Writing a Series

This week on Hide and Create Joshua Essoe, Debbie Viguie, Michael Sullivan, and Jordan Ellinger talk about writing a book series.

I want to hit on some things to keep in mind when writing a series:

1. Continuation of character history, physical and personality traits. Don’t forget if Liz has that piercing in her left eyebrow or her right eyebrow. Or if Bobby McBoberson comes from Kentucky or Nebraska. Did Grammar Girl introduce Squiggly and Aardvark to each other, or did they meet on their own?

2. How much info do you repeat to remind readers what’s going on or to inform readers who don’t start at the beginning? There is always going to be a little repetition to get people back up to speed, but the trick is to get the balance right. From a reader’s standpoint it really irritates me when I have to read a great deal of repetitive exposition — especially if I’m binge reading.

3. What timescale are you using? Do you have an immutable character who is always just the way he or she is and goes from adventure to adventure? Kind of like Jack Reacher? Does that mean that after one harrowing event takes place the next book takes place a month, a week, a day afterward? Does this go on for a dozen books? Is that believable? Even Jack effing Bauer usually has a year between his insane 24 hours of crazy. The point is, it would be helpful to have some idea of the time lapse you’re planning. Do things change between books? What? If the character is constantly in action, do the seasons change? Do characters age? Or are they eternal like James Bond?

4. Consider your cover branding and theme when you’re doing book one. Make sure that you’ve figured out how you can make all the covers look like they are a part of the same set. It’s worth considering a branding strategy. As a great example, Joshua Simon, a client of mine who writes epic fantasy, uses bright, single-color covers with a single object on them for his Blood and Tears series. An axe, a helmet, a bloody dagger. The covers are all unique and all eye-catching, but because they use same fonts and placements of titles and author names, and the same theme, they are easily recognizable as a single series.

Finally, here is the link to the map-making article by Jonathan Roberts, the artist who does G.R.R.M’s maps, that I mention in the episode: http://www.fictorians.com/2013/04/29/here-there-be-dragons-maps-in-fiction/ 

One thought on “Writing a Series

  1. Love this topic. Very relevant (instead of merely “relevant”) to my own ambitions. In the show you mentioned the Babylon 5 five year series model, and I think it a good one. I remember how right it seemed to treat a big story this way on TV. It allowed for the occasional rabbit trail or light episode, but the central long story arc kept the series focused and moving towards a definitive resolution. Brilliant, and equally brilliant I think now that independent publishing is accessible now to apply the model to what might have otherwise been yet another obligatory trilogy or decaology. I may have missed it on the podcast, but what are your recommendations as a good readable word count range for each episode, and a reasonable episode range for each season. My working premise is a thin novella length for each episode and ten to twelve episodes per season.

    Also I wonder about the normative restraints of the novella form in a series. The focus on character and setting are traditionally more short story like in a novella: limited or lacking subplots, single point of view, fewer characters, no chapters, etc. But given that in a series each story is part of a larger projected story arc…why not chapters or subplots, larger casts, and the like. Perhaps the question I’m asking is somewhere around how the needs of a serial structure necessarily impacts the larger structure arc of the season and the whole series?


Leave a Reply