Writers Write creates and shares resources for writers. In this post, we look at writing more than one book – and the power of a series.
The other day, I suggested a new writer develop a fiction series around a character he’d created. The poor guy almost blanched—perhaps because he had dismissed a series as too low-brow or didn’t relish the idea of spending the next 20 years writing about the same character.
The Power Of A Series
The truth is that series can consistently build your reputation and your royalties.
Three Types Of Series
- Multiple Series: This could be anything from Chris Ryan’s Alpha Force series to George R. R. Martin’s Game of Thrones series. Ian Fleming’s James Bond franchise is a classic example.
- Trilogy: This format is becoming increasingly popular, such as Stieg Larsson’s Millennium series, which started with The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, as well as E.L. James’s erotic threesome starting with 50 Shades of Grey. J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings is a perfect model.
- Quartet: A less common series structure, but is seen in Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series, which featured Edward Cullen and Bella Swan, as well as Lawrence Durrell’s enduringly commercially and critically successful The Alexandria Quartet.
Although most series focus on a character or set of characters, a series can also revolve around a historical backdrop, such as Bernard Cornwell’s Saxon Series, which began with The Last Kingdom, or even a place, such as Loren D. Estleman’s Detroit series. A family can be a great way to thread a series, such as Roberts’ Bannion Family Series, or the Santangelo novels from Jackie Collins.
To be a series writer requires you to be focused, disciplined, and prolific. Publishers and millions of staunch fans will require one or more instalment a year.
Change Or Consistency
Some series have a definite arc in terms of plot and character, such as J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series of seven books. Others have characters that remain fairly consistent, like Hercule Poirot in the iconic Agatha Christie parlour mysteries.
Another thing you will have to decide before starting a series is if the series will continue chronologically and fairly realistically – with characters ageing and keeping up with the time. Or if you keep them in a looped reality, where nothing changes except the challenges of the plot.
Four Tips For Writing A Series
- Make sure your character is strong enough to carry a series – and that you enjoy writing about this character.
- Start keeping a series bible, of characters and major plot points, from day on.
- Outline the series arc before you start writing – winging it will get you into trouble.
- Give the overall series a clear identity —and make sure you don’t change the tone, genre or central voice of the stories too much.