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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5 thoughts on “Plotting out a series”
A very interesting, well written post! I’m in awe of people who can plot out complicated narratives so far in advance and you just proved why
Thanks for commenting – plotting out a series takes me a while… and many headaches… but when you stand back and see this thing you’ve created, it’s like you’ve struck a vein of gold. Such a rush!
I really liked your post. It is quite interesting and informative. I was wondering if you could maybe help me make a graph for another book (Like a book from some other series) so I can get it better? Thanks!
The image in my blog post was just an tiny example of the protagonists (Katniss) main motivations/themes in ‘The Hunger Games.’ Plotting out a book, or series, is waaay more intricate. For me, it takes days – to weeks – to plot out a novel. Its creating a road map as a guide for your writing. Firstly, I decide on the major themes I want to play out, then map in the main characters motivations/themes (for all the cast), Decide where I want the major plot point to unfold, add in a time line, mark where I want milestones/turning points/climax of the story. Then I go through and add in story arcs. Make sure everything I introduced is resolved or addressed in some manner. The end result is never really finished, I’m continually tweaking and revising as I’m writing because its’ big picture’ thinking and its not until you really live in a characters skin that you uncover what will work and what won’t. But I like this method to guide my writing because it works for me. Other author friends of mine use post-it’s on a board, some use spreadsheets, others use a massive pinbaord with notes and images and coloured string… you need to discover what method works best for you – how you think and what inspires you. I’d love to give you a hand and some pointers, but plotting out an entire novel is a big undertaking. It can also be genre specific and fine tuned depending on your writing style, tense, and POV’s. It’s the stage where you do a lot of thinking so you can toss out any of the ideas that won’t work before you start investing too much time writing. Get opinions. It’s like creating a piece of artwork – getting that image out of your head and onto a canvas. Someone can help guide you in how to mix colour and hold a brush, but ultimately it’s you who needs to convey the meaning. It’s built up with layers. I pick on thing at a time, plot it out, and then go back and add another, check and revise, and keep going. Do you have an idea or starting point yet? How fleshed out is your concept?
Wow, thanks. That sounds pretty interesting and intense. It seems hard but something I can do if I put my head to it. I wanted to try by writing not a long novel but maybe just a shorted story of like 20,000-25,000 words. I was thinking about making it a YA Romance, its prettty cliche I know but Id like to write a pretend dating thing, but I dont want the MCs to end up together, you get it?