The Journey of a Long-Series Writer

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by Julie Moffett, author of No Questions Asked

When I was asked to write this blog, it was suggested that since I’ve written such a long series (the Lexi Carmichael Mystery Series) over a period of more than 10 years, maybe people would be interested in knowing how or if I’d changed and developed as a writer. Did my process change with each book? Did I think about the books and characters any differently by Book #12 than I had at Book #1?

I thought it’d be easy to address these questions, but after contemplating them for a while, I realized it wasn’t that simple. While I have definitely developed, improved and changed as a writer over the course of the series, the writing process itself still remained largely the same for me, at least for the first four books. I would jot down plot items and characters in a notebook, create a working outline (from the end to the beginning) and write according to the outline. I was definitely a plotter verses a write-by-the-seat-of-my-pants (pantster) writer. Carina gave me an excellent editor from the get-go, Alissa Davis, and together we grew as a solid author-editor team, learning from each other (well, mostly me learning from her!), and making each book better as a result. However, by Book #5 in the series, I was writing a book every six months while finishing up an M.Ed, working full-time, and juggling two kids (one under five) as a single mom. There was no wiggle room for me to operate. By the end of the day, my writing time, I was exhausted. But somehow, I needed to write faster and cleaner. That led to an inevitable change in the way I wrote my books.

I’d played around with different methods for writing faster, but none seemed appealing to me until I decided to try storyboarding. I bought a science tri-fold board and a bunch of colored sticky notes, and began to plot. I use different-colored sticky notes to indicate what needs to be done in each chapter. For example, specific character growth is blue, action is yellow, green notes are series arc elements, while romance and mystery are noted on pink notes. Orange is used for secondary character growth and development. Using that process, I mapped out the book from end to beginning. Now I could see the whole story visually, and easily rearrange notes and chapters as needed by simply moving the sticky notes around on the board. Then, at the end of a long day, I could sit down to write and not have to wonder where I was in the story or what came next. I simply pulled down the sticky notes from the board for that chapter and began to write based on what was there. If I was stuck at a chapter for whatever reason, I skipped it and wrote ahead, realizing I could come back later to address it. Yes, gasp, I wrote out of order. It increased my writing speed exponentially and I was able to make my deadlines—thank goodness!

So, did I think about the characters any differently than I did at the beginning? Of course, because as I grew as a writer, my characters grew, too. They changed as I changed, and we all evolved during each book. Some specific character growth was planned from the beginning and intended to stretch out over the series, and some development evolved organically from the experiences that happened to them in each book. It wasn’t simple. Growing and stretching as a person (whether fictional or real) is a messy process filled with uncertainty, self-doubt and fears. But there are also the triumphs, the courage, and the miracle of finding the extraordinary within yourself to rise above difficult circumstances and learn from your mistakes. Our fictional characters are human, and if an author want them to be relatable, then they have to be genuine in their actions and behaviors.

It’s certainly no surprise to my readers that I love spending time with Lexi and her friends, because they are like family to me. It always warms my heart to hear that Lexi, as well as other characters in the books, have become like friends to those who read about them. Because in the end, that’s really the end goal of an author—to make the reader care enough about the characters that they feel invested in their well-being and future.

About No Questions Asked:

No Questions Asked by Julie MoffettOne last fling (with danger) before the ring?

Nothing’s that simple when you’re a geek girl. Julie Moffett’s beloved Lexi Carmichael mystery series returns with 
No Questions Asked.

Lexi Carmichael: saving scientists one snake at a time.

Weddings aren’t my thing—never have been. But eloping would break my mother’s heart, especially since the president of the United States put in a good word for me with his daughter’s wedding planner. I’m going to have the wedding of the year…whether I like it or not.

Before we can say I do, Slash and I are flying off to the Brazilian rain forest. Our mission: stop hackers from stealing a vaccine that could save millions of lives. I thought it’d be easy, but from the moment we step off the plane, I’m up to my neck in trouble.

After an attack by drug-runners, being kidnapped and discovering that the bad guy is even worse than we’d imagined, I’m pretty sure someone in our group is working for the enemy. And they’re succeeding. I’ll have to use all my geek skills to stop the bad guys if I’m going to make it home in time to tie that knot.

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17 thoughts on “The Journey of a Long-Series Writer”

  1. Sandra Ross says:

    However you write them I’m glad you do it! Thank you!

  2. Mary Ivory Smith says:

    Wish you’d quit putting spoilers up everywhere I turn…. that said, I love your books because I do relate to the characters and wish I had the adventurous career Lexi & Slash have…. I know in the past you’ve said you had the series mostly plotted out….can you tell us how many more books you envision? Are we going to see Lexi as a grandmother? Keep writing!

  3. Alicia S says:

    As an avid follower of your LEXI series, I was surprised to read that you write from end to beginning. I guess I never thought of writing that way! The continuity and progression of the story and the character development in each book flows so smoothly. I get so caught up I lose track of time and have to read them in a day! Whatever works for you, creates a fabulous storyline for your fans! Keep ‘em coming!

  4. Patricia Rynes says:

    I still have to get caught up with your books I have only read about half of them but what I have read I love, I think it is a toss up between Slash or Elvis who I like better they are both great. Keep writing Julie and we will keep buying and reading your books.

  5. Vicki E Jones says:

    I have all of the books on audio and I listen to them over and over again. It’s like when I finish the series (and when I listen to them it’s all of them in order), I feel like I’ve left a best friend behind so when I need a Lexi fix or if the world around me is stressful and I want to loose myself within another world I like to “hang out” with old friends. To me the sign of a really excellent book is one that I can listen to over and over again. Thanks Julie for spending what time you have to create something that reaches out and touches people, that’s an art all by it’self.

  6. Roxi Marvin says:

    I absolutely love your Lexi series! It has been a pleasure to watch your stories develop, to be there along your journey as a writer, and to watch other women and young people become inspired by your efforts. I love that you share your techniques and encouragement with us. The affinity we have with Lexi has become a true friendship and loyalty with you. I don’t know how many more books you have planned for Lexi, but she has plenty of excited followers ready for the adventure!

  7. Becky says:

    I love the Lexi series. They are comfort reading for me. Characters I know and like doing interesting things!

  8. Jeanie Jackson says:

    I love that the characters, especially Lexi, have evolved as her life has changed. She is on of the most dynamic characters of the books I read, besides maybe Eve Dallas! She and her friends matter to me because you create such amazing characters.
    Note for any who love her books, check out the Julie Moffett fan page on facebook that was created by a fan. Julie discovered it by accident but she is active now and we get to see what a kind, amazing person she is.Her writing reflects the person we have gotten to know.

  9. Rita Pierrottie says:

    Glad you found something that worked for you. Had you not, we would possibly be minus a good series.

  10. Star says:

    I’m so glad you started, and continued, writing! I absolutely love your books, bother the Lexi and White Knights series. I have recommended your books to so many ppeople! I hope you never stop writing…I don’t know what I would do without Lexi and the gang!

  11. Alma Collins says:

    I love the Lexi Carmichael series! I am constantly laughing out loud at Lexi! Please don’t stop Julie!

  12. Kay says:

    I too adore this series; I just can’t get enough. I hope this series goes on another 12-15 books. I loved getting a bit of insight into your writing process and how it’s changed.

  13. Sue says:

    Thank you for the insight. Whatever works for you is fine with me I adore your books and long may you write Lexi Carmichael stories!

  14. Judy Wilson says:

    The Lexi Carmichael and White Knight series are some of my favorite stories. I have reread them several times and Julie is one of my favorite authors. It is really fascinating to read along as the characters of the stories grow with each new release. It is especially wonderful that all of the characters in the books are growing along with Lexi and Slash. The adventures that they endurance is entertaining and exciting.

  15. Trisha Bullock says:

    I’m obsessed with Lexi, Slash and the twins! As a retired female developer/coder/only chick in a guy pond, I was jumping up and down excited the first time I started reading a Lexi book. You had nailed my experiences complete with the awkwards, and the funnies and the “oh spare mes” that are such a part of that every day life, I badly wanted to find out what you had done before you had started writing. Then I was thrilled to find books two, and three, and four, and one and a half, and thought I had gone to heaven. Now to read about HOW you write and find we have a near identical process as when I wrote is just a kick in the pants!

    To those responsible for the care and feeding of our brilliant Julie, never let her stop writing. You have to love her and hug her and encourage her every single day. Between the No series and White Knights, I never want to stop reading. Every time I get a new phone, the first thing I do is install Kindle and redownload my Julie books and buy anything I’ve missed. SO TAKE GOOD CARE OF HER. (I know you do.)

    And Julie, if you ever get tired of writing, let me know and I’ll come over and ply you with coffee and chocolate until you come to your senses. We cannot have this happening! The world needs you!

  16. Nan De Plume says:

    Thanks for explaining your writing process, Ms. Moffett. As a writer, I am always fascinated by how other authors organize their research, make deadlines, and so forth. We are definitely on opposite ends of the spectrum in that I am an improvisational writer. With the exception of a few bullet point notes and the occasional loose outline, I don’t have a structured blueprint. Your idea about using a trifold and color-coded sticky notes as a storyboard is inspired. It’s not something that would work with my scattered thought process, but I’m glad it works for you!

  17. Teresa Moore says:

    Thanks for sharing your experience about writing I’m german writer usually I write short stories on my blog but now i understand how to write in a long way

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