Books·How I Wrote It

Sarah Raughley shares her secrets to writing a successful fantasy series

The YA author on writing Legacy of Light, the third and final instalment of the Effigies series.
Sarah Raughley is the author of Legacy of Light. (Melanie Gillis, Simon & Schuster)

Sarah Raughley is a novelist based in Southern Ontario. In Legacy of Light, the third and final instalment of Raughley's YA Effigies series, which includes Fate of Flames and Siege of Shadows, the author drops readers into a world where four young women are imbued with the powers of the four elements — fire, water, air and earth — and tasked with protecting the world from the evil Phantoms. 

Below, Raughley discusses how she wrote Legacy of Light. 

Series potential

"I wrote the first book —  Fate of Flames — and I didn't have an exact idea of where I was going to go with the entire story. But I knew it was a big enough idea that it could potentially have multiple books. My editor at the time asked me to write a synopsis of the last two books to ensure I had a map of where things may go.

"That was a great exercise in terms of plotting the narrative in broadstrokes. Regardless of how many books an author may have in a series, you still want each book to feel complete by itself and exciting enough for people to keep reading."

Never gets easier

"Even as a published writer — when I have to write to deadlines — writing still can be really difficult, especially given I was in school and working on my PhD. But having to do a dissertation at the same time helped me develop my time management skills. But it felt like such a huge, Herculean task at times!

"I write whenever I have the time. I don't usually have like a set writing time during the day. If I have two or three hours to write, I might go to the library or even write at the desk in my bedroom. I try to be as flexible as much as possible." 

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Getting the structure down

"I used a notebook to jot ideas down. Once I had things solidified, I structured this book and the series using my computer. I created a series bible, containing everything I need to know about the characters, plotlines and previous events, which is an idea I borrowed from television writers." 

Making the book your own

"I've learned that you don't have to come up with an idea that's 100 per cent original. It's all about what you bring to the concept. The Effigies series leans on pop culture elements but my story is its own thing, based on my own worldview and perspective.

"I have to communicate to people why this character is who she is, and why she makes certain decisions. There's a systematic process involved that develops in writing pages. It's about effectivelly communicating ideas in a way that makes sense to people. That's really important." 

Sarah Raughley's comments have been edited for length and clarity.