If you’re a fiction writer, chances are, you’ve entertained the idea at least once (or more!) about writing a series. Many of the greats do it: Stephen King has the Dark Tower series, Sue Grafton has the Kinsey Millhone series, Robert Crais has the Elvis Cole and Joe Pike series, Dean Koontz has the Odd Thomas series… just to name a few. This list could easily go on and on.
So what makes a written series so successful? It’s the connection with the audience. As with any fiction endeavor, the character and its believability is what fuels the story. With a series, the writer gets to revisit the protagonist (and possibly many other characters) over and over. Readers, when they love a character, will enjoy the recognition and familiarity that a series offers.
While writing a series seems like a fun and easy task, there are some common mistakes newer writers can make.
When writing book 2 (or 3, or 4, etc), don’t assume the reader has read the books before it.
Most of the time, a reader isn’t going to start from the beginning of a book series. If they like what they read, then they will feel inclined to seek out the previous books and will continue to be a fan. If they are confused about characters, settings, and relationships that aren’t explained, the book won’t leave a good impression.
It is with this frame of mind that you should approach writing sequels. You should explain characters and places as if it’s the first time you are writing about them. Don’t just assume the reader has read your first book and knows what you are talking about when you off-handedly mention a character or place that had significance in a previous book.
Don’t assume your reader will remember everything.
Even if your reader has read the previous book(s), you still shouldn’t assume that they will remember every character and place that you do. It’s very tempting to make mention of a previous character, even if they don’t have significance in the story you are writing. After all, you are intimately involved in the world you created. But you have to be able to approach writing sequels with an eye that allows you to view it as if you were a reader. And as a reader, you should know that likely, there will be a large gap in time between when a reader reads one book to when he reads the next.
Like with the first point, write it as if it is brand new. This will help keep new readers and will help jog the memory of regular readers.
Make sure each book has a plot of its own.
This will help with the marketability of the series, especially if you’re a new writer. While some elements of the story might be able to carry over, the entire series shouldn’t have one long plot. Think about the Twilight series with this one. Throughout a couple of the books, a couple of elements carried over (Victoria wanting revenge, will Bella become a vampire or not?). But there was a particular theme for each book.
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