I was one of those lucky people who decided one day they wanted to write a children’s book, wrote it and then discovered that I had so many fleeting ideas left about it that I could turn it into a series perfectly fine. However, I’ve definitely toyed with the idea of writing a series before. Many times. The only other time I actually tried it, I failed horribly; I could not stand my characters nor the length of a story. These tips will not be about writing epic fantasy series, therefore, as I have no idea how to manage that myself. Instead, they will focus on writing a series of stand-alone stories.
First of all, know your characters. If you are writing a series, you will most likely be stuck with your main characters for a long time – except for when you decide to kill them off, which is not advisable in this kind of stories. There needs to be consistency as to who your characters are. Their personalities cannot suddenly change because it fits better in another story. Characters can grow, though, if you are planning on ever writing an ending. They can learn from their experiences. However, at heart they will still have to be the same people. Do not throw off your readers by turning that shy kid into a bad boy.
Secondly, there should be something in your series that connects your stories to one another – and just using the same characters over and over is not enough to call it a series. Know your main theme. It can be broad, as you can see in television shows as CSI, where every episode contains another crime to be solved. It would be strange if they suddenly stopped trying to solve crimes, right? If that is the kind of series you want to right, you need to stick to the premise. The other kind of series is the one that actually has an ending and a build-up towards it. You will still need to stick to the premise, but this kind of series needs to contain something more: a deeper layer, an impending danger on the background. The climax of the series, in that case, should be foreshadowed in the background of every book or episode. Let your readers know something is coming.
Thirdly, do not let a series drag on forever. Do not try to exploit it. If there is supposed to be an ending, get to it at a reasonable pace. Unless a publishing house has told you otherwise, your series does not need to contain a certain number of books. If you are out of material, do not try to force anything new. By that time, the story needs to be over.
All in all, it is important to keep your series concise and consistent. Of course, G.R.R. Martin’s series is not concise, but that is epic fantasy – the kind of genre I am desperately trying to avoid.
Have you ever tried to write a series? What did it turn out like?