How to keep pace and interest in a multi-book series and avoid the middle book slump syndrome.
The key to this is planning. And plotting. (…well for the way I work anyway…)
The goal is to have each book in your collection have a clear start, middle, and end. Have the hero/protagonist state a goal and achieve it (or not, depending on the tone of your story,) have their character grow and evolve from the experiences. The climax must be poignant and get resolved enough to satisfy a reader.
You can end on a cliff-hanger, or have some plot points unresolved to continue in the next book/series.
In the sequel/s you follow the same format where you also introduce new characters, new plot points, more twists and turns. You really want to up the anty and difficulties the hero/protagonist faces.
I like to plan out most of the basic plot points for the books before I start writing anything so I know where I can start to add in character arcs, plot twists, turning points, in a linear fashion. That way you can identify organically where part of the story breaks… and these breaks can constitute each novel in your collection.
Even though this is an example of a single book in the Hunger Games series, the themes run across all three books – try continuing the graph for the remaining books and you will start to get a feel for how to plot over a series.
A hero’s quest is always a great example for a series – in each book the protagonist faces a major obstacle/s on their journey for completion of their desire.
Maybe each novel reveals something that has our protagonist re-assessing the situation and going in a different direction, or towards another goal.
It could also be more of a contemporary tale with each novel dealing with a milestone in the protagonist’s life.
The important thing is that each novel is a complete tale in its own right, and the subsequent sequels build on the world and tension that was established in its predecessors.
Also it is important to keep the consistency in the writing style. If you change perspective, writing for a different characters POV, and the debut was in first-person narrative, continue with that for the sequels. Comparatively you need to continue with the same tense, active/passive voice. If you switch things up too much, the ground work you’ve established in the prequel/s becomes redundant. Readers are going to expect consistency, and breaking from that pattern is only going to disappoint – and end with bad reviews.
Having these basic ideas plotted out at the beginning keeps your narrative on track and allows you to chart the pacing of your novel. It also gives readers a subconscious hint of what is to come and will keep them engaged in your story.
Of course you don’t need to plot out an entire series before starting to write. It could be when wrapping up your novel you get ideas for a sequel because there is more you want to explore in the universe of your story… there is no set way to do this sort of thing. It’s basically finding something that works for you and sticking to it. But I personally like to have a guide. That way if I want to have fun developing my characters, building my world and adding in some engaging side plots or character arcs, there is room to play without turning my manuscript into an epic Stephen King length novel.
Again creating a series is only restricted by your imagination. We see series coming out set in the same universe, but with new characters – like novels set in the same town. Series taking on different perspectives of a core cast. Series of a protagonist overcoming a number of obstacles on their way to a single goal (think Harry Potter.) Generational series, following a family tree, each novel dealing with a protagonist from each generation. Maybe it’s simply following a character and each novel is a romance with a different love interest… Allow your writing to become a piece of art and don’t be afraid to experiment.
Hope these tips help in inspiring your writing and organising methods to keep you creating great novels to read. Let me know what helps you in plotting out a series. I love tips and would be forever greatful.
Happy writing everyone 😀
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