Author Toby Neal had some interesting thoughts on the subject, which she shared in her post, Writing more than ten books in a series and staying fresh. You can read my highlights below.
9 Tips to Keeping Your Series Fresh
- Write an archetypal main character, and preferably secondary characters too. Doing this will hook readers and generate lots of great mine-able material.
- Develop a big, strong, overarching character development arc. Toby had that, and it took the first five books to achieve. After that, she did another, smaller arc. And then another. All of them still fit under the original, main umbrella.
- Just writing plots and recycling the characters will not end up satisfying you. Torture the main characters with some major test: of courage, of loss, of health or mental/emotional wellbeing. Only when they are suffering and growing can we keep writing, no matter how good the plot part of the story.
- Take a break if you need to. After Twisted Vine, # 5, Toby wrote the first draft of her memoir. And after Rip Tides, #9, she took another break and wrote two romances while ideas for her next “phase” of the series germinated. Trust that process—if you’re getting bored with something, write what you feel like writing. Novelty keeps our creative batteries charged. Write in some different genres, and it may hone your writing when you return to your regular series.
- Travel and write about that. Toby took a month-long road trip and blogged daily about all she saw, honing my descriptive skills. When she returned home, she was eager to get back to her fiction, benefiting from her increased ability to observe and describe.
- Change up POV. Writing first person in the main character’s head makes for a totally different kind of writing and reading experience than the usual third person. Changing up the POV you usually write in can breathe life into a character that’s getting tired, because you see and experience that character differently.
- Take risks. Toby has begun killing off more important characters with much pathos and heartbreak, and pushing her comfort zone with the subjects she’s tackling.
- Put topics out to readers. They can’t tell you how to keep the series fresh, but they can tell you what they want more of. Share your struggle with your readers. They might just have a key that gets you unstuck and back to the page with renewed vision.
- Never lower your commitment to quality. Every book deserves as much effort as if it is your first—in fact, you have to assume that every single book in your series might be a reader’s first—so it has to hook the reader into wanting to know more about the world you’ve created.
Read the whole post here, and thanks to The Passive Guy for the tip.
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Good tips to go by 😀
Thanks, that’s what I thought, too 🙂
I’m contemplating th eidea of writing a serial… once I’ll pin down the main idea for it.
I think taking a break actually works for any kind of writing. Sometimes you jus tneed to regenerate.
Very true! That’s why I write in such different genres 🙂
Taking a break and writing in different genres is a great idea. As is the overall arc of the main characters development through the series. Thanks for the tips.
The overall arc can also be combined with shorts and novellas that highlight specific secondary characters – this is something I plan to do in the future 🙂
Yes, I thought of doing that with one of my characters too.
I’m looking forward to seeing the end result 🙂
Excellent tips. Thanks for sharing. In crime, we get it a littler easier by having the same characters investigate a new murder. I’m in awe of those who write series where the story continues. That’s a separate skillset altogether.
Never lower your commitment to quality….this really strikes home as I try to post weekly…
It can be exhausting, of course 🙂
I’m in awe of anyone who writes series books. Great tips. 😀
Thank you, Tess 🙂
You are welcome. 🙂
Since I am on book three of a sereis, these tips were great! By luck, I’ve managed to follow most of them. POV change might be interesting since so far it’s all first person with the sleuth,
It might be distracting to some readers, though.
These are great tips and they make complete sense. I can’t imagine writing a 9 book series. I can’t imagine writing a 5 book series! Maybe some day…but knowing myself, I’d have to plot them ALL out before even starting the first 🙂 Just thinking about it gives me hives …yikes 🙂
Lol- join the pantser side. We have… Erm… What were we talking about again?
Ha ha. Pantser…I did that once and edited the ramble for two years. I’m working on a 4-book set now and my brain has all it can handle. 🙂
Oh my! I’m looking forward to reading the end result 🙂
Nicholas, good advice even for a book. The character arc is my focus in a fiction book based on real events. Changed to a third person narrative for more freedom to embellish. Seems better to shake things up. Happy Sunday! Elizabeth (aka Chryssa)
Third person does free up a writer. It’s a shame the trend is for ever-deeper PoVs.
You too 🙂
I tried the deeper POV and got so tired of the “I.” Including a lot of dialogue and avoiding the he said, she said! The flow is improved! Have a great week! ? Elizabeth
That’s very interesting! I guess it’s not for everyone ☺
[I just realized I originally posted my comment on the older version of your blog]
I think most of those are good advice, except changing between first and second person, I’d dislike that as a series reader.
Some popular writers have extended series by taking a previously minor character and giving them their own novel, I usually enjoy that.
Lol – I realize I answered in the old blog, and it makes no difference 🙂
A big yes to characters arcs, major tests, and taking risks … even in a standalone book. These kinds of stakes and tension are what make readers invested in the story and keep them turning pages (and frankly, what makes them clamor for sequels in the first place).
Sam Taylor, AYAP Team
Good point! Thanks 🙂
The way I’m working my series is to have more than one main character. In the first book “Shadows in the Stone”, the focus was on three people. One POV weighed more than the other two. I also introduce a few minor characters who have big stories to tell, but that won’t be for a few books.
The second book “Scattered Stones” focusses on two characters who are still developing from the first novel. The third character from book one appears for two scenes, but is there for only a few minutes, then she is off.
Book three “Revelation Stones” will focus on the life of that third character while introducing other characters, and drawing in a fourth character who appeared in the first book.
The fourth book will focus on characters three and four, but drawn in others. I don’t believe in body counts to make the story interesting. Of course people die, but to kill the main character to rise up another isn’t the way I work. I’ve read series where the main character was killed, and I stopped reading.
Sure, you may gain fans by killing favourite characters, but you will also lose them. Marvel found that out when they thought they could kill Loki. Too many people had invested emotions in that character, and Marvel had to ‘bring him back’. The rumblings are they will kill Steve Rogers in Civil War; won’t happen. Why? A huge fan base says they can’t. I will stop watching if they kill Steve Rogers. He is the only Captain America. No one can replace him.
Is this a female thing only? Do men invest enough emotions in a character to not accept their deaths? If this is the case, slaughter them if your main audience is male. Keep them if they are female.
I know everyone is out for blood, but stories can draw in readers without killing anyone.
Couldn’t agree more. Depends on the genre, too, though. I can’t imagine grimdark without at least a few casualties along the way 🙂
Good advice. Though, I’m always confused on why ‘take risks’ and ‘shaking things up’ seems to be other ways of saying ‘kill main characters’. Are there any other ways to shake things up without a body count?
Lol – I’m sure there are. Romance springs to mind.
Love is in the . . . Sorry it’s snow and the common cold. How romantic. 😛
So… instead of flowers I should just get the missus some cough medicine?
Only during the winter. Be weird in the summer.
Oh yeah… Isn’t that allergy season?
Thought that was spring. Summer is the sweating season.
Shall I get her a sponge, then?
Call it a loofah and you’ll be fine.
Ooh, I like the way you think!!
Of all those tips, I like ‘Take risks’ the best. Writers who take risks with structure and characters can reinvigorate interest in their work.
Best wishes, Pete.
Good choice 🙂
Great advice here. On the torturing side I seem to have that down pact. When writing the first book of Suleskerry my Mam came through to the kitchen to see why I was crying and I said. “I`ve just killed “…….”. That was a heartbreaker.
Lol – that’s awesome! 😀
Great ideas here. I hate it as a reader when the writer starts killing characters off but this helps so writers can hook their readers to their books for ever.
Like for Daniel Coyle, we know to expect from his books, a little history- a little romance( maybe/maybe not) but just a hint thereof, some running around a famous historical town/city which usually involves catacombs, caves etc..,
If the writer can build an anticipation up, the reader will be hooked.
A lovely example, thank you 🙂
I wrote so many years ago and I want to re-publish it. Again. To introduce again my old novel. Can you give me advise how can I do this, Nicolas?
Thank you, my friend!
To publish? Just go to kdp.amazon.com and follow the instructions! It’s why I love Amazon – Bezos has made it real easy 🙂
As for marketing, I suggest you have a look at the posts on https://nicholasrossis.me/guides/
Thank you, Nicholas. I really want to re-promote my old novel again. It was my very first and after that for so many years I did not do it again after the frustration hits me that no one is there to help me on the book at that time when internet was just new. That was like over 10 years ago.
There are some wonderful ways nowadays 🙂