I’m working on a new episode of One Fictitious Moment (check out the first four episodes here) and the topic I’m researching is how to write a series.
Here are some of the tricks I keep in mind when writing a story that is part of a series:
Always remember there is a larger story-arc and try to keep pushing it along at regular intervals.
You have to give people a reason to read the next book. It doesn’t always have to be a cliff-hanger, but there has to be a reason to come back.
You don’t have to retell the stories prior to the one your writing right now, but you may need your characters to ‘remember’ certain events if they are significant to the current story. A flashback or a quick memory written on the page can work.
Remembering all your little details is really important as is all the foreshadowing you need to drop in so that by book 4 your reader smacks their head and goes “Ohhhhh!” – thanks for these two tips Amy from Inkcouragement!
What are some of your best tricks for writing a series?
If you’re a curious person like me, you live for a good whodunit. You’re someone who actually times themself while watching an episode of Monk/Bones/Elementary for how long it takes for you to solve the case (personal record: 8 minutes in). You might even be the type who when reading a mystery novel skips ahead to the back to confirm your deductions, too impatient to actually read through all the way to the conclusion.
Ok, maybe that’s just me.
But, if you are in that minority of humans who enter into otherwise normal conversations with an unnatural suspicion about hidden motivations then it might be time to channel all that into a really good detective story.
Besides the usual advice for writing genre fiction – for example to voraciously read/watch as much as you can from the genre you’re trying to…
On the advice of my lovely new agent, I went back and really thought out the motivations for all the characters in Jewel of the Thames. It was a very useful exercise, revealing a couple of potholes that I would fix if I were to do it all over again. BUT the good news is I have lots of other books to apply this new policy to.
So for book 2 (currently called ‘Thrice Burned’) I’ve been pulling apart the characters and doing an outline of their actions and motivations through each chapter in the book. In doing so, I’ve <I think> strengthened the plot and made it that much more believable that my characters are capable of doing the things I write about them doing. Here’s an example:
Chapter 1: Portia is feeling alone and betrayed in her new knowledge of just who her family really is so she isolates herself from people and throws herself into a series of arsons plaguing London. ACTION: Avoiding Baker Street, walking the arson scenes all over London.
Chapter 1: Feeling guilty for her part in deceiving Portia and angry at her former-lover’s exposure of their secrets, Irene Jones plots her next steps in regaining her granddaughter’s trust. ACTION: Avoiding Baker Street, licking her wounds in Edinburg.
Chapter 1: Able to separate the emotion from the action, Sherlock Holmes gives Portia the space and time to absorb everything she has learned, choosing to not worry about the development in their relationship, and instead planning how to help his granddaughter become the best consulting detective Baker Street has ever had. ACTION: Avoiding Baker Street, going about his usual business.
Chapter 1: Unaware of what has transpired over the holidays in Edinburg, Brian Dawes has missed his beautiful landlord and wants to catch up with her, and perhaps take their relationship to the next level as he’s been working up the courage to ask her out. He senses that something has happened, but can’t get Portia to open up and tell him about it, which is frustrating and does nothing to add to his courage. ACTION: Waiting for Portia, trying to get a moment alone with her, at Baker Street.