#5OnFri: Five Basics of Series Writing

by Marianne Knightly
published in Writing

Series are a big business these days. If you can hook the reader in with the first book, then you’ve got a built-in base of sales for the next two (or three or more) books. Before you start writing a series (or further developing your current one), here are five tips to keep in mind.

1) Don’t Confuse “Series” with “Serial”

Each book in a series is a standalone novel (with a beginning, middle, and end), though each successive book in the series may feature the same characters (think J.D. Robb’s In Death series). A serialis essentially when you take one complete book and break it into installments at strategic points, and sell each installment individually.

Tip: If you do decide to go the serial route, make sure your book description reflects that. You do not want upset readers who expected a full book and got a cliffhanger instead, which can lead to bad reviews and negative feelings associated with your name and brand.

2) Pay Attention to Intention

Did you start out with one book and expand it into a series? Or did you know you wanted to write a series from the get-go?

My newest series, the Royals of Valleria, is an intentional series. I’m planning at least ten (yes, ten!) books in this series, with the first three already plotted and in some form of development. All of the immediate characters in my royal family, however, have been developed and appear in Book 1, which was released this week.

Another series of mine, the Italian Shipping Millionaires Series, was not originally intended to be series. I was in revisions of the first book, Dante, when I decided I wasn’t ready to give up the characters and the world quite yet. So, I added a few more characters into the book (Adrian, Giovanni, and Luc), and those characters each got their own books later in the series.

Tip: If you decide to expand a book into a series after it’s published (or even if you decide to do it earlier in the process), make sure there is some connection to the first book. Readers like to read about the characters they fell in love with in Book 1 (particularly romance readers), so make that connection for them. As you go further into the series, make connections to other characters as well.

3) Choose Multi-Character or Single Characters

An important thing to decide is whether your series will feature the same characters as the lead in each book, or whether it will feature new leads in each book (in the romance genre, we call these the Hero and Heroine). My Hike to Forget Series features the same Hero and Heroine in each story. My Italian Shipping Millionaires series features a new Hero and Heroine in each book, but we still hear about what’s happened to the other characters we’ve met (as I mentioned above, make that connection to your earlier books and characters).

Tip: Another important thing to keep in mind is consistency. As writers, it may be easy for us to forget the little details, but your readers won’t. Keep detailed notes about appearance, jobs, history, etc., and major plot points in each book. This will help you keep your characters (and any problems they are having) on track.

4) Plan Your Worldbuilding

Next to the characters themselves, this is one of the most important elements of a series. If you’re setting it in an existing place, then you’ll want to make you’ve done the necessary research. However, be careful about the names you use as some may be copyrighted or require a trademark symbol.

Tip: If you ever think you may portray characters that work for those organizations (or those organizations themselves) in a bad light, then change the name. You also do not want to run into any copyright issues, either; consult an attorney if you are unsure what names to use and how to reference them appropriately.

If you’re creating an entirely new place, then you’ve got some work to do, as it’s not just names and places but also history and characters that may span back thousands of years. My Royals of Valleria series is about a fictional, modern-day European monarchy. I’ve got notebooks full of details about the Vallerian history, people, places, and plot points (among other things) to ensure I do the best job possible in creating a realistic, authentic, and fictional world for my characters and for my readers.

Tip: Whether you’re using existing cities and changing names, or creating a whole new world, DON’T overwhelm your reader with details. Work them in slowly. Just because YOU know all the details upfront, doesn’t mean the reader needs to. Ask yourself this question while you’re editing: Is this particular fact pertinent to the problem or character at hand in THIS book? Can this detail wait until Book 2 or Book 10?

5) Know Your Brand

There are a lot of different ways to market and brand your series. One thing to consider is your covers, as your cover images should also have some kind of consistency. See what I’ve done with my Royals of Valleria series in the image at the top of this post. You can also see what I’ve done with my two other series, Hike to Forget and Italian Shipping Millionaires, here.

Tip: Amazon has now made it VERY easy for readers to find other books in your series by creating series pages, so make sure titles, names, covers, etc., are consistent across series. If they’re not, the readers will let you know!


Royals 1 (2015)Have questions? Comments? Leave them below or contact Marianne via her website, www.MarianneKnightly.com. Marianne Knightly’s newest novel, Alexander & Rebecca (Royals of Valleria #1) is available for purchase on Amazon here. For more information about her and her books, sign-up for her monthly e-newsletter and follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.



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