There was satisfaction in knowing you just finished writing three books that link . . . that carry on the story of your characters. The fear of course is ‘can you write two – three- four – or more – books that will continue to grip and keep that reader interested – more than interested – engaged, hooked, actually waiting for the next book to come out! One thing I did know – I wanted the next book to be even better than the one before it.
Not all series are handled the same way. What do I mean? Well, some series are complete stand-alone books. One isn’t necessary without the other. They contain some of the same characters, but don’t depend on each other. Take for instance The Hunger Games, Harry Potter, or Twilight.
Some series are continuing sagas from the previous book, and if you hadn’t read it (them) you might be lost when reading out of sequence. As with the Tango of Death series, books one and two depended on book three to be complete.
For an author a successful series means a reliable paycheck and cumulative royalties. And don’t forget you don’t have to worry who will be publishing each new book. But, it’s a known fact that publishers would rather publish a stand-alone book and see how it does before committing to a series. I actually submitted a series synopsis – showing the connections and plan for the series. How do you write a stand-alone book with series potential?
Book one is the foundation – This first book will be the ‘beginning’ and should be your highest priority to make sure your reader cares so much about the characters they want more … and more … and more. Cultivate your strongest plot and write the best book you can. Bear in mind not all books can turn into series. Good advice here - write this first book as if it will be the only one – a stand-alone. In other words, don’t be closed minded and insist this book is a series, therefore, sacrificing the story for the series. Support the series potential in your proposal or synopsis.
Think about Magnum PI . . . great . . . he solves his cases, but we sure want to experience his next case. The Hunger Games . . . I can’t wait to read the next book . . . and the next . . . and the next. I wish I had written them!! That’s when I know it’s a fabulous series. Two and three book series are hot on the market right now. But NEVER write a series because it’s something you haven’t done – and it sounds cool. Believe me – it’s scary to look at that blank screen and know you are starting book two – book one is finished . . . and you have to continue the story in a whole new, exciting way. But it has to be fresh and page-turning no matter the genre. It must be better than the last book!
A series needs more characters – Oh . . . I love minor characters . . . especially those with unique personalities. A series allows you to give them more presence in your story, and who knows - maybe they might be the character that shoots off the next book! Things happen while writing and we the writer (as well as the reader) fall in love with secondary characters all the time. Any one of them might have a problem or situation that will turn into a full-blown story in your series.
Create continuity between books - There should be a common theme that connects all the books in your series. Is there an unpredictable brother or sister? Is there a jail-bate uncle or parent? Could it be every murder takes place at an archeology dig site? You get the picture.
The hero has just begun – You want your reader to feel satisfied after the first ‘the end,’ yet you want the reader to hope for another event, case, quest, etc. We so love the character that we aren’t ready to part ways. The hero has more to give us – and we want to be a part of it.
Foreshadowing future events or incidents – This is so important in the series. We need to expect more – and foreshadowing is everything. Lay the groundwork and instill the need or excitement of what is to come. Give that linking series depth and texture that will smoothly transition into an incredible series and will compel your reader to want more!