4 Tips to Writing a Book Series

While writing my latest book, I ran into a bit of a dilemma, “Do I make the book into a series or leave it as a single book?” Leaving out the promotion of this book, I will say that there were changes to the book that made it very different from what I planned, and as I came to the conclusion of the novel I realized that for it to be a single book, I need to either remove a few sub-plot points that I created earlier in the book to support a bigger plot point or resolve them altogether. If I did the first option, then the book would have been shorter than I planned it and a single book. If I did the latter option, then the book could have been a single book, albeit a little longer than planned, or a series of books. If you have had the same problem or wish to know more about writing a book series, read on.

1) Before you write your book, decided whether you want it to be a single book or a book series. Why should you decide now? Because it can save you a lot of rewriting later. Now the romance industry has created a twist on the book series idea. Rather than have the series being about the same two characters, they link each book in the series through a time and place and characters from the previous book. So if Jane and Earl got together in the first book, then Marge, Jane’s sister, and Henry who were minor characters in that first book will have their own love story and so on.

2) If you have a lot of research material, the overflow information can easily go into another book. Just gather all the extra material, organize it into some sort of order, and develop it into a separate book. The best time to start collecting research for book two is when youa are organizing book one.For non-fiction writers, select a sub-topic in your book to do further research on. Doing more research on sub-topics you might have only touched upon in the first book to cover fully in the sequel will bring your readers back for the additional information.

3) Consider your readers. ask them who their favorite characters are, who’d they like to have their own book in a series. If the book is a non-fiction ask them what they want to know more about in your book and expound on that. There are many readers out there that love series books. A sequel sometimes sells better than the previous book. And if you write a series that people love and can relate to, then your readers will go out and buy every title in the series. It can be a profitable as well as an easy way to write a few books.

4) If your book starts to get too large, separate a larger book into sections, then divide them into serveral books. Remember series books have two main plots, or three if it has a romance in it. The first one is the series plot and the second one the book plot. The series plot is just like what it sounds. It is a plot drawn out through entire novel or novella, from start to finish, and every book resolves just a little more of the series plot. A book plot is just the plot done for each book. It starts at the beginning of the book and it ends at the end of the book. And the romance plot, if you have one, is threaded throughout it.

What do you think of these tips to writing a book series? Did I leave anything out? Do you have anything to add? Or questions that I might not have answered? I’d love to hear from you below!

19 thoughts on “4 Tips to Writing a Book Series

  1. mariminiatt August 10, 2010 / 9:30 pm

    I would recommend, write the rough drafts or detail outlines out of all the books, before you polish the first. WHY? like what happened to me. I had some really interesting characters appear in the later story, that I wanted to foreshadow in the first. Or the overall plot may change, and you don’t want to be in the middle of book two, realizing that book one isn’t related anymore.

    • Stephannie Beman August 11, 2010 / 1:56 pm

      Great point. I’d hate to have the first one published and want to do something different in the later books and not be able to do so. 😦

    • Joleene Naylor August 14, 2010 / 12:22 pm

      This is a good idea, Mariminiatt. I actually have super rough rafts of book three and four written for my series, and it made a big difference because in those I get into a lot more details about the vampire’s government and the way they do things, which meant I had to change things in book one, and to a lesser extent, book two, to make it fit. However, I can;t do outlines, so it just meant rewriting for me!

  2. Ruth Ann Nordin August 11, 2010 / 12:27 am

    I got several requests for a book featuring the same main characters, so that is a sequel in that sense. I’ve been thinking of asking my readers to offer suggestions on some plot points that they might like to see in it, but I am wondering if that is a good idea or not. I’m on the fence because, though I could give them credit for the idea in the dedication, it’s not a copyright issue if it’s an idea. Naturally, I’d be doing the writing, but I do wonder about some people and how they see things.

    If you’re having trouble coming up with an idea, what do you do? I have a demand for that second book but am afraid it’ll suck. I got the basic reason they head to Maine (you remember that book I told you about, right?), but what happens when they’re there is eluding me. Anyway, any suggestions would be appreciated. 😀

    • Stephannie Beman August 11, 2010 / 3:02 pm

      People are funny sometimes. If you ask people for ideas and then don’t use everyones’ idea, someone is bound to be put out, and they’ll smear you name or get in a fight over which idea is better. I’ve seen it happen on author blogs, never had it happen to me though.

      That doesn’t mean you couldn’t ask readers for ideas though. My best suggestion is to find a soundingboard buddy, writer or reader, that you trust to bounce ideas off them or help with the brainstorming aspect of plot when you’re cornered or unsure about something. It’s safer.

      I remember the book and when I have troubles coming up with ideas I read, watch a movie, or listen to a song. Something usually jogs the bolts loose and an idea falls out. But I prefer a second brain to help brainstorm up some ideas. Feeding off other people’s creativity usually helps both people in the end.

  3. Torrie Martos August 11, 2010 / 3:06 am

    Wow that is a great article.. I’m enjoying it.. good resource

    • Stephannie Beman August 18, 2010 / 7:38 pm

      Thank you. I hope it helps.

  4. Zane Mardini August 11, 2010 / 3:06 am

    it would be a great help for some people who want to start their own post. it is my pleasure to be one of those people who commented on your website. . thank you for give a opportunities… more power and best wished ..

  5. Joleene Naylor August 14, 2010 / 12:28 pm

    This is a great post, Stephenie! I can only think of two things to add.

    1. Make sure you really like the characters or universe (depending on how your continuation goes) because otherwise it will quickly turn into a chore you wish you’d never started. Except, you’ll have to finish it or leave your readers hanging.

    2. If you make a “rule” – stick to it. This is especially true for speculative fiction. Nothing is more annoying to me then to have the author give you one “fact” about the universe and then change it four or five books later to make some plot device work. A good example of this is Harry Potter. A character driven example of this is that in the last book it suddenly comes out that Harry’s mother and Snape were the best of friends, but no one, ins even years, had mentioned it even once. Especially odd considering that they tried to make Harry trust Snape, and that would have been a much faster way to do it. Another example is that in the last book it becomes a magical “rule” that if you “take” another wizard’s wand it belongs to you, regardless of the fact that someone else takes possession of it, etc. This was never the case before, and again would have changed previous plots.

    So, in short, stick to the rules you created in your universe, no matter what kind of universe it is.

    • Ruth Ann Nordin August 14, 2010 / 3:15 pm

      Wow. Great points. I never finished the Potter series, and unlike tons of Twilight series’ critics (who point out every little detail), I’ve never heard of those loopholes in the Potter-sphere.

      • Joleene Naylor August 14, 2010 / 3:22 pm

        Ha ha! Oh, it’s horrible! There’s a gigantic list in the last two books because you can feel that she was tired of it and wanted it over, so she bent her own laws to make it get over, and to make certain scenes happen that really did not fit. It aggravated a lot of her fans.

        • Barb June 6, 2012 / 8:09 am

          I didn’t know this, Joleene. I just thought she was doing a swansong and trying to cram everyone she’d ever written about into her last words. Well after that many books, movies and bucks, I can see how it would all get so tiring. Sigh

    • Stephannie Beman August 18, 2010 / 7:49 pm

      Good points. Liking your characters and knowing and keeping to the rules is so important. I’d hate to write a long series where I can’t stand the characters. lol

  6. Steven Stansell August 15, 2010 / 1:51 am

    this was my first time that i have visite you blog and it is awesome ..

  7. Barb June 6, 2012 / 8:02 am

    In my first novel attempt, I killed off the most popular character. That kind of puts the skids to a sequel. That’s why they call it a “draft.”

  8. Strayer June 7, 2012 / 10:41 pm

    My two characters are a year older with each book. It is harder to write with each book.
    I planned that before I wrote the first book.

  9. Alicia V. Seawood February 21, 2013 / 6:38 am

    Everyone’s comments have been great. I have recently started my hand in writing. I am VERY new at it. I’m expreiencing a few problems and your suggestions and advice are welcome: 1) I developed the titles for 3 romance books, obviously planning a trilogy. But I dont have the rough drafts written. I am aware of what I want to happen in each book, just not sure how to get there, mainly how long each book should be in terms of word count 2) I keep developing different relationship stories. Meaning, I will sit down to write, and come up with a couple, detailing how they meet, their interactions, etc. And each couple/interaction/development is different. I dont know if this should be a seperate book altogether, or if I should morph it into the the first book. Possibly a rememberance of past relationships.

    • Stephannie Beman February 23, 2013 / 3:10 am

      1- if you are planning a trilogy I would sketch out a quick outline of what you want to have happen for each book. You don’t have to follow the outline if while you are writing your characters do something different, but it will give you a direction to head towards.

      2- I would aim for a word count between 30,000 and 50,000 for a novella and 50,000 and 75,000 words for a novel.

      3- I would not have flashbacks of previous relationships. I some blurb about them would be fine if if relates to the book. But otherwise I would save those snippets for different books.

      4- Start writing book one and focus on that book. 😀

      Hope that helps.

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