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The Truth About Writing Series Out of Order

Writing out of order?

I know, writing a series in non-chronological order doesn’t seem to make sense. I’m also aware there are readers who have to read in chronological order, no matter what I say to the contrary. But there are good reasons to write out of order. But my reason is simple. I didn’t know I was writing a series.

How can you not know you're writing a series?

Welcome to the world of pantsing, aka discovery writing, aka just sit and write and see what happens. Most people, myself included before I started writing, think writing a novel involves creating an outline and planning everything before writing chapter 1. And it does, for some. 

Not me.

Just as I can’t play chess because planning ahead makes my brain hurt, I can’t plot out a book. Why? Every character interaction affects the next. I have to write in order, and I have to write the actual dialogue because it always changes what comes next. I do know big plot points, but often even those change as I write because the character growth drives the story. 

Then how can you write a series out of order?

By not knowing it’s going to be a series. When I wrote Dal Segno, it was just an idea that stemmed from a dream. I created just enough backstory for Cam and Laura to write their story. I didn’t have any idea that I’d write A Marine Awakening. I didn’t know how Cam and Sharon got together. Just that they did, had a fierce love for each other, and that Sharon died tragically. It was truly the only backstory that made sense for Cam’s current situation of being almost 40 and taking a break to study music. 

Then I released the book and people wanted to know more. Hell, I wanted to know more. A few false starts later and I had the beginning of their story. 

I thought that was it. There were a few more stories to tell, such as deployment, and the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, but those could be done as short stories, right?

Ha! It turns out, when you tell a story properly, there’s a lot to say. Thus, A Marine Discovery was born. Note, I still haven’t addressed the repeal of DADT, though I truly believe that can be done in a short story someday. I hope. 

Anyway… even with my autistic brain, that worked for me. Reading in published order allows the reader to learn of Sharon’s death before they are heavily invested in her as a character. Then they can meet her properly through the prequels. 

Except life is never that simple.

What's the problem?

At first, the problem when that people saw prequel and wanted to read it first. I wanted to call it a sequel, but my brain refused. Then I gave them series numbers, but Amazon screwed that up on the series page, leading to more confusion. I also didn’t have a strong series name or brand, because I didn’t know what I was doing. 

Thankfully, I have three books in the series now, with two more planned with spinoff characters. I have a series name, A Marine’s Heart. Each book is properly numbered within the series, with Dal Segno as book 1, A Marine Awakening as book 2, and A Marine Discovery as book 3. Problem solved, right?


Except book 4, A Marine’s Conflict, is a standalone with overlapping events from book 3, A Marine Discovery. And book 5, to be titled, will be even more standalone but taking place in two time periods, bridging both A Marine Discovery and the time after Dal Segno. The book will have appearances from Cam and Sharon and from Cam and Laura. And likely Sarah from both time periods. 

This is why I have a suggested reading order! 

Problem solved then. Just read the series in numbered order.

Now it’s reasonably clear for new readers. Or will be once the series rebranding is complete. However, there are some people who might want to read the series but can’t handle any main character dying. I understand, more than you may realized, and respect this. For them I offer:

The super soft and gooey marshmallow reading order (aka no one dies)

graphic that says, do not read Dal Segno, start with A Marine Awakening and read the series through A Marine's Conflict

I do encourage people to give Dal Segno a try, however. I’ve posted the full backstory in my personal blog, but have slowly started tell it here as well. See this mostly spoiler free behind the scenes post for more information. 

Writing Dal Segno was incredibly healing for me. There are still days when grief grabs hold, but not nearly as often. And I promise, never will I publish the story of Sharon’s death and immediate aftermath. The very thought of writing it rips my own heart out. 

Dal Segno is a story of healing. While there are aspects that will make marshmallows like myself cry, it’s also uplifting and fun and leaves you feeling hope in the end. Sharon even makes appearances in the story. 

Besides, if you don’t read Dal Segno, you won’t get to meet Carson Kyle and Rachel Bollinger in book 5 who will reunite at a ranch retreat for women who served during DADT. A retreat attended by Cam, Laura, and Sarah. It’s going to be quite the adventure I suspect. 

Would you write the series different if you knew it was a series?

Honestly, no. And that’s because romance does not tolerate killing off a main character in the couple once you’ve grown attached to them. For good reason. That means a story like Cam’s has to be told in this order. 

As an intuitive writer, I have to believe that I was lead to write Dal Segno first for this very reason. My own healing required writing in this order. Once the rebrainding is complete, future readers shouldn’t be nearly as confused. But if not, and you as a reader accidentally read them in chronological order, I will buy you an ice cream cone if we’re ever in the same location to make up for the heartache.

Are there other non-traditional lesbian romance series?

This blog post came about after reading one over at Women and Words by Danielle Zion. There she offers a reader’s perspective on sequels and prequels, which included my series, A Marine’s Heart.

It’s well worth the read. 

I’m sure there are times when prequels don’t add to a series. Look to movies for examples of both well and poorly done origin stories. 

Hopefully Cam’s story falls into the well done category. 

What do you want to know about series or prequels?

Ask me in the comment section. If you found this interesting, please share. 

If you’re attending the GCLS Literary Conferences in Albuquerque in July, 2020, there will be a panel discussion on this very topic that I’m looking forward to. If you’re also attending, let me know. Especially if I owe you an ice cream. 

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Danielle Zion

    Great Blog. Now I feel like I’m in the know and won’t continue to wait for the other shoe to drop regarding Sharron.

    Not sure If you’ll owe me an ice cream but for sure I’ll search you out in Albuquerque in July.

    1. Jax

      That sounds great!

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