Have you ever been to the Cheesecake Factory? Their menu is HUGE. Too huge. Makes it impossible to decide. Even two solid pages of cheesecake flavors can be overwhelming. That is what authors face when starting a new series.
Sure, I have a great series idea. I know I want at least four books. I have some character ideas. But the individual conflicts/tropes for each book? Too. Many. Options. Let’s say I need eight main characters. Well, I’ve already listed 11 possible jobs they hold. Too many. I don’t love all of them, so I’m mulling about three more. Way too many.
Friends to lovers? Brother’s best friend? Blackmail / Enemies to lovers / Fling / Forbidden love / Opposites attract / Return to hometown / Tortured hero (okay, I’m just kidding with that one. You guys know I don’t do angsty, tortured heroes. I do laughs. Banter. Sex. Repeat.)
I’m not ready to give away anything about this series, so I can’t go into real specifics. But if, say, one hero is a vet, would he do better in a brother’s best friend story, or would the return to hometown work? The biggest problem? THEY WOULD BOTH WORK. Which means the deciding factor comes down to the heroine. Except it doesn’t just come down to the heroine, because it also can’t be the same as the other three stories I’m telling, and it has to work with whatever subplot I manage to pull out of my ass for both his book and the entire series arc.
Sorry. Got a little overwhelmed there at the end of my venting. Oh, and do I maybe want to weave in a tiny suspense thread? And don’t forget that I can’t repeat exactly what I did in my current series. Gotta shake it up. Not bore my readers. Wait. WAIT. Maybe I just write all the possibilities down on slips of paper and put them in a bag. Or tape them to dice and roll.
It doesn’t always work this way. Sometimes, I start with a specific character or conflict idea. With my Aisle Bound series, I knew the first book was about a romance-a-holic falling for the anti-Cupid. Easy peasy. Done. In the Shore Secrets series I knew the third book would feature a couple who dated in high school, split up horribly, and somehow never stopped loving each other – because I wanted to spend two books showing their (supposed) animosity to really slow-roll just how far they’d have to come.
This time, though? The series idea hit me. Which means I have zero specifics about the people, the lovers involved. Even though the romance is what drives the whole darn book. Yup. I have to figure this out. Since I do have four books, maybe I do a little research on best-selling tropes. No reason I can’t toss in a guaranteed seller, right? Unless it is secret/accidental baby. I just can’t go there. Ever. Shudder.
So if you pass me on the street, say my name, wave at me, and still get no response? It is because I am working through a gazillion and two choices. And really, truly wishing it was as simple – and as obvious – as choosing the nachos and a slice of the tiramisu cheesecake.