You want to write a series of novels. Perhaps you’re writing a novel, and the thought occurs to you: “Hey! I could make this a series…” Alternatively, you decide you want to write a series, from scratch.
Your genre doesn’t matter. All series of novels are similar, in that they feature strong characters, who appeal to readers, because they are strong. Consider: Winston Graham’s Poldark series, Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple, and even Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight series.
So your first step is to choose your character. You may already have a character you’ve created, or you can create a character who appeals to you, and with whom you can stand to live with over the course of a series. Remember: strong. No whiners. No characters who are TSTL (too stupid to live.)
Your character will contain elements of YOU, as James Bond contains elements of Ian Fleming:
“Though Bond suffered his share of seemingly autobiographical health issues—in Thunderball the spy begins to acknowledge that his heavy drinking may be a problem, and by On Her Majesty’s Secret Service he’s definitively in the throes of alcoholism—he always comes out on top.”
Your character is you, in some form, that’s inevitable. But remember that your character is NOT you. So don’t get squeamish. Put your character through hell — and have him come out on top — and readers will love it.
1. Choose your poison: family saga, on-going quest, or…?
Think about how you’ll tie your series together. If you’re writing romance, you could create a family of three brothers, and tell one brother’s story in each book.
I’m a fan of Phil Rickman’s Merrily Watkins’ series, and the Dalziel and Pascoe books, written by the late and wonderful Reginald Hill. These series are examples of on-going quests.
2. Create a problem that’s solved over the course of the series (optional)
This is optional. However, it’s helpful, because readers read your next book to see what happens next.
There’s a danger with this. What if you don’t make enough sales, and decide to kill the series? You’ll have irate readers wanting the solution to the problem, and you’re in no way inclined to write it… 🙂 Although this is a concern for writers, it needn’t be. Consider that if you get lots of feedback to write more in the series, you can deal with that challenge when and if it arises. (If the series isn’t selling, it’s unlikely to arise.)
3. Write BIG: do your very best with each book
Take nothing for granted. Your first book in the series needs to be the absolute best you can do. Don’t skimp on editing, or anything else. That said, don’t become paralyzed in some insane desire for perfection. Do the best you can do, and watch your moods.
If you’re bored, everything you write will be boring. Snap out of it. Play music. Go out for a long drive. Writing a series takes lots of energy. Keep your own energy levels up.
4. Keep track: Fred has blue eyes, or are they brown?
Keep a spreadsheet which includes character and location information, as well as major incidents in each book. It’s easy to forget these things. Readers won’t forget them however, so neither must you. 🙂
5. Schedule it: get it written
Planning a series is a lot more fun that writing it, at least sometimes. Start writing as soon as you feel you have handle on what you want to do, and write every day, even if it’s only 100 words.
Tips for writing series:
- Use Scrivener. I’m not pushing this writing app onto you. I recommend it because makes your life easier. You can keep your entire series in ONE project in Scrivener, and move from one book to another. When you get bored writing something in book 1, work on book 2.
- Use the tags and collections features in Scrivener. They’ll help you to see everything you’ve written which mentions a character, or an incident, or location, together. It’s amazing what you’ll pick up this way.
- Write every day. Play “what if” every day, so you keep surprising yourself.
- Remember where you are. Create maps of rooms, houses, locations… and speaking of locations…
- Be somewhere. Orient your reader. If you confuse, you lose (readers.)
Writing a series of novels can be huge fun. Get excited about what you’re creating, and stay excited. If you can manage to do that, you’ll excite readers, and will make sales.
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Updated: November 11, 2016
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