Top 7 Tips for Series Writers
Writing a series is typically an attractive but daunting task. On one hand, series can sell really well and, as an author, you can imagine having a large following like Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter. However, writing a series is a large commitment and can be extraordinarily difficult in terms of organization and consistency. If you’re writing a series, you should definitely follow these Top 7 Tips for Series Writers written by published series authors!
“Expect your sales to drop off a little after the first book. That’s entirely normal – no series survives first contact with the enemy. People tend to be lazy, even if they enjoyed the first book, and won’t always seek you out. However: the ones who make it all the way to the end are the ones you need to treasure. They’ll stick with you when others won’t.”
Rob Boffard: author of the Outer Earth series—Tracer, Zero-G, and Impact.
“I feel that a series author has to focus on the arc of the individual novel, as well as the arc of the series, and balance both. No reader wants to be on an endless cliffhanger with no satisfaction. I tend to solve at least some problems in each book, perhaps wrapping up a sub-plot, but leave other, larger, questions unanswered. I take copious notes when I write, and refer back to earlier books in the series to maintain consistency and make sure that, by the end of the series, I have wrapped up loose ends and brought resolution to as many characters’ lives as possible.”
Jenna Greene: Author of the Imagine series—Imagine, Reality, and Heritage.
“Keep organized with stylesheets, series plot outline and release dates.
Series are quite difficult to keep track of, especially in the fantasy and science fiction genres. A stylesheet will help you keep consistent with terminology, names, items etc. A plot outline, from beginning to end of the series, will help your story stay on track without derailing from the premise. Consistent release dates will also keep your fans engaged. For example, five year gaps between releases can cause your fans to interest.”
Konn Lavery: Author of the Mental Damnation series—Reality and Dream.
“When writing a series, it is important to know where it starts, and how it ends, even by some small margin. In knowing this you can keep timelines and fine details more consistent. It will help you to drop in those great “Easter Eggs” of hints that will allow your readers to have “ah ha” moments to keep them hooked. It will also keep your series on track for the genre, and give you some constant semblance of setting, time, etc. In general, knowing where it goes will make for less re-writing and hassle during the editing process (as I know from experience, re-writing many chapters of one of my earlier books).”
Rebekah Raymond: Author of the Life’s series—Life’s Defeat, Life’s Hope, and Life’s Inception.
“Create a series bible for consistency. This is a system to keep track of every detail that you may need going forward including: names, dates, character and world characteristics, plus other relevant facts. It is so much easier to keep a notebook, file folder, or word document of these details than to search through your books if you can’t remember what colour eyes Mary has. Readers notice these inconsistencies! A series bible will save you precious time and headaches. It’s effort best saved and put toward the writing.”
Kelly Charron: Author of the Wicked series—Pretty Wicked and Wicked Fallout.
“When I wrote my first novel, “The Watch”, I had no idea if it would ever be published. It started off as a stand-alone stories, but as I progressed through the process of completing the first and later drafts, I came to really love my characters and the premise I had built through the story. It occurred to me that I had a world I could build on and expand, turning it into a series – if anyone besides my mother ever took the time to read it.
When I finished the story, I was very careful to leave it open-ended. I had concluded the novel in a way that there were no loose ends to be tied up with a second story, but that I could pick up where the last story left off and throw the characters into a new situations. Imagine my surprise when someone actually wanted to give me money for the book and had me sign a contract with hopes for more from that world.
In short, my advice is to not paint yourself into any corners that you can’t get out of. When you finish a book, leave it in such a way that you can give the characters a new challenge and have them tell you more of their story.”
Tyner Gillies: Author of the Resolution series—The Watch and Dark Resolution.
I wish I could go back in time and redo my two SF series over again, I really do. If I could, here’s what I would do: plot the trilogy as a single story; find the natural breaks and divide the arc into three self-contained stories; plot all three books as if they were stand-alone novels; write all three; edit all three; then sell the series. Once Books 1 and 2 are in print, you can’t just go back and change stuff to suit your concluding story. Trust me on this: exercise patience, invest the time, and be prepared to submit all three books at once, even if they don’t ask for them.
Pat Flewwelling: Author of the Helix series—Blight of Exiles and Plague of Ghouls.
Ellen is a freelance fiction editor, book reviewer, research assistant for Simon Fraser University, marketing coordinator for WCSFA, and member volunteer for Editors’ Association of Canada. As of September 2017, she will also be a master’s student of publishing at SFU. You can contact her via ellenmichelle.com for any editing queries and at firstname.lastname@example.org for book review queries.