Thursday, February 16, 2012


by Lois Winston

I recently began working on the fourth book in my Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mysteries. When I first began to write, I never thought about writing a series. I wrote stand-alone novels. Once I typed “the end,” that was it for those characters. 

I sold The Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mysteries based on a completed novel, Assault With a Deadly Glue Gun, and a partial (three chapters and a synopsis) for the second book in the series. The end of Death By Killer Mop Doll, the second book in the series, leads into the premise for the third book, which I turned in the end of the summer and which will be called Revenge of the Crafty Corpse

Although a mystery has to be solved at the end of each book in a mystery series, because the books are part of an ongoing series, there needs to be a story arc that encompasses all the books in the series. All personal issues can’t be resolved within the confines of one book. With each book the characters in the world I’ve created continue their journeys, pursuing their goals and dealing with the conflicts that get in the way of achieving those goals.

Goals. Motivation. Conflict. What do the characters want? Why do they want what they want? What’s keeping them from getting what they want? Every major character in a book needs both internal and external goals, motivations, and conflict. In a stand-alone book, these questions are all answered by the end of the book. In an ongoing series, they continue from book to book to book. Give the characters everything they want, and the series ends.

So I’m going to throw obstacles in Anastasia’s way for as long as readers want to follow her journey. She’ll continue to solve a murder by the end of each book, but the financial problems that set the series in motion will continue to dog her. And her family problems? Those of you dealing with your own dysfunctional relatives know that those problems never end.

Lois Winston writes the critically acclaimed Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mysteries series. The first book, Assault With A Deadly Glue Gun, was a January 2011 release and received starred reviews from both Publishers Weekly and Booklist. Death by Killer Mop Doll was a January release. Visit Lois at and Anastasia at the Killer Crafts & Crafty Killers blog,


Deborah Sharp said...

I love Anastasia's dysfunctional family. I hope they keep creating trouble for her forever!
Good post . . .

Unknown said...

Really, how functional would any of us be without a little dysfunction for balance? :-) Plotting a series is certainly different from plotting a book - great post, Lois. Thanks!

Beth Groundwater said...

I wonder how many of us end up starting a series with a book that we thought would be a stand-alone.

Robin Allen said...

Yes, we mystery series writers have to do a lot of advanced planning. Congrats on having enough dsyfunction for a fourth book!

Lois Winston said...

Thanks, Deb! Me, too!

Sheila, I like to think I put the fun in Anastasia's family's dysfunction.

Beth, I think that all has to do with those characters taking over our lives and not wanting to let go.

Thanks, Robin!

Cricket McRae said...

I'm always amazed to see what handy bits I put in earlier books without really planning to use them in later ones -- and then they're there when I need them. Maybe because I read so many series that kind of plotting imprinted somehow?

Keep 'em coming, Lois!

Lois Winston said...

Imprinted plotting? I like that, Cricket!