Writing a Series...

Question: I want to write a series, but I keep running into a problem when I'm planning the books. Does each book have it's own story goal, and all the story goal's are connected to the series story goal? If you could answer this, it'd really help. Thanks


Answer: It depends how much you want your reader to crave the next book in the series.

For instance, some series have a separate Story Goal for each book. What makes them a series is that they share a main character. (For example, the James Bond books or the Sherlock Holmes books.) If readers like the character, they may buy another book about him/her. And they can read the books in any order without affecting their enjoyment.

Other series have a just Story Goal for the entire series. The advantage is that it gives readers a reason to read all the books - to find out how the series ends. The disadvantage is that the reader who only buys the first book may feel frustrated that the story is not wrapped up by the end. Also, the books have to be read in a particular order to makes sense. (For example, Lord of the Rings or Kelly Armstrong's Darkest Powers series.)

Reader satisfaction is usually highest when your series has both a Series Goal and Story Goals for each book. That way, the reader gets a satisfying story in each book and an incentive to read the next book.

You can do this in one of two ways:

1. Have a stand-alone story goal for each book, but include a portion of the overarching series story in each book as a subplot.

2. Treat each book like an act or a stage within the series plot. Each book/act can resolve that part of the story, but it's a resolution that gives the characters new purposes and unanswered questions for the next book. (For example, the Harry Potter series.)

In other words, you have a series goal and a plot for pursuing it. Then you break down your series plot into stages, each of which revolves around a sub-goal. Each sub-goal becomes the story goal for one book. The last book focuses on the series goal and gives the climax and resolution of the series plot.

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