Today’s ‘Ask Inkitt’ Question: I have an idea for a story, but I know it will take more than one book to tell. Do you have any advice for writing a series?
Yes, for sure! First note that there are different kinds of series. There’s the story that requires a sequel, or even a trilogy, to finish. Each of the books provides a complete enough narrative to qualify as a novel, but the major story arc isn’t resolved until the last book. Think Harry Potter or the Hunger Games. We know things won’t be over until Harry and Voldemort face off, or Katniss brings about a revolution. Conversely, you can write discrete stories set in the same world, or featuring the same characters, but each one is its own ‘episode’. Think Jonathan Kellerman’s Alex Delaware book series or the Law and Order television shows.
For this article, I’m going to assume you’re asking about the first type and that your major story arc won’t be resolved until the last book in the series. Of course, some of my tips are valid for both types, so I think you’ll find them useful either way.
Know the ending.
When your plot stretches across several books, it’s important to have a plan for the finale. Complications are good. Intrigue and suspense are good. Not having any idea for a resolution is not good. That’s not to say your ending can’t evolve as your story unfolds. In the course of your writing, things will change. You may find a more exiting way to bring about the demise of the villain, save the kingdom, or settle on a new planet. But, I think it’s important to have an idea of where you’re going before you get started. Without a road map, you may wander aimlessly for hundreds of thousands of words.
Know when it’s time to end your series.
After spending so much time with them, you’ve probably fallen in love with your characters and with the worlds you’ve created. It’s tempting to keep going, even after the story ends. Maybe there’s room to do this. You could fast-forward years into the future and create a new conflict. You could focus on minor characters from the first series and give them an adventure of their own. Possibilities exist, but be sure you have a fresh tale to tell. Don’t hang on and keep writing beyond the natural life of the story.
Don’t lose the thread of minor plot-lines.
You’ll likely have several minor plot-lines over the course of the series. It’s important to keep track so you’ve can bring them all to a satisfying conclusion. If you’ve chosen to leave something open, it should be a conscious decision that serves the story, not because you’ve forgotten something.
Maintain consistency with the details.
The rules of magic you’ve created, or the advanced technology you’ve described in your worlds, should remain consistent throughout. Important details, whether they’re about a character’s quirks, or the geography of a planet, should remain consistent. Readers notice when they aren’t.
Show character development throughout the series.
Your characters will be faced with danger, endure loss, fall in love, overcome challenges, etc. Their adventures will have an effect on them, and it’s important to show this impact to the reader. Knowing where and how the action of the story will conclude is important. I would suggest that it is equally important to know how your characters will fare in the end. Will they be bruised but still standing, traumatized but healing, wiser or jaded? Your characters are the heart of your story. Show how they’ve changed in response to their experiences. Here’s more on effectively developing your characters: Deep Dive into Characters.
Starting a new series is exciting. As readers, we look forward to prolonging our time with interesting characters and spending more time on an epic adventure. Writing a series is just as much fun. If you decide to commit to a series, use the ideas above to help chart your course.