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.

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