Tips On Planning Out A Series

– This is a list of tips I’ve gathered throughout the outlining process of my work in progress. If you are an author, feel free to leave your own tips in the replies!

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Figure Out What Type Of Series You’re Writing

There are many forms a series can follow, but in the base level world of understanding your series, you should know what type of series you’re going to be writing. Either your series is one of episodic plot, wherein each book is a contained conflict and resolution, but following the same set of characters on a singular timeline, or you’re splitting one big story arc into a series of novels in order to flesh it out in detail and allow enough time for the reader to become invested in the details.

Don’t Stretch It Too Much

If you plan on writing a series, you need to have enough content to justify the amount of time and attention you’re asking of the reader. If your series is going to be seven books long, you need to have seven books worth of content, not two books worth that you spun and twisted and over-elaborated on for the sake of word count. Earn your reader’s loyalty to your story by giving them substance to enjoy, rather than long instances of nothing between short bursts of importance.

Plead Ahead or Edit Diligently

It is imperative that you decide from the beginning whether you’re going to plan your story from start to finish ahead of time, or go with the flow and tear it to shreds later. Whatever you choose is justified and can produce a good product as long as you’re willing to deal with the consequences of that choice. If you choose to plan out six books worth of plot, conflict, world building, and character development ahead of time, be aware that it will be a long while before you actually put pen to paper. If you choose to start somewhere and go and deal with the spill of ideas and possibilities later, then know that you will spend about 10 times as much time editing, rewriting, and re-editing as you spent actually writing. Either way, refinement of detail takes up more time in the writing process than actual writing.

Think About The Reader’s Experience

When you’re thinking about timing, revelations, growth, progression, and foreshadowing, your number one thought should be “how is this going to affect the reader’s experience of my story?”. When you release each book, you are handing it off. You don’t get to explain to each individual reader what you meant by this, or how this is supposed to make them feel, or why you included this cryptic piece of dialogue or this detail at this precise moment. You have to construct your story in a way that unfolds deliberately and effectively. Always put the reader first, and you will gain a loyal, captivated audience.

Twist The Commonalities

If you notice that your story shares a lot of attributes or includes a lot of tropes that you know the reader would recognize, this isn’t a bad thing and won’t be a detriment to your story as long as you make it your own. I don’t know how to state this in a way that isn’t going to start a fight in the comments, but originality is dead so long as you refuse to acknowledge interpretation. Interpret the character archetype or the trope however you feel fits your story and try to make it like nothing you’ve ever seen before. Not only for the sake of avoiding criticism for the use of it, but because new things are more exciting to create than reused things are interesting to copy. 

Understand The Voice(s) Of The Series

Some books are told in first person, third person, whatever. That’s important to an extent, but one thing that goes severely overlooked is the decisions you make that contribute to the voice behind the storytelling. The way you tell the story impacts the way the reader experiences it, and things like details that you repeat, preferred vocabulary and phrases, and even where you put commas and em-dashes forms your voice as a writer, and your character’s voice in the case of first person.

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