There are many perks to publishing a series—it builds a loyal readership, the books help sell each other, and you have the time to really develop the plot and characters. Think of your favorite television show—how many times have you found yourself impatiently waiting for the new season of Scandal or The Walking Dead? At SparkPress, we’ve found that readers absolutely love series—after all, we have three books alone publishing this fall that are part of a series.
Kalifus Rising (Sept 6) is Book 2 in the Legends of Orkney series by Alane Adams, and is already an Amazon #1 New Release in Teen & Young Adult. Book One, The Red Sun, garnered rave reviews from Foreword and School Library Journal—as well as 6 awards. Judy Hennessey’s First Rodeo (Sept 20) is the first in The Spur Series, made Redbook’s list of “20 Books by Women You Must Read This Fall”, and was praised by Booklist. And Wendy Darling Vol 2: Seas (Sept. 20), is part of the Wendy Darling series written by author Colleen Oakes—whose series Queen of Hearts was picked up by Harper Collins.
Check out our 10 tips to writing a fiction series below.
Consistency is KEY
Finding consistency in your writing is more than just keeping character names in order. If your premise changes, like information given in the first book contradicts the second book in the series, then readers will lost respect. Technical problems, like a character’s changed dialect, hair color, or background, show lack of attention to detail.
Treat setting like another character
It’s obvious that your characters need to be well developed to the point where you can direct them like they are real people. And you’re setting should be the same way. While this will vary based on your genre, your character and their environment need to have a relationship. Incorporate details into action, and keep the description short but specific.
Read outside your genre
While a general rule of thumb is that authors should read anything they can get their hands on, that doesn’t mean just within your genre. If you’re writing a fantasy series, read mystery. If you’re writing science fiction, read romance. If you’re writing horror, you should probably definitely read romance. It will help diversify your skills and help you think outside the box while working on your series.
Can your story concept stretch?
Make sure your story concept can stretch across multiple books. This may sound obvious, but you don’t want to force a series. Your story needs to be big enough to stretch across a few books to justify a series. When the story could’ve been told in a single book, many series end up feeling padded and forced. With that being said…
… you should know where your series might end. Before even starting the first book, you should have a good idea of how your series will end—as well as each book in the series.
Work with the passage of time over multiple books
Some series take place across decades, while others might just be one year. It’s important to pay attention to your timescale and decide what might work best. Do you want your protagonist to age a lot, or a little? Do you want new technologies introduced? In an action series, do you want to have downtime where the main character isn’t moving the plot forward with action, where the reader can connect to their relaxation or leisure activities? Creating a timeline will help with this immensely.
Answer the questions
And ultimately make sure that all the questions are answered by the series’ end—when you write a series, you promise the resolution of unanswered series’ questions and conflicts. Keep an Excel spreadsheet of character details, locations, developing plot lines, and more. With consistency, your readers will respect you and come back for more.
Avoid unnecessary complications
As characters (and you, as an author) evolve, you might regret creating them with that physical disability or kids. Try not to burden your characters with too much excess baggage from the start, such as pets, material complications, children, multiple homes etc. You can always decide to add that later during the editing process, but while writing, it can become very frustrating.
How much do you repeat in each book?
Not all readers will read every book—so how often do you need to set the scene again, or explain the characters? You should make sure each book can be a stand-alone, as well as being able to be read in sequence. So repeat the pertinent information of who, what, when, where, why, and how.
Pay Attention to the multi-novel plot arcs
Over the course of a series, there are bound to be multiple plot and subplot arcs. And these all need to be seen through the end, with substantial foreshadowing. Use a chart to keep track of your plot arcs, with beginning, middle, and ending information for each, and where they might cross.