young woman of passion and conviction. Anne, now queen of France in The Importance of Sons, fights her rivals at the court of France to recover her rights to her duchy by producing the heir her husband so desperately needs. In The Importance of Pawns, although Anne lies dying, she has not given up her dream of Brittany’s independence. She passes the torch to her daughter Claude but Claude is trapped in a rivalry with her mother’s worst enemy. Can Claude protect those she loves from the woman’s enmity?

The Importance of Heirs, coming soon, will cover Anne’s struggle to build on the gains she makes when her first husband dies and she regains control of her beloved duchy. 

In the Beginning 

When I started, I didn’t plan to write a series. Nor did I know much about writing.

I did a lot of rewriting in my first book. With the brisk guidance of my mentor, after many extensive, insightful reviews from my developmental editor, and numerous revisions and rewrites I finally deemed my book ready for its final steps. It was a much better book. As important, I had a visceral understanding of concepts that had only been catchphrases to me before. 

More Learnings and Benefits 

Taking stock now, I came to some realizations that have made writing a series easier. 

  1. PLANNING—Taking the time to plan the plot and the structure helps avoid the tedious and frustrating business of throwing away material and writing new scenes because the plot itself doesn’t work.
  2. STORY QUESTION—Starting with a clear, concise story question sets the direction and provides a strong beginning and ending. It’s right when answering it provided the natural ending to the story.
  3. TIMELINES AND CHARACTERS—To write a good biographical historical novel, which fictionalizes someone’s life story, in my case Anne of Brittany’s, one needs a detailed understanding of what happened when, and who was involved to plan the key plot points. I created an Excel spreadsheet of main characters and key dates to integrate the necessary details that would tie down the key plot points. Then I kept biographical and pictorial files for each person.  

The Benefits: Discovering My Series 

  1. DISCOVERING THE SERIES: The biggest benefit I gained from planning the plot, considering my story question, and examining my timeline and characters was the light bulb realization that the story I had in mind was not a single novel. I had a series on my hands.  
  2. IDENTIFYING THE COMPONENTS: Not only did the planning show me I had a series, but it also clarified the logical blocks that formed each standalone novel, with story questions all linked to the overarching theme of Anne’s life. In the end my book turned itself into a quartet.
  3. CHOOSING THE WRITING ORDER: It was too late by then to write the novels in order. Nor did I feel ready to create an eleven-year-old medieval girl duchess. Also, I was well into the research for Book 2, so I continued with it. But I knew how it would fit into my series. 

Problems writing a Series Out of Order 

But it is not all smooth sailing. 

  1. The biggest problem I now face is revisions. I have discovered new facts in my later research that affect already written material. For example, when researching The Importance of Wives I learned that Anne dealt extensively with the Duc de Bourbon. Yet, early in Book 2, I have her meet him for the first time. He was too important to leave out Book 1. So, I will have to revise Book 2. Only a thorough edit will show me what else I need to fix. 

I am not alone. In someone else’s novel, one character appeared with a new name from one book to the next. It was not a complete change—from Carla to Charla—but I felt for the author. 

  • Books I wrote earlier do not include precursor events that appear in later novels even though they probably should be referenced. Also, character inconsistencies have crept in. I will need to check for this and add what is missing. 
  • Several readers think my last book ends too abruptly and I am inclined now to agree. Perhaps, I will change it.
  • Finally, as I learn to write better, I expect that I will want to rewrite parts to improve the style. 

Will I even have the same books when I am finished? Or will I become like Douglas Adams and The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy? In theory there are five novels in that series. But Adams changed them for various editions and different media. So how many are there really?

Many thanks for sharing the story behind your series with us, Keira. I think I’ll borrow your ‘story question’ idea to help with my next novel.

The Importance of Wives by Keira Morgan

Duchess Anne of Brittany is not quite 12, yet her situation could not be more perilous. She is a girl, she has just inherited one of the richest duchies in Europe—and enemies surround her. 

It is 1488, and men do not believe that women can rule. The French want to seize her duchy. Across the channel, the English hover, ready to attack. And Anne’s guardians want her power for themselves. They plot to marry her to their chosen candidate, and rule in her stead. It is the traditional fate of heiresses. 

But Anne has ideas of her own. She is strong-minded and trained to rule. When she refuses to obey, she finds herself in a civil war, supported by only a few loyalists. Then France invades. Will a girl so young be able to defend her duchy against two adversaries?

Even her most trusted allies advise her to marry. Can a husband save her people from the invading French? Must she give up her duchy? Or will she find another way to guard her inheritance?

Based on the extraordinary life of young Anne, Duchess of Brittany, this is the dramatic story of a strong-willed girl beset by impossible choices. 

FOR MORE ON READING & WRITING HISTORICAL FICTION – AND MARY’S LATEST NOVELS and NEWS –  FOLLOW A WRITER OF HISTORY. There’s a SUBSCRIBE function on the right hand side of the page. 

M.K. Tod writes historical fiction. Her latest novel THAT WAS THEN is a contemporary thriller. Mary’s other novels, THE ADMIRAL’S WIFE, PARIS IN RUINS, TIME AND REGRET, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE and UNRAVELLED are available from AmazonNookKoboGoogle Play and iTunes. She can be contacted on FacebookTwitter and Goodreads or on her website www.mktod.com.

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3 Responses

  1. I agree that The Importance of Wives is an exceptional novel. It demanded an extensive knowledge of the times and the character to be able to write a difficult period so clearly. It will be enjoyed by readers of fantasy and should be given you young adults who will be amazed that such a young girl shouldered such responsibilities. The Importance of Wives is my good of the year for 2024.

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