I don’t know if I have it in my bones to write a stand-alone. I respect authors who can write those (seriously, share your ways with me), but I always find that my stories stretch into two or three books. Maybe this is because I’m addicted to writing giant casts of characters and plots with a lot of tiny threads coming together.
So, when a request for an article about writing a series came in, I perked up. I’ve written two trilogies, a duology, and well...I thought I could write a stand-alone, but it’s begging to be two books. With all of these under my belt, I’ve collected a handful tips that hopefully can help you write a series of your own!
Write draft one of book one.
When you get an idea for a book series, it can be tempting to sit down and plan the entire thing out. This is fine, if you operate well with rigid outlines and a clear plan in mind. If you don’t operate like that, I suggest beginning with baby steps.
Before doing any intense series outlining, focus solely on book one. If you have ideas for the sequel(s), then it’s completely fine to allude to them in this first draft. Having the foundation of the story in a first draft form is helpful, because ideas constantly change while your writing. You could have this brilliant idea for the ending of the third book outlined out, but if you get to writing, and book one turns out completely different than you thought...that long, beautiful outline may be for naught.
Basically, don’t tie yourself down too early in the game. Get the first draft of the first book done, then evaluate where the series might go.
Have some kind of ending in mind.
This doesn’t have to be set in stone, but having at least a vague idea of how the series will end can help you write. It gives you a goal to work towards, while also assisting with character development, motivation, pacing, and purpose.
In my The Spectacular Flying Thieves of 1903 duology, the very first scene that came to me was the ending. It changed as I actually wrote the books, but not by much. Having that ending in the back of my head (albeit in a loose, fuzzy way) really did help me in figuring out motivation and pacing, which can be two things I usually really struggle with.
Leave room for growth.
Your characters shouldn’t have all of their development occur in the first book. With each book, they must continue to grow and evolve. If you’re worried about a character becoming stagnant in the middle of the series, take a moment to think about their past goals. Jot down a few ideas for future goals, that reflect upon the past things they’ve accomplished. Just as the plot always needs to have a purpose in moving forward, so do your characters.
Let’s assume you’re writing a trilogy. In your excitement, you put all the introductions and world-building in book one. You save all the drama and epic revelations for book three. Then you realize there is a middle book, in which something needs to happen.
Every book in a series should be of equal importance. Take a good look at your plot and find what beats might fit in which book. Think about what characters will be the most important in each part of the story. Also, don’t stretch yourself too thin. Sometimes trilogies are meant to be duologies, and duologies are meant to be stand-alones. It’s okay if a story sounded epic and long in your head, but turns out to not need that much space.
Crafting a series is a little like a puzzle, and if you play around with the pieces, sooner or later it will all fit together perfectly. There is a lot that goes into making a series, and it is definitely a commitment, but the hard work pays off. Just imagine the beauty of writing a box set of gorgeous books. If that’s not something to look forward to, then I don’t know what is.
Feel free to contact me!