Have you been toying with the idea of writing a book series, but have no idea how to actually pull it off? Indeed, your mind envisions a riveting series, brimming with ingenious plot twists and fascinating characters, but before jumping in, you just need a little boost of confidence.
Creating a book series, or a collection of books that play off each other in succession, is undoubtedly the best way to maximize your earnings potential as a self-published author. With some careful planning, an abundance of creativity, and irresistible hooks that leave readers hanging, your future book sales could be substantial. Read on to learn everything you need to know about how to write a captivating book series.
Determining If Your Book Should Be a Series
Of course, not all books are destined for series-land. Some books are best left as standalone works, a self-contained story made complete within its two covers, with a beginning, middle, and end. Before deciding whether your book is a standalone or a series contender, consider these points:
- Does your plot have legs? Does it have the growth potential, substance, or adequate promise of intrigue to tease out multiple installments?
- Are your main characters interesting enough? Are their personalities, flaws, struggles, gifts, and endearing qualities rich enough to demand future attention?
- Does your genre work for a series? When it comes to writing a book series, not all fiction genres are on equal ground. The genres best suited for a book series include crime/mystery, fantasy, young adult, historical fiction, and science fiction.
If your book series concept passes muster, then the next consideration is which type of series would complement it best. There are two basic types of book series: an episodic series, in which the characters return in each book installment to experience a new set of events or challenges, or the dynamic series, in which it takes multiple books to flesh out one single storyline.
Plotting a Book: How To Structure Your Series
Taking on a series project may feel a bit overwhelming if you overthink it. While a certain amount of planning is necessary when tackling a multi-book series, try to resist the impulse to plan every little detail for all the books at the outset. Instead, focus your preparations on the following key aspects:
Step #1: Map Out the Plot. Imagine taking a road trip from Point A to Point B without a map to guide you. Consider all the wrong turns and wasted time you’d experience en route to your destination, if you ever arrived there at all.
Approaching a book series without first mapping out the overall plot would have similar results—a winding, meandering mess that seems to lead to nowhere. Instead, approach your project like a business professional would, with their business plan in hand.
To map out your book concept, you will need to know how to plot a series by creating a general story arc. Spend time detailing the beginning of your series, the central problem or dilemma that drives the series, and the ending of the series.
To predict how the series will end, you can tie up the main events from each book into a final resolution. Provide as much detail as you can when mapping out your overarching plot, as these will serve as your “driving directions” that help you arrive at your destination.
Step #2: Create a Detailed Outline. The outline is the step where you add some flesh to the plot’s bones. When taking this next step in learning how to write a book series outline, you will first need to decide two critical things. Decide which structure you want to use for the series, the dynamic type or the episodic type, and then how many books the series will be composed of. All else that follows will be dependent on those decisions.
Tackle the outline as if each book is a separate project, guided under the umbrella of the main plot map. You can get as detailed as you wish; however, it is not necessary to describe each minute detail of the books in your outline. For now, just create an overview and general description of each book’s plot elements, characters, setting, and storyline.
Step #3: Create a tantalizing setting. As you learn how to write a book series, always remember that a reader will desire one main thing above all else—a personal experience. One of the most compelling aspects of your series is the setting or settings in which you tell your story.
Transport your readers mentally and emotionally to a fantastic place—a place that becomes familiar to them, that they will yearn to return to in subsequent installments. Touch on all the five senses when creating the setting, and spare no details, as this helps readers conjure up and experience the very essence of this amazing place.
Step #4: Develop rich characters. Nothing will sink a book, much less a series, faster than bland, uninspiring characters. Every effort should be made to bring to life interesting, likable, multi-faceted characters, flaws and all. Give each of your main characters a backstory, or significant events in their past that drive their actions in your book series.
Describe a character’s appearance, their wardrobe, their mannerisms, their quirks. The more human and relatable your characters are, the more engaged and attached your reader becomes to them, and that all but ensures future book sales.
Step #5: Ensure continuity and consistency. As you write the first installment of your series, be aware that the subsequent releases should follow a natural sense of continuity. This means that one book will flow smoothly into the next, with no abrupt shifts in tone or theme. Always keep in mind that you are writing a series, not a standalone book.
Be ever cognizant as well of the need for consistency in your characters. Readers become very attached to the traits they find so interesting or endearing in your characters. They will notice if your character veers too far from the personality or mannerisms you introduced them to in your first book.
Step #6: Get to writing. Once these basic elements are in place, it is time to execute. Create a writing schedule and benchmarks so you can stay on course with each book. It helps to set aside a specific time slot for writing each day and to stick to it. As the writing process progresses, story details are filled in. Keep copious notes of your ideas along the way, and update your outline and plot map as needed.
Step #7: Time for editing. Resist the temptation to edit your book as you go. Instead, stick to your writing schedule and just get the story down. This is your first draft, the rough draft, and the first of many, most likely. After you wrap up your first draft, it’s time to begin your first round of edits. After a couple of drafts doing your general editing, you are ready for a professional editor to take the reins.
The editor’s job is to suggest and guide revisions, identify any plot issues or character inconsistencies, and provide guidance on the structure. Once the developmental editing is completed, a proofreader will examine the manuscript for any missed typos or grammatical errors. Once your book is edited and proofed, you can begin the exciting step of publication.
Questions To Ask Before Writing a Bestselling Book Series
Here are some important questions to ask yourself before starting on writing a book series.
How Long Should My Book Series Be?
In your initial zeal, it may be tempting to envision an extensive series of six or more books. The problem you want to avoid, however, is the dreaded “jumping the shark,” a term made famous by one too many seasons of the hit ’70s TV sitcom Happy Days. Better to wrap up your series on a high note, even if it means fewer installments than you had hoped for.
Should I Outline the Whole Series or One Book at a Time?
The degree to which a writer outlines his or her book series varies considerably. For a series following the dynamic structure, it is helpful to at least flesh out the entire series. This helps you decide where to stop one book and to begin the next, so provide at least some details for each book. If your series follows the episodic model, with each book wrapping up a distinct episode in the larger story, it isn’t necessary to outline the entire series at the outset.
Can I Commit To Writing the Series?
An author considering writing a book series should begin with some honest soul searching. Committing to a series is a multi-year endeavor. If you lose interest halfway or only complete the first book, what is the point of even beginning the series at all? Ask yourself if you are truly ready to commit to a book series project.
Bring Your Bestselling Book Series To Life
It’s true that undertaking a book series is no small feat. It requires dedication, planning, and grit to see it through, but you are not alone in this effort. Once you’ve executed all that you know about how to write a book series, it is time for the editing process.
Gatekeeper Press is available to offer helpful guidance and stellar editing services to assist you in realizing your dream of publishing a successful book series. Make Gatekeeper Press your go-to resource for navigating all the various stages of book publication!