Techniques For A Series Part III

A novel series takes planning. Occasionally when an author completes a novel, at the end or near the end, he/she realizes that the story offers an interesting character or two that would make a main character in another book. By then, planning is often too late, but not so. The author can go back and add a scene to heighten the characterization and to foreshadow a situation or problem that can be the takeoff point for another book.

Though this can happen, most novelists plan ahead to write a series. One reason is that editors like to offer a contract for more than one book, and planning a series enhances the opportunity to sell the first idea to the editor. When I send such a proposal, I have a more detailed synopsis of the first story with up to three chapters completed, but I provide only a short synopsis of the next two or three novels that will follow. This allows me to be creative as I write the first novel and set up ideas that will help me when tackling the next books.

If this is a first book with the publisher and the author doesn’t have numerous previous contracts, a completed manuscript for the first book is often required. This means you can be thinking series as you write the story and do the set up for the next book as you write, and there are questions you need to consider

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When you write or plan the first book, here are five questions you will want to consider:

• Is the story strong enough to develop a readership for a series?

• Does the book have an arching thread that captures the readers’ interest?

• Will the stories by concurrent, sequential, portions overlapping from a new perspective, or separated by many years such as a family saga?

• Will you write the book in the same person: first or third. Usually a series stays consistent.

• When and how will you introduce one or more of the characters who will be the main character of their own novel?

Once you make the decision, a series is possible, here are techniques or methods of making writing the books easier.

• Take notes on all information you will need to remember in the forthcoming books: make of cars, characters occupations, ages, significant dates such as birthdays or weddings, name of relatives, cities and streets where the characters live, setting details, how the various characters are connected, major events and any foreshadowing or clues you set up in the previous stories.

• Keep details on secondary character sketches it they will be a major character in a later book, such as: appearances, personalities, mannerisms, important events that impacted them (deaths in the family, job loss, etc)

• Find a major thread that will run throughout all of the novels.

• Create one major goal with conflicts that will end each story so the reader is satisfied, but keep the unanswered thread that will be revealed in the last book in the series.

• Develop future events that will happen to characters from the first or second novel later in the series. Find ways to include those characters within the stories.

• Develop book titles that are connected in some way – seasons or time of day. For example: Morning in Venice, Afternoon in Rome, Evening on the Isle of Capri. Or The Summer of Joy, The Autumn of Experience, The Winter of Loss, The Spring of Awakening. These aren’t great, but you get the idea. One of my recent series used the phrase In Training in all three books. The most recent began with A Dad Of His Own, book two was A Family Of Their Own, and the final, A Dream Of His Own. This method shows a connection between books.

• Find short pieces of dialogue or memorable moments that can be referenced or repeated in another book to connect the stories.

• Keep the tone of the books the same. One should not be a tear-jerker while the other is a comedy.

• Make decisions about which secondary characters will be heard from again in other books in the series. Don’t give too much detail unless they will become a main character, but make sure if you give the person an idiosyncrasy, that you make note of it.

• Plan each story as strong as the first. The book must stand alone first, and then work within a series. Write an exciting well-paced novel with interesting characters, dynamic plot points and strong conflicts and then set the tone for a book to follow with the one loose thread.

If you follow the ideas revealed in Part I – III on Series, you will have a good start at creating a successful series. To help, also read a novel series and take notes. The information can be invaluable.

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  1. Sara@SaraElla March 4, 2013 at 11:14 pm #

    Great advice on getting started. Sometimes I feel so overwhelmed! I’ve written my beginning over and over again. I have even gotten to 15,000 words but keep getting frustrated. How do you move on without going back and constantly editing? I am a perfectionist but that seems to be hindering me in my writing. Any tips?

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