Planning a series can wind up with you in over your head—let us help with this insightful article!
The trick to writing a good series might be obvious, but it’s also easy to overlook: you need a solid plan, a good foundation, and a lot of notes. Some authors use series bibles, planning software, or even the tried-and-true methods of bestselling authors. All these are great ways to go, but how do new (or even seasoned) authors know what method works best for them?
Charlii offers the best tips for getting started, finding your groove, and planning a series. Whether you’re looking to write three books, six books, or even twelve plus books, this article can help you get started.
Writing a series doesn’t have to be a mystery, a stressful event, or a project that makes you tear your hair out and consider quitting writing forever. Let’s get you squared away and working on your next great book that’ll grow into a series of any length you want today!
And if you’re worried, don’t be—you’ve got what it takes to create a compelling series. All you need is the framework. And we’re going to show you that framework in an easy to understand, fun and playful article that’ll motivate you to get out there and go for your dreams.
Writing a series? Get started now!
This is a big undertaking, but don’t be scared! All you need is a vision, an idea, and some framework. And we’ve got you covered.
All great books (and great book series) start with an idea.
A young boy who’s a misfit who finds out he’s a wizard.
A young woman in a dystopian world who winds up fighting for survival and a better life to save her sister.
A young woman who finds true love, but that love is all wrong for her and can only lead to pain and sorrow…
You get the point. Start with a brief idea and flesh it out from there. Make sure you have a good grasp of your genre, your audience, and an idea of who you’re writing this story for. This will help you with marketing later. (And if you’re not sure how all of that matters, check out our sister articles on those topics!)
Once you have your main idea, then you want to get started on the major plot points for each book. This will help you build an outline across the entire series, one book at a time, and give you an overall direction for the series.
If it’s easier for you to create the character first, then throw them into a world, then do that! These are only loose ideas, so find a way to mold and adapt them to your style. If you’re stuck on an idea with no clue how to progress, try creating that character and plug them into the scenarios you’re creating. Some authors work better without characters, some work better with, so try both and see what works best for you.
Once you have your basic idea and your character, let’s look at those main plot points…
Obviously, it can be tough to come up with ideas when you have so little information to work with. Expanding on your idea can offer some insight to add depth and longevity to that series. So I’ll start with one of the ideas above. (You’ll recognize them, I bet, but I’ll also add other twists to them, just to keep you on your toes.)
A young boy who’s a misfit who finds out he’s a wizard.
This is super vague. So what if the boy is an orphan in an unhappy home, and he learns along the way that his parents were murdered? What if he has to face their murderer because the bad guy wants to finish him off, but didn’t (or couldn’t) for some reason?
Now we have more meat on these bones, and it’s easier to see how it could build into a multiple-book series. Obviously, having a child face a full-grown bad guy is going to push the limits of most reader’s believability. (Let’s jump the shark, shall we?)
So it makes sense to have several books where the boy learns, grows into his skills, and becomes more powerful. Have him make friends, go to wizard school, and face both normal and wizard-y challenges along the way. Throw in fun fights, unique dangers, and maybe even a romance to keep readers turning pages.
And as you build up this character and move him through his challenges, make sure he wins, loses, and the dangers gradually become more and more scary and dangerous to show he’s gaining power along the way.
Until finally, eventually, he faces his biggest villain. And have him lose. Then keep building him up again, have him face more and more scary things, strengthen his resolve, and up the stakes. Then finally, when he has to face that foe for the final time, he’s strong enough to win.
Obviously, this isn’t the only way to build up a series, but it does give an idea of the rise and climb characters need to experience through a multi-book series.
And because there are a lot of genre-specific things that must happen depending on the genre and subgenre you write in, you need to read widely and be very familiar with your genres. This is a step you can’t miss. (And we have a sister article on the topic! So check that out.) You need to make sure you’re familiar with and well aware of the tropes within your genre.
Now that you have a more in-depth idea, let’s move on!
Now you need to decide how many books in your series. If you can’t decide, that’s okay! Leaving an open-ended series that can grow is a perfectly acceptable practice. Just make sure your story has the room to grow.
So plot as many points in each book as you can and work from there. Once you have several books planned, you can start writing the novels. As you write each book, make sure you go back and add details, thoughts, and foreshadowing for what will happen (or mislead the reader, because that’s always a fun way to keep them turning pages!) so the link between books is as strong as it can be.
Don’t forget to make notes on the end goal of the series. Every series has to wrap up some time, so prepare for that eventuality. Make sure you tie up every plot point and bring closure to every storyline. Otherwise readers might get upset and if they read every book and still have questions, that can end poorly for authors in the form of bad reviews, angry readers, or people who refuse to read other books you may write.
Plot out each novel
It’s much easier to make sure your series stays on track if you plot each novel with an outline. While some authors refuse to use outlines, this increases your odds of forgetting important points, missing details, and can even cause you to spin wildly off course, wrecking all the planning you’d done up to that point.
So please plot your novels. Even if it’s just enough plotting to make sure you stay on course, it’s an important step that you just can’t skip.
There are plenty of great plotting tools that fit every style of writing, from very in-depth plots to vague outlines that only touch on the things that have to happen but leave authors free to make changes, grow, and wiggle as they build the world and the story.
You also need to plot out the world, the rules your world follows, and map out other important information that must be kept to keep everything linear. This will also help you not forget characters, events, and the guidelines you laid out in your head before you started writing. If you’re writing a magical world, make sure your magic follows rules (and sticks to those rules) because readers can sniff out inconsistencies like you wouldn’t believe. And many of them are put off by these kinds of mistakes, so it’s important to be careful!
The overall setting, world rules, and so on
It’s a great idea to make sure that you have all the rules written down somewhere. If you’re going to break your own rules, you better have a good reason. Notes on the flora, fauna, the characters, the supporting cast, towns, cities, sights, activities, and anything else you can think of tends to be really important. Using keywords to help easily navigate whatever program you use can also be a time saver.
No matter what you choose to do or how you plan, staying consistent is key, and finding a way to keep the rules top of mind while writing is important. So make notes, use an assisting program, or fill your writing room with sticky notes, however things work best for you. Make sure you’re careful to follow every law you’ve laid down, unless you have a really good reason not to.
Remember, characters make the book.
Focus on characters that will shoulder the series.
Outline big events, and mention how they’ll affect your character… or how your character will affect the events. However you plot a series, don’t be afraid to try new things. Find a method that works for you. I hope these simple steps help you get started and offer the groundwork for you to build on. With the right scaffolding, you can plot a series that keeps readers engaged, turning pages, and desperate to know what happens in book two, three, seven, ten, thirty-two…
You think I’m kidding, but there are series out there that are so long you’d be surprised. There are no limits, except the ones you set.