Writing a Series: Consistency

If any of you have written a book and left it open-ended, there is room for a series. Writing a series can be complicated. The biggest challenge is being consistent.

A large percentage of mysteries are serials. So when I wrote White Light, I went the extra mile and made notesโ€”started a bibleโ€”on the people, places, things, and events. Most of us do this as a reference anyway. Before giving this a go, I snooped around for more…

Variations by Genrebookshelf-32811_1280

Romances tend to be linked through a themeโ€”firefighters, siblings, etc. As one book ends a subplot of another romance may be just beginning, moving a supporting cast member to the forefront. As the new romance blossoms, different cast members slide into the background.

Fantasy and Sci-Fi series may be linked by the setting. Here the rules of the world must be established early, tracked and honored. My examples are: Harry Potter Series, The Hobbit/Lord of the Rings, or The Saga of Seven Suns. Some characters change and the timeline can be quite lengthy.

Mysteries don’t just keep the supporting cast but also a certain tone or atmosphere. They range from hard-boiled to cozy and these elements must remain constant throughout. The supporting cast and subplots carry the series forward. However, the settings, and mysteries may change with every book.

Musts of a Series

  • Make the rule; keep the rule.
  • Backstory is a must to keep the reader in the know.
  • Track everyone, every place and every event, using a bible.
  • Choose a time period, and time span.
  • Conflict and tension must escalate over the series
  • Fill every plot hole, keep logic in the forefront.

Avoid

  • Lampshades, gimmicks, and shortcuts.
  • Changing rules from one book to the next.
  • Not answering all story questions.
  • Resolutions that are illogical, a quick fix or deus ex machina.

Standalone or Not

I’m not sure if it’s me, but I’m seeing a pattern of standalone books within a series. I prefer them to anything else. I’m not forced to read them in order, although I probably will. I feel writers have a responsibility to do their best for the readers that stick with a series.

What do you think?

Gleaned from:

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39 responses to “Writing a Series: Consistency

  1. I love series fiction because I love following characters. It’s not just about the plot for me it’s about the characters lives and what happens in them. Great idea about the bible.

  2. I have a handful of series I read religiously, but I prefer standalones. I usually like to read a series from the beginning, and I can’t always go back and start every series anew. I can’t keep track of everyone and everything. ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. I write a mystery series featuring a private eye named Eli Sharpe. After I turned in the second book, my publisher told me I had inconsistencies that I need to shore up. More specifically, they told me to start a series “Bible,” just as you suggested. It was work, but worth it. Wish I’d have read your article before! Cheers.

  4. I agree consistency and tracking are important. It’s also complicated. I am taking Holly Lisle’s writing course How To Write A Series and it’s fascinating and challenging. There are so many parts, but I love a good series, in fact, I am addicted to them.

    Juneta @ Writer’s Gambit

  5. Excellent tips. Writing a series is difficult, and I’ve read ones where they lacked consistency which is frustrating to the reader. I make sure to keep notes as I go along, so I don’t forget anything!

  6. I refer to series that will work as standalone as a companion series and these are by far my favorite an example would be Krewe of Hunters series by Heather Graham.

  7. My romantic-suspense series (Disaster Crimes) follows the same two character with a continuing story line. There’s so many way to make a series. ๐Ÿ™‚

  8. Thanks for the advice! I’m going to be part of a cozy boxset this year, so will be writing my very first series.

  9. Whether it’s a stand alone or a series I’ll read them all. Don’t really have a preference. Just as long it’s interesting, plot holes and loose ends are tied up and the story, characters, etc are consistent. And that the conflict increases in the following books. I agree with you that you need to create a bible when writing a series. But with a stand alone novel too. It’s all about quality assurance.

  10. Consistency between books in a series is so important. I tend to write down characters, setting, etc. so I can be consistent between them. I also plan to read through the previous book(s) before final edits to make sure nothing weird had happened (changing eye colors, names, etc.).

  11. Really enjoyed reading all the elements of creating a series. Heck I have a hard time just remembering eye colors in one book! Not planning a series..no way. But I do enjoy reading them.

  12. I guess I’m good – I have no lampshade in my series. LOL

    Mine aren’t romances, but the books do focus on relationships of secondary characters.

  13. I like a stand alone series. I enjoy the familiar characters and how their lives grow and change through the introduction of new characters, problems for them to overcome or mysteries to solve. Sometimes the characters want to be heard and demand the author tell another story. Do you have those voices talking to you???? ๐Ÿ™‚
    sherry @ fundinmental

  14. There are definitely rules to follow! Personally, my favorite is the hybrid of romance/fantasy. The couple often stays the same (like Kaliel and Krishani of The Ferryman and the Flame series), but the magical forces they face create the ongoing plot. Either way, consistency is a must once the writer decides.

    Readers have to know what to expect or we get cranky!

  15. I love a good series, too, Anna! I like to know there’s more to come, and the magic isn’t just going to end on the last chapter of the first tome! I’m working on the second book in my series, The Chronicles of Aden Weaver, as we speak! ๐Ÿ™‚ Good luck with yours!

  16. i’ve read a lot of romance series over the years–the ones I’ve read are single-title romances in a series, so it’s more a shared set of characters or a shared fictional world. I like reading series, though–I like following characters around for more than one book.

  17. I’m writing a companion novel for a published book. It has the same setting, the characters from the other book in the background, and new main characters. I’d like to write a full series one day, though.

  18. Great tips! Keeping a notebook and timeline is definitely a must. Consistency throughout a series is equally important. I like reading series books that are also standalone. It’s nice to be able to jump in anywhere in the series and still understand most of what’s going on. I don’t like cliffhanger endings.

  19. Pingback: Writing Links Round Up 8/1-8/6 – B. Shaun Smith

  20. Pingback: Author Toolbox #1: Plotting, Sub-Plotting, and Series Threads | elements of emaginette

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