Ask Daphne! My characters keep talking to me!

March 5th, 2009 • Kate

Four shoes for Kathy, who emails:

I’m almost ready to begin sending out my first MG novel. I’ve got four more drafted using the same characters as they age over the years. I don’t hear other characters talking to me, so these are the ones I’ve worked with. Is this going to be a problem with an agent or a career?

Not necessarily, Kathy, so long as you make a connection with an agent and an editor with your first book. It’s the same advice I often give about series — make sure each book can stand alone, and concentrate on selling the first book first.
You could be super lucky, and sell this first book, and then, yes, it’s brilliant planning to let your readers grow with your characters through the years and your publishing career.
But what if your first book doesn’t sell? You take what you’ve learned in writing it, and having it rejected, and you apply it to the next book, and the one after that. And maybe you sell the third book with these characters, now in high school. Great! So long as you’re prepared to shelve those first two books. Unfortunately, I don’t see your YA readers who may fall in love with your characters in high school running back to the read about those characters in middle school. It could happen, sure — stranger things have — but you should always keep looking ahead.
And sometimes, the way to do that is to look sideways — to branch out and see what else you can do.

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