It’s Wednesday so I’m back with another guest post! Today’s guest is writer E.R. Smo who discusses how to plan a novel series. Enjoy!
Writing a novel can be a daunting task. Writing with the intention of a series even more so.
There are plenty of reasons why an author may write a series. They may start with an individual book and decide they want to keep the characters and/or world going (Or their fans decide for them), or perhaps the story in their head is simply taken long to fit into one reasonably sized novel. How a series comes to be can determine how one is planned out.
Like any book or series, no outline is perfect. It is common for it to change over time or through the writing process, even beyond the rough draft stage. And though plotting isn’t for everyone (Looking at you, pantsers), having an outline comes with it a host of benefits.
But why stop at outlining only one book at a time? If you know from the start you want to write a series, why not plot the entire thing from beginning to end, before starting that book one rough draft?
Outlining a single book is tough enough, so why do so for an entire series at once? Well, perhaps you might consider not thinking of it in terms of “I have to plan out three books? five books? seven books before I even start writing book one?” I find it’s easier to look at it more like writing one long story.
To compare to other media, a movie doesn’t work as they are usually no longer than two or two-and-a-half hours. TV shows can have long stories, but each episode tends to be more stand-alone. The best comparisons I can make are anime and video games.
In many long-running anime, such as Dragon Ball Z, Naruto, and One Piece to name some popular ones, the shows tend to have separate story arc’s which may or may not be connected.
But each story arc can still last ten’s of episodes, equaling dozens of hours of viewing time, and each episode often picks up right where the previous leaves off, telling one long cohesive story.
In certain genres of video games, most notably the JRPG genre, the game focuses mostly on a narrative, on the story and the journey the characters venture on.
These stories can take dozens of hours to play through, resulting in stories much longer than one you’d find in a single movie or many individual novels. I find plotting a series’ story like one long tale, such as the examples above, comes with many benefits.
While writing your story, it’s natural to want to foreshadow future events. Whether they be changes in a character, a major plot twist, or the revealing of subtly hinted information, it’s a good idea to drop small nuggets of information the reader may or may not recognize the first time around.
This is normal to do throughout the course of a book but becomes easier to do throughout a series when the entire story is planned out at once.
Let’s say you plan to write a series that would end up being five books in length. Though there may be gaps in the story usually between each book so each can stand on its own even with an overarching plot, it is still one continuous tale.
You know there will be a major plot twist in book four. In this situation, you can start foreshadowing this as early as book one or two, likely in a subtle way that doesn’t make the reader feel there is an unresolved plot thread at the end of said book.
This can make future events feel more natural and a true part of the story and world, instead of feeling as though they belong only within the confines of the single book within the series.
It’s important to be consistent in your story, especially in cases like developing a fantasy world. There has to be a feeling that it’s a real place, where real people live.
When plotting one book at a time, it can become easier to forget details from the previous book or further back, especially if it’s small, such as certain plants that bloom nocturnally, or a seldom mentioned law about the magic system. This is especially true if such detail hadn’t needed to cross your mind in some time.
This becomes less of an issue if you are constantly thinking of the story and its events in its entirety.
Sure the story has to be split into multiple books and you may primarily focus on one book at a time, but if you’re writing while constantly keeping what will come down the road in mind, you’re less likely to have a small detail lost to time.
Plot holes can also become less of an issue. Imagine a situation where you’re writing book four, and want a certain thing to happen, but remember because of what happened in book one, which is too late to change as the book is on the shelves, it wouldn’t make sense. Such holes can be caught and fixed far earlier, perhaps even during the outlining stage.
Just My Thoughts
These are of course only my thoughts and opinions, but it is also the way I have plotted the series I am currently working on.
So far the biggest drawback is being excited to write scenes and characters that won’t occur for several more books.
It’s hard to wait. But I’ve frequently made changes for the better thanks to knowing where my story was going and where it would end up. I hope this idea can help somebody out there.
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About E. R. Smo
E.R. Smo lives in the United States delivering pizza to the masses and writing in his spare time between other hobbies.
He can’t seem to help but add some sort of fantasy element to anything he writes.
Currently, he is working on his first full-length novel, a Fantasy Adventure called Accrue’s End, intended to be a five-book series.
Currently, he has two short stories in anthologies; “Breath” published in Once Upon A Wednesday, and “Wayward’s Beacon” published in Chasing Magic.
Video games tend to be his biggest source of inspiration for writing.
Kyo Sonata is a smart aleck, 16-year-old mage in the world of Feracael where magic is commonplace. When his hometown is attacked by a mysterious woman and his godfather is kidnapped, Kyo ventures far from home to save the only family he has left.
Following her trail of destruction, he allies himself with other mages whose lives were affected by the kidnapper’s toxic magic.
Realizing the deaths in her wake were more of a tool than her end goal, Kyo and his friends seek to discover her true purpose and stop it before the whole of humanity find themselves to be victims.
Together they must travel through dangerous lands, fight their fears, and for their lives in pursuit of stopping the woman’s reign of death.
As unlikely as it is that a group of mostly under-age mages with varying magic skills can stop such a powerful and scheming foe, they have no choice but to try once she takes a special interest in them.
Are you writing a series?
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Big thanks to E. R. Smo for being today’s guest poster and sharing his thoughts on writing a novel series.
Please take the time to check his links and if you have any questions for him, please leave them in the comments section below.