Writing a Series – 5 Mistakes to Avoid

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This is a continuation of my previous post, Writing a Series -Mapping it Out. Thinking about writing a series? To avoid plot holes, missing narratives, and weak storylines, try to navigate away from these series writing mistakes.

Mistake #1 – Be a Cavalier Pantser

Pantsers need not apply when it comes to a series. I say this from experience. My short story turned into a novel that turned into a trilogy. It all worked out in the end, but by the middle of book two, I was close to a nervous breakdown. After I had a very public outburst in a coffee shop, a wise friend told me to take some time off. I did. When I came back, I had a plan–a color-coded, indexed, alphabetized plan.

As mentioned in the last post, having a strong plan (ahead of time) will help keep you on track. Start by creating a series bible, a story map, notes, geographical maps, pictures, spreadsheets, Pinterest boards, or anything else to remind you where you are going. Remember, you don’t have to follow the plan, but it is good to have one. 

Mistake #2 – Don’t have anyone proof your work 

First of all, this is a stupid idea, you should never work in a vacuum. But think about it, how many sets of eyes do you have on your final project? I recommend at least two different sets, if not three. 

Your editor serves as the big picture director. They should be guiding you through your arcs, your tone, your character motivations, and your pacing. The second set of eyes should be a proofreader. In addition to punctuation and grammar, this person should be fact-checking, looking for inconsistencies, taking notes on timelines, etc. Once, I had a proofreader call me out on an inaccurate low tide time stamp. Yeah, that’s what I’m talking about. You want those type of eyes on your work.  

Mistake #3 – Assume your reader is all caught up when they start the next book

You need some sort of Scoobie Doo recap at the beginning of each new book in your series. Don’t automatically assume people are binge-reading all the way through. Some people will, but many will not. 

I’m not going to lie to you, this is a tricky order. You don’t want to bore your reader with every nitty-gritty detail, but you need some sort of a summary to keep the last story fresh. How do you avoid an info-dump? That’s up to you. You’re a creative writer. Take the time to be clever in how you plan on creating a, Previously on …

Mistake #4 – Leave too many loose ends

It’s okay to leave a few items up to the readers’ imaginations, but don’t over-do it. Secondary characters need to have full arcs. Plots need to be resolved. Protagonists and antagonists need to grow and change into something more than they were in the first book. Don’t leave people hanging. 

Mistake #5 – Create junk food filler fluff

You will fool NO ONE if you write a book just for the sake of having yet another book in your series. Ask yourself this hard question right up front- is my idea a one-and-done story, or is it truly capable of becoming a series? 

And, don’t write a series on the premise of making money. Your work will look like you’re just in it for the money. Be passionate about what you write, a series is a serious time investment. Don’t you want to enjoy the journey?

Do you have a topic you would like us to cover? Let us know about your suggestion. 

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About Author

Heather Rigney is a fiction writer, blogger, journalist, and art teacher based in Rhode Island. Author of The Merrow Trilogy--a dark, historical fantasy novel that deals with homicidal mermaids, the colonial suppression of women, and a present-day alcoholic funeral director trying to make sense of it all. Her writing has been featured in Motif Magazine and Stone Crowns Magazine. By day she teaches art at an all-girls Quaker school and at night she tries to be creative while avoiding too many sweets. You can read more about Ms. Rigney on her website: www.heatherrigney.com

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