Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Top 5 Tips for Writing a Series

So, you want to write a series? Great. That's how I roll too.  Here are my Top 5 Tips for conceiving and implementing a series:

1. Define the Series GMC: What does (do) your protagonist(s) want? Why? What is keeping her/him/them from it? Ideally, each book in the series takes one of those large-scale conflicts and addresses it. Think of it as macro versus micro goals, motivations, and conflicts.

2. Continuous Character Development: As Jeffe and James noted earlier, your characters--all of the ones you carry forward through the series, from protags to tertiaries--must change. Some will grow stronger, some will fail miserably. All of them must experience stressors, strengtheners, and fractures in their primary relationships. They must have experiences that alter their dominant perspectives. E.g., Best friends in Book 1 may end up as arch-nemeses by Book 3. The cocksure warrior of Book 1 may evolve into a tremulous paraplegic in Book 2.

3. Contrasting Conflicts: Each book in the series should offer a markedly different challenge to overcome. Those challenges should spotlight a different aspect of your protagonists' weaknesses, and allow them to develop a new strength. The new strengths should needed to address the Final Conflict in the Final Book.

4. Know the End: There are two camps of series writers: open-ended series and close-ended series. I am a firm believer that every series should have an ending planned well in advance. As the author, you should know how many books it will take for your protag(s) to achieve their goals before you finish Book 1.

5. Determine Dependencies: This is where a lot of authors get hung-up. When crafting a series, you must decide if readers will have to read Book 1 to understand Book 2. That's your choice. There are no rules, no strong suggestions from on high. Then you have to decide how to move your series forward with the damages/lessons learned from the previous books without giving away the spoilers to the previous books. Whatever you decide, do not turn the first 50 pages of Book 2 into the Cliff Notes of Book 1. From a marketing/sales perspective you want to give good reasons for a reader who picks up your series in the middle to go back and buy the previous books.

There you go, dear readers, my Top 5.  What would you add to the list?