Michael Connelly on the No. 1 Key to Writing a Series

Michael Connelly dishes his No. 1 secret on how to pull off a successful series.
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Michael Connelly’s CraftFest session at ThrillerFest “The Series Character: How to Do It Right” was jam-packed with fantastic info. Here’s his No. 1 secret on how to pull off a successful series.

Right off the bat, Connelly stressed that there’s no set path or formula for series writing. But here’s what has worked for him: Ditching the outlines. Ditching the character charts.

“I just write and see how it goes,” he said. “I don’t plan ahead.

“To me, the process of writing is very mystical; it’s organic. It happens, or it doesn’t.”

His best advice on crafting a series?

“If you want to write series fiction, forget about writing series fiction, and just write one book.”

Connelly said that to be successful, you have to give everything you’ve got to your current book. You can’t hold anything over for a future novel. Connelly—who knows what he’s talking about, having written nearly exclusively series fiction—put it all out there, even for first novel.

“I just put everything I could into that book, and I sold it as a one-book deal,” he said. His editor later came back and asked for more of his protagonist.

Connelly pointed out that each book features everything he knows about his character at that time—he doesn’t worry about planting seeds for future books. In the process of writing a book, the seeds are naturally sown. They’re all hidden there for you to come back to at a later time.

He views his books as tunnels—he simply takes his characters through them, toward the light at the end.

And it’s worked well enough—he’s been writing about the same character for 25 years, and estimates he’s written 2 million words about Harry Bosch and his place in the world.

“If you can get that and the gods smile on you, I think that’s an amazing thing,” he said.

As for his philosophy on series in general: “If you build it, it will come.” In other words, if you can get one book in the bag, the others will follow.

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