Stephanie writes young adult contemporary novels and is the creator of GoTeenWriters.com. Her novels include The Reinvention of Skylar Hoyt series (Revell) and the Ellie Sweet books (Playlist). You can connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and check out samples of her work on her author website.
I've had a couple questions come in about writing series so I'll tackle those today.
"So I finally plotted out my story idea for my first novel, but how do I plot all four? Meaning if I want this one story idea to be a trilogy, or better yet a series, how do I go about that?"
I'm sure this process is unique for each writer. As I've mentioned on here before, I'm not a super plotter but I can talk about some guiding principles for plotting a series
1. Don't feel like you have to have everything figured out.
When I was working on So Over It, the third book in The Reinvention of Skylar Hoyt series, I had a plot twist idea that I was really excited about. But I couldn't do it exactly like I wanted to because of some things I had said in the first book. Which hadn't been published yet but was too far along in the process for me to make big changes.
And while I grumbled in frustration for a bit, I eventually made the plot twist work in a way that was more creative than my initial idea. Don't be afraid of that moment when you've written yourself into a corner. That's just an opportunity to creatively write your way out.
2. Each story should feel bigger than the last.
This is one of the reasons why the Harry Potter series is worthy of the literary praise it receives, because each book has a fresh plot and yet builds onto the story as a whole. Each book has a fresh feel to it. Other series, even wildly successful ones like the Twilight saga or The Hunger Games trilogy, don't do as well with this. (In my opinion.)
With those principles in mind, what's worked for me is to write a detailed synopsis of the first book, and then to write long-ish blurbs (2-3 paragraphs) of what I think could happen in later books. This has helped me to keep the story on course but to still have the freedom to explore new plot ideas that crop up in the writing process.
Jill has written several series as well (fabulous, award-winning series) so I asked her about what she's tried. She said something similar:
I had a spreadsheet for The Mission League. I had a spreadsheet for that series before I ever finished book one. But on the Blood of Kings trilogy, I didn't. I had some vague ideas of how things would end, but that was it.
I didn't like that, though. So on my newest series, I'm trying to do a mix of the two. I want to plot out enough so that I'm confident in where I'm going. But not to the point of huge spreadsheets.One thing I want you to notice is that even as published writers, neither Jill nor I have The Perfect System or The Secret Plotting Device. We're both always looking for ways to improve our process, and we figure it out by trial and error. Don't be afraid of that.
The second question I received about writing a series was:
"I'm wondering if during a second book it's okay to introduce a few more newer characters while older characters are temporarily gone (but will return). I mean, obviously I'm keeping the same protagonist but as for friends and family go, I really want to add some new people in. I'm just scared it will be too much going on."
I think it's a great idea to bring in new characters. I know it's popular to hate the Twilight saga these days, but one of the things I thought worked really well in those books was that Edward was basically gone for all of book two. That's a bold move for a writer to make, to rip away the hero like that. It works because Jake, who hardly had any role in book one, is so darn likable.
Jake also has a big part in the story that eventually unfolds, which is another thing that makes the addition of him work. It isn't nearly as effective to add characters just for the sake of adding a character. They need to fit into the story as a whole.
Any other questions of series that I can help answer?
Speaking of series, there are a couple of giveaways for my Ellie Sweet series going on right now. (These are in addition to the ones I posted last Tuesday.) Here's where you can enter to win:
Also the first book in the Culper Ring series by Roseanna M. White, who blogs here frequently, is a steal right now for 1.99 on your e-reader. It's a series that follows several generations of a spy family, and it's excellent.