Of Rewards Earned
This is the fourteenth of fifteen posts dealing with surprising things I learned in the course of writing a science fiction series.
Thus far throughout this 15-part article series, we've looked at a lot of what could be considered the hurdles that have to be leapt over in order to write an Overarching science fiction series. But there were a lot of amazing things that came with the endeavor as well. Let's talk about a few of the wonderful perks earned in the process of writing an Overarching Series in a few random musings.
Showing Off Your Baby
Cover art can be the icing on the Overarching Series cake. It's my opinion that the cover designs in the speculative fiction genre can be some of the most eye-catching of any category of fiction…or they can be simply generic, which really sucks and, hey, talk about a missed opportunity! I started designing my own covers for my sci-fi series during the early part of researching the series, and, as my series evolved, I continued looking for just the right cover graphics that truly fit the series and stories contained in each book. I wanted to be able to look at the covers and forever remember the events, thereby immortalizing them in my mind. I also wanted readers to take one look at them and think, Wow, how cool. I gotta read this. Later, just before my series went to the publisher for editing, a professional cover artist finalized my initial designs into the oeuvre d'art you'll see below. I've lost track of how often readers tell me how striking the covers are.
The ship on the cover of the first book is my beloved Aero, the Human Corvette cruiser, coming out of a space corridor.
The graphic on Book 2 is the Vreah battleship, Vashtii, which, despite being a slow, massive, heavily-armored stealth warship also resembles a luxury "cruise" ship in space.
Book 3 not only shows the light and fast Quing ambassadorial ship Vlacos but you can see that the "black maw" (the dark energy menace in the series) has eaten part of a planet, possibly their own planet Qu or Gurgh.
Finally, the last cover shows the secret military base Neth-Beo, militarized by the warring Sinshe-Shojani, along with their most deadly dreadnought, Paladin. Behind it is the weapon of mass destruction they've been building, which is also a stealth ship.
While personalizing your cover designs makes them super cool, breathtaking and memorable, there's another reason for going the extra mile with them. Covers this gorgeous can't help but get noticed by the buying population. Additionally, having similar cover designs for each book is a huge help in creating instant recognition for that series and a series logo should also be a priority. (The four-pointed arrow at the bottom to the left of my name is the series logo for Arrow of Time Chronicles. It also served as the series break graphic on the interior.) Looking at the Arrow of Time Chronicles covers above, you can tell they're all part of the same series, can't you? Yet they're all distinctive separately as well. We talked about series branding in Chapter Four, and cover art is definitely part of that, especially for an Overarching Series.
Be proactively creative in even these "outer" aspects in bringing a series to life as well as offering it proudly and lovingly to your readers. Showing off the cover art is definitely one of the most rewarding perks I've found in writing a series like this.
Baby's Got Back…matter
One of the things I love most about the speculative fiction umbrella is all the lore associated with these genres. As a reader, I can't get enough of this stuff and I always buy the books associated with series covering the lore. If I can get that in the back of the books themselves, that's an even better bonus.
In my science fiction series, this meant I finally got something I've always wanted to be a requirement for my books: Back matter! While the word "back matter" can have many definitions, the one I'm talking about here is the sections in the back of the book that provide further reading, deeper explanations, and a whole host of interesting information about aspects of the series. I love reading this kind of thing in any series, whether it's a book, movie, or videogame. I want to know more. In fact, I want to know everything!
In the case of Arrow of Time Chronicles, I had a specific reason for including back matter in each installment of the series that, unfortunately, really had nothing to do with It's just so cool! Because there were so many characters, locations, historically significant events, and distinctive cultures in my series, along with unique Standard Operative Procedures, I included three appendices: 1) a Human timeline/history, 2) brief culture and homeworld specifics, and 3) a dictionary of terms. These were placed in the back of each book in the series. Even the longest one in Book 4 was little more than 30 total pages. I didn't want to significantly add to the page length of any of the books, since most of them were pretty large anyway, close to 100,000 words. The biggest reason the back matter was necessary, was because I didn't want to repeat large chunks of crucial information from one book to the next that could have overwhelmed any of the chapters in the story in a hurry. Instead, I included the important information that readers might have forgotten from one book to the next or simply needed a refresher on in a place that wouldn't overload the text. That freed me up to get on with the storytelling.
Rejoice when you get to cross a few cool things off your bucket list with the rewards earned.
Next week, we'll conclude this article series covering the surprises I had in learning to write a sci-fi series.
Based on Writing the Overarching Series (or How I Sent a Clumsy Girl into Outer Space): 3D Fiction Fundamentals Collection by Karen S. Wiesner (release date TBA)
Karen Wiesner is an award-winning, multi-genre author of over 140 titles and 16 series, including the romantic science fiction series, ARROW OF TIME CHRONICLES