Ø Your personal time line. Series books are usually released by publishers a year apart. Are you prepared to immerse yourself into the fictional world of your protagonist for many years?
Ø An intriguing concept should be at the core of every conflict. Will your series be open ended or have a predetermined shelf life? Will the series be a collection of stand-alone books or will each be a continuation of the previous story?
Ø Which Point of View (POV) will you utilize for each book?
Ø Character, plot driven, or both? There should be a perfect marriage between plot and characters to sustain the strength of a series.
Ø Character Roster. Will all characters move through all the books or only the main characters? Do you plan to add new characters as the series progresses?
Ø Main characters must be memorable and have activities thrust them into situations to test their courage or resolve. Through the course of their adventures, personalities should evolve. Make every crisis relate to their inner development.
Ø Setting is a time period and space. This is the world you give your characters to dwell in or visit. Decide whether the setting is an integral part of the story or just a backdrop. Once you determine this, you can create a setting that is interesting and believable in the mind of the reader.
Ø Plot the timelines when you write the first book in the series. Will story timelines be concurrent, consecutive, or will there be overlap?
Ø Be consistent with the genre of each novel or readers’ expectations won’t be met. Maintain a similar tone or style throughout the series.
Ø Be thorough with fact-checking. If you have a lot of research material, excess can go into subsequent books.
Ø Keep readers guessing – avoid getting stuck in a formulaic pattern. Plant clues and connections for future stories within each book. Make notes about how characters, events, and location may intersect and influence each other. Plot high points and incorporate other tension points such as internal conflicts between main characters, secondary characters getting into hot water, or past traumas popping up to haunt the protagonist(s).
Ø Introduce new questions to deepen mysteries across stories but ensure each book has its own story question, conflict, and resolution. Don’t solve the big questions or resolve all the conflicts in the first book.
Ø Order of stories. Will it matter if they are read out of order? This will happen so ensure each book is both dependent on and independent of the other books.
Ø Will the climax of each story leave readers with a different feeling? What about the ultimate climax for the series?
Ø Each previous book is backstory. Excess backstory can stall the current story’s momentum. Pretend each sequel is the first in the series to avoid the dreaded info dump and avoid repetition when relating snippets of backstory.
Ø Hook readers’ interest within the first paragraph of each novel. Some authors repeat one book’s closing line as the opening in the next book or provide a sneak peek of the sequel.
Ø Keep track of essential details. Develop a “bible” of vital statistics or a style sheet of your main character(s), world settings, timelines, etc. Create a draft synopsis for each novel, as you write.
Ø Become a sketch artist when creating fictional or real settings. Mapping out rooms or crime scenes where your action takes place can help you keep details straight. Tools like Google Earth are helpful to view satellite imagery, maps, terrain, 3D buildings, etc.
Ø Be creative with each book and the series’ title. The title will be what represents your work to the rest of the world, now and forever. Aim for interesting, easy to remember titles, appropriate for the genre. A number of famous writers create titles that follow a pattern unique to their series of stories.
Books have personalities. Enjoy the time you spend creating memorable characters and weaving interesting threads to connect your novels. With advance planning, an eye for detail, and a little luck, readers will relish spending time with your series’ character(s) the same way you enjoy immersing yourself in a T.V. series.
Article by Donna Warner