Sequels and or relating to another book you have written

by Isabella
(Alberta Canada )

Question: I was wondering about writers who might write up to four or even eight books. How do they continue their stories for so long? Do they plan all of their books ahead of time? Or is it just a spur of the moment kind of thing?


Or another thing how do they (Authors)relate one thing from the 4th book to something from the first book for example: An incident happened in the first book that was never explained properly, but in the third or fourth book it comes to light again and is explained better.

This is the main problem I have while writing, not knowing how to relate things to a previous item or looking ahead.

I hope this made sense to who ever might answer.

Please answer thank you.

Answer: Like with first novels, some series writers are pantsers and some are plotters. Frankly, I suspect plotters have it easier, but that may be because I am a plotter by nature.

The hard part about writing a series is that your main character cannot have his deepest problem resolved until the last book. Yet, he must have a problem to resolve in each book of the series, in order to make each book a satisfying read, complete unto itself.

Fortunately, Dramatica theory is recursive. It suggests that you to create a complete story for book one, with a Story Goal that is resolved within that book, but at the same time make book one the first event of a much bigger plot. I think that is the best way to approach series: to think of each book as one stepping stone, event, or act within a larger story. You therefore also have a Series Goal and a larger dramatic arc that only gets resolved in the last book.

If you're a plotter, you may sketch out this larger plot while you're working on the first book. In addition to the first book's story goal, you can introduce a mystery, a bigger (but not immediate) threat, or a problem that will not be dealt with until a later book. This is a great way to make your readers hungry for a sequel.

Writers who are series pantsers may create the first book with little thought at all about a sequel, until the first book does well and the publisher requests a series. At that point, the writer has to start thinking in terms of a longer plot arc.

So pantsers save themselves a little work on the first book, but then they may have to work more on their series plot as they go along, which means they have less opportunity use foreshadowing. At best, they have to treat things in the first book as if they were intended to foreshadow the second, etc. That's much harder.

Of course, the other choice pantsers have is to make the series more episodic. In that case, they can forget about having a series plot and just write a number of independent books that just happen to take place in the same world and have the same main character who doesn't really change much from book to book. This is true for many of the mystery series detectives (Sherlock Holmes, Hercule Poirot, etc.). Each story stands independent of the others.

However, episodic series are less popular these days. Series with Series Goals and overall plot arcs, are favoured because they give readers more reason to buy the entire series. You want to find out how or whether the main character will resolve the problem that has plagued him since book one.

So, if you are planning a series in the beginning (which publishers do appreciate), you may start by creating a plot outline for the entire series. If each book is an act, that implies three or four books (most stories are either three or four acts). Some writers think in terms of seven major acts or events. It's up to you.

Then you write an outline for the first book, thinking of it as the first act or first major event of the series. For your plot, break that big event down into a series of smaller events revolving around a Story Goal that will be resolved in the first book.

Your first book can include a few inciting incidents of throughlines or subplots that will continue through the series, thus leaving some unresolved tantalizing events that make the reader look for the sequel. But because you have already mapped out the series, it will be very easy to pick up on these in the second book.

Click here to post comments

Join in and submit your own question/topic! It's easy to do. How? Simply click here to return to Plot Invite.


 Step-by-Step Novel Planning Workbook


NEW! Make Money Writing Nonfiction Articles


"I've read more than fifty books on writing, writing novels, etc., but your website has the most useful and practical guidance. Now that I understand how a novel is structured, I will rewrite mine, confident that it will be a more interesting novel." - Lloyd Edwards



"Thanks to your "Create a Plot Outline in 8 Easy Steps," I was able to take a story that I simply just fooled around with and went willy nilly all over, into a clearly defined, intriguing battle where two characters fight to keep their relationship intact, and try to find a balance in control of themselves and their lives. Thanks to you, I'm not ashamed of the poor organization of my writing." - Nommanic Ragus

"I am so glad I found your site. It has helped me in so many ways, and has given me more confidence about myself and my work. Thank you for making this valuable resource, for me and my fellow writers. Perhaps you'll hear about me someday...I'll owe it to you." - Ruth, Milton, U.S.A.

"I never knew what to do with all the characters in my head, but since discovering Dramatica I am writing again in my spare time. Thank you for making this available. Yes, it is a bit complex, and it does take time, but I love it because it works." - Colin Shoeman

"I came across your website by chance. It is a plethora of knowledge, written in a simplistic way to help aspiring writers. I truly appreciate all of the information you have provided to help me successfully (relative term) write my novel. Thank you very much!" - Leo T. Rollins

"I can honestly say that this is the first website that is really helpful. You manage to answer complex questions in relatively short articles and with really intelligent answers. Thank you for taking the time to write these articles and sharing them so generously." - Chrystelle Nash

"...had no idea that a simple click would give me such a wealth of valuable information. The site not only offered extremely clear and helpful instructions but was a very enjoyable read as well. The education from your wonderful site has made me a better writer and your words have inspired me to get back to work on my novel. I wish to give you a heartfelt thanks for How to Write a Book Now, sir." -- Mike Chiero