Writing a Series – Mapping it Out

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So you want to write a series … that’s great! To avoid a mental breakdown later, plan it all out in advance. This post will help you lay a foundation for a long journey that is free of plot holes, missing narratives, and weak storylines.

Do you have a Bible? 

No, not the one you found in the hotel drawer or the lovely one passed down from Nana. I’m talking about the bible you need to make for your series. The wisest thing you can do for yourself is to start your own series bible right away. Why? Because as much as you think you will remember all the little details, you won’t. Writing something as big as a series fills your brain with a lot of information. Do yourself a favor and get organized right away. 

Recommended Series Bible Notes:

Notes on Your Characters: 

  • Their names – include their phonetic pronunciation (if need be) and your reason for choosing them.
  • Photos – go on Pinterest and make a Vision Board for your book(s). Pack it with photos that inspire you and people who inspire your characters. Here’s a link to my vision board for the last book in my trilogy. When you make your own, you can reference your photos when you write. You can print the photos out or import them into a writing program.

Notes on Your Settings:

  • Location Details – if you’re using an actual location, wonderful! But if you change anything, make note of it here. Actual maps would be helpful, too …
  • Location Maps – If you make your own, put it in your bible for reference. Did you know you can go to places like Fiverr to hire someone to do a map or a character sketch? The prices are pretty cheap, just make sure you look through their portfolios so you know what you’re getting. 

Notes on Your Plot:

  • Write out your plot details in bullet points or try using a mind map. 
  • Make goals for your plot. What do you want to accomplish? Think long and short term. 

Your series Bible doesn’t need to be fancy.

My bible was not a spiral-bound notebook or a decadent moleskin (there’s nothing wrong with either of those!), mine was done in a Scrivener file. This amazing program allowed me to keep all my notes, pictures, and bios in one place. At the end of my trilogy, I was able to backload a character reference guide into all three of my books. By then, I had name pronunciation guides for all my Gaelic, Scandinavian, and Slavic characters and a short description of each character’s name origin as well as their relationship connections.

Be like Noah, build your Arc(s). 

Okay, bad pun, but the meaning is there. Do you have an arc that will span all the books in your series? What is your endgame? Having a strong arc that carries across many books will keep your readers coming back for more. 

In addition to the big arc, do all of your main characters have macro and micro arcs that will span the series? I’m a firm believer in goals. I like to look at each chapter from the lens of goal achievement. As I plan each chapter, I write down the goal in my planning notebook. Okay, you caught me here, let me explain. Not everything I do is in Scrivener. When I am planning a new project, I keep a little notebook with me all the time. I record all sorts of random scribbles that relate to what I plan to write: 

Heather’s Completely Unscientific Character Planning Scheme:

  1. Figure out who the characters are and what motivates them.
  2. Decide what I want each character to reveal to the reader by the end of the book and, subsequently, the series.
  3. Make bullet points of scenes I see in my head below each characters’ name. I don’t initially put these in order, nor do I stress about this. It will all reveal itself.
  4. Go back through the scene list and start pulling out chapters.
  5. Make a goal for each chapter. Example – This chapter will help establish the pecking order of relationships amongst the children. 

Hopefully, this is enough information to get you started. Be sure to read my next post, Writing a Series – Mistakes to Avoid. 

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


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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