James Moloney: Writing a Series


With fifty books to his credit, Aussie kidlit author James Moloney has plenty of wisdom to share about writing a book series.

Screen Shot 2016-05-08 at 10.27.34 amHis first series was The Book of Lies. Because it was originally written as a stand alone, he learned what not to do for future series.

Here’s the Goodreads blurb for the book (How good does this sound?)

The newest boy at Mrs. Timmins’s Home for Orphans and Foundlings awakes at first light with no name and no memory. But a strange girl who hides among the shadows of the orphanage tells him that a mysterious wizard’s creation, the Book of Lies, holds the answers, and then gives him one clue: “Your name is Marcel.”

The Book of Lies trilogy was followed by the Silvermay Series and the Doomsday Rats, with numerous other books and collections all around. [Buy James’s books here]

    Screen Shot 2016-05-08 at 10.28.23 am       Screen Shot 2016-05-08 at 10.31.40 am


Writing a Series Workshop

Brisbane Write Links hosted James at their May meeting at the State Library of Queensland. He presented a workshop called Writing a Series, which was a sell-out. It included lots of great tips, some of which I tweeted. Like this one about the new sophistication of young readers. Publishers are not shying away from tough subjects and harsh realities (like beloved characters dying).

James made it clear that for series writing, the author has to make sure that her ideas will sustain a story for multiple books. This has to be considered when:

  • Creating a great concept and hook
  • Building an overarching series conflict
  • Developing strong protagonists (and worthy antagonists)
  • Planning a full cast of characters
  • Designing a compelling world

Attendees were given a glimpse of James’s creative process, which involves:

  • Telling himself the story until he knows the climax and resolution
  • Creating character sketches that flesh out as the story reveals itself
  • Mapping scenes on a physical corkboard with coloured post-its and brief handwritten notes
  • Creating a series bible, in which characters, worlds, and ideas are developed and stored

Do Editors Even Want Series?

James was honest about the chances of breaking in with a series. Even seasoned writers are not getting multiple book contracts these days. Instead, publishers buy one book and see how it goes before committing to a whole series. Even then, it might be bought book by book.

James finished the workshop  with some insights into what editors are hungry for and sick of nowadays. In short for YA: Paranormal is done, kaput, so yesterday. Contemporary realism (a la John Green) is hot. James noted that the “first-person, in-your-face female narrator” seems to be getting a lot of airtime.

Read More!

James’s workshop was spot-on—lively, interactive, and full of insight. The James Moloney website has heaps more information. Be sure to check out the Write Links website to read my interview with James, where he spills the beans on early influences to his writing and other really good stuff!

Rubbing shoulders with a kidlit star. I hope some of his genius rubbed off on me!

Image Credit

Top photo of James Moloney by Yvonne Mes

6 responses to “James Moloney: Writing a Series”

  1. Great post! Good to hear paranormal trilogies are out now. I think people have reached vampire overload! I like the idea of not shying away from harsh realities. Michael Morpurgo is also a big one for exposing kids to real life realities and they can’t seem to get enough of books like this in the library right now.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for commenting, Lesley! I will pop in to the library look at those Michael Morpurgo titles. Thanks for the tip!

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Love visiting your blog Ali. Yes, it was great that James gave us some much sound advice.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Reblogged this on Pearlz Dreaming and commented:
    Ali’s write up of the James Moloney workshop many of the writelinkers and other young adult authors of Brisbane recently attended.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for sharing June!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You’re welcome.


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