Warning: Hacks for Hacks tips may have harmful side effects on your writing career, and should not be used by minors, adults, writers, poets, scribes, scriveners, journalists, or anybody.
What started as a tiny germ of a story has exploded in your brain like a Mentos in a bottle of Diet Coke. If you want your readers to get a taste of your frothy soda-splosion, you owe it to them to write an entire series. Here are a few tried-and-true methods to turn your ideas into a multi-book bonanza:[pullquote]People in the know say that if you can’t sell the first book, nobody will want the rest of the series. However, it’s equally true that those people can shut their fat, stupid faces.[/pullquote]
First, the Benefits
- There’s no wrong way to write a series. In fact, if you leave a manuscript out in the spring rain, its spores will sprout sequels like mildew in your shower.
- With just a bit of padding, extra scenery, maybe an animal sidekick or two, you can expand nearly any idea into a trilogy. It’s a great way to get paid three times for basically writing one book.
- Writing a series saves you the trouble of crafting satisfying conclusions, character arcs, etc. You’ll deal with it in the next book! Oops, I mean the book after that! Of course, this will catch up to you when you get to the final book. But much like your chemistry final you didn’t study for until the night before the exam, one heroic effort of panic and suffering can make up for an entire semester of slacking off, mostly.
- Multiples of Three: When writing a series, you have to write at least three books. No one knows why.
- Build your momentum. Some writers spend years crafting their first book, sweating every comma until the manuscript practically sings. Who has that kind of time? Once you finish writing that first book, just keep going. Churn out as many books in your series as you can, as fast as you can. People in the know say that if you can’t sell the first book, nobody will want the rest of the series. However, it’s equally true that those people can shut their fat, stupid faces. They haven’t read your sequel to your unpublished novel, have they? When you sit your throne of skulls atop your pyramid made of hundred dollar bills from your mega-major deal, their pathetic mewling will be but the buzzing of flies to your ears.
- Class is rule number I. Use Roman numerals to denote the order of your series (Part I, II, III, etc.). It makes your work look classy and sophisticated. Why do you think the Super Bowl is so popular?
Planning Your Story Arc[pullquote]If your first book happens on a farm, cash in on some fish-out-of-water laughs by setting book two in The Big City. From there, it’s on to the White House, then to outer space. They practically write themselves![/pullquote]
You can’t just throw books together willy-nilly. You need a unifying structure to keep things moving in a logical manner. Here are the most common story arcs for a series:
- The Full Circle:
- Book 1: Your hero’s magical origin story
- Book 2: Being a hero is hard!
- Book 3: Your hero travels backwards through time to the events of the first book. This gives a sense of completion, showing just how far your hero has come, and the time-travel aspect lets you explain away all the plot holes readers found in the first book.
- Location, location, location. If your first book happens on a farm, cash in on some fish-out-of-water laughs by setting book two in The Big City. From there, it’s on to the White House, then to outer space. They practically write themselves!
- The Body Snatcher: Take one of your trunk novels and make it part of the series simply by renaming the characters. When Lady Rutherfordtonshire from your Regency romance suddenly starts acting like a hard-case cyborg cop in the fifth book, well, that’s what we novelists call character development.
- The Contractual Obligation. Make your first book as good as it can be. Then, use the lessons you learned in the process to write an even better follow-up. Finally, complete your saga by making the third book the requisite three hundred pages or whatever so you can get back to your golf game. If you did your job right in books one and two, people will buy number three anyway purely out of habit.
Wrapping Things Up
It’s time to write the final book. Like a politician running for reelection, you made a lot of promises to your readers, and now’s the time to deliver if you want their vote. Or sales. You get the idea. You’ve seen how the presidency ages a person? Same deal with authors, except with more gray hair and beer guts. It’s a lot of pressure. But if you string your readers along long enough, you may get lucky and die before you have to finish it.
What are your strategies for building a series? Share them in the comments!