Series Writers: Chart the Details, Part 3

To all a Merry and Blessed Holiday Season
This month concludes my mini-series on series writing. For the first two posts please visit: Is Series Writing for You? and Three Tips on Starting a Series.

The Challenge is in the Details
Begin your series by creating worksheets to keep track of the details. This will help avoid the pitfalls of time spent having to flip back to previous books for small (or large) details that may have escaped you. Preparing your series worksheets isn't much different than keeping track of the details for each of your writing projects. To accomplish this for each individual book project:
  1. Keep a separate notebook for each book.
  2. In each notebook, preferably during the first stage, create a chart of the following important information. This will take time but will be worth it. The information will be at your fingertips to tweak as you go along, and also to use for school visits, your blog, etc.
  • Age group                             
  • Genre
  • Verb tense
  • Point of View 
  • Mood or tone      
  • Setting
  • Time span
  • Character list, role played in your story and profiles
  • Theme
  • List of Scenes or contents of chapters
  • Concept sentence          
  • Why you wrote your book
  • Where your idea came from
  • Research: what you researched, what file it's kept in, sources you've cited
  • Books by other authors that are similar to your book or that you used as models
  • A list of your favorite authors, your favorite books and the authors' bios
Ideas on how to Organize your Series
Keep a separate section or separate notebook if you've created a series. A series organizational chart can contain information similar to the charts for your books.
  • Series title
  • Genre
  • List of characters and how this list changes from book to book
  • How the books tie together
  • How your characters grow and change as the series progresses
  • Series timeline
  • Settings
  • Keep track of the series books you've read and notes you've taken
  • Most important: write down how your series will end
  • Also: keep track of special information pertaining to your story, such as in my MG mystery, the chapter(s) and page numbers of when the ghost appears.
Join the Fun
One of the most fun parts of writing a series for me has been reading popular and well-loved series by other authors.
  • Take notes on the books you've read and on how the series is connected.
  • Note who the mc is and how the mc changes and grows
  • Are there new characters introduced? Which ones stay the same in each book?
What's so intriguing is the difference in how the books are connected from series to series. In the Stepping Stones series of chapter books about ghosts by Marion Dane Bauer, each book has different mc's and characters; the connection is that each book is about a ghost-of-a-different-color: The Blue Ghost, The Green Ghost, The Red Ghost, The Golden Ghost.  And the delightful Princess in Black series by Shannon Hale and Dean Hale, in which sweet Princess Magnolia must handle a monster problem when her glitter-stone ring rings. Out bursts the Princess in Black for her next adventure, which is different in each book.

When I first realized that two of my projects could become series I was intimidated. But, after studying the nature of series writing I've come to realize that planning is key, as it is for the creation of any book, either right from the start or the plans emerge sometime during the revision stage. I plan to avoid as many pitfalls as possible by following the advice of authors who have shared their expertise and experiences. I hope this information will help you, too.

Treasure Chest of Sources on Series Writing;; Writing the Fiction Series: The Complete Guide for Novels and Novellas, by Karen S. Wiesner  

Photo by Linda Wilson

Linda Wilson, a former elementary teacher and ICL graduate, has published over 100 articles for adults and children, and six short stories for children. Recently, she completed Joyce Sweeney's online fiction courses, picture book course and mystery and suspense course. She has currently finished her first book, a mystery/ghost story for 7-11 year-olds, and is in the process of publishing it and moving on to new writing projects. Follow Linda on Facebook.


Karen Cioffi said...

Linda, great advice on organizing the details of your series. I do this with a clients' series and it does save time and effort. These are also excellent tips for keeping track of single novels and even middle grade stories.

Linda Wilson said...

Thank you, Karen. When I started writing novels I didn't know how to organize. So if it is done at the very beginning, I think a lot of time and effort can be saved.

Carolyn Howard-Johnson said...

@lindawilson I think most authors end up writing and changing their minds about first their first chapters anywhere from 2 to 10 or 15 times! And it's still often doesn't occur to them to follow your advice.

Linda Wilson said...

Very true, Carolyn. The sources I cited from my Internet search, listed in this post, agreed that if only they had known, or if only they had kept track of the details right from the start . . .

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