Friday, September 22, 2017

8 Tips on Writing a Series

By Julie Moffett, @JMoffettAuthor

Part of the How They Do It Series

Julie Moffett is a bestselling author and writes in the genres of mystery, historical romance and paranormal romance. She has won numerous awards, including the 2014 Mystery & Mayhem Award for Best YA/New Adult Mystery, the prestigious 2014 HOLT Award for Best Novel with Romantic Elements, a HOLT Merit Award for Best Novel by a Virginia Author (twice!), the 2016 Award of Excellence, a PRISM Award for Best Romantic Time-Travel AND Best of the Best Paranormal Books of 2002, and the 2011 EPIC Award for Best Action/Adventure Novel. She has also garnered additional nominations for the Bookseller's Best Award, Daphne du Maurier Award and the Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence. Her book A Double-Edged Blade was an Amazon #1 Best-Selling Novel.

Julie has a B.A. in Political Science and Russian Language from Colorado College, a M.A. in International Affairs from The George Washington University in Washington, D.C. and an M.Ed from Liberty University. She has worked as a proposal writer, journalist, teacher, librarian and researcher. Julie speaks Russian and Polish and has two sons.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads |

Take it away Julie...

First off, thanks to Janice and Fiction University Blog for having me! I’m so excited to be invited to post here. Today, I’m talking about writing a series.

When I wrote my first novel waaaay back in 1992, I didn’t see myself as an author who wrote sequels or series. I was a one-book kind of author, no afterlife necessary for my characters. I focused on one book at a time and enjoyed myself, hoping my readers did too.

But one day, something unexpected happened. After publishing my third book, A Double-Edged Blade, (a historical time-travel romance set in Ireland), I received a slew of fan mail asking for a continuation of the story. That was back in the day where fans had to write letters to your publisher and your publisher forwarded them to you at the speed of a glacier. When I finally received the considerable packet of letters, I read through them in astonishment. At first, I couldn’t imagine doing a sequel. I hadn’t planned it. I didn’t have any extended character arcs planned. What kind of plot would I have? Then I became intrigued. Could the characters live on? How? What would they do? Where was the conflict?

Writing a series is a lot different than writing a stand-alone book. Writing a long-running series is even harder. Developing a series that will span multiple books requires a lot of foresight, planning and long-term character development.When an author sits down to plan a series, it’s like writing several books at once. Each book must have a singular plot, but all must work together toward a series finale. If this is a series that involves the same main character, then all additional supporting characters, their personalities, growth, issues and challenges must be mapped out in coordination with the main character’s arc, as well as the overall series arc. The author must have a firm grip of where to go with the characters, and how they will change and grow. If the author has an exact number of books planned for your series, it's easier. However, most authors I know, including myself, often like to leave a series open-ended in case we wish to revisit it sometime in the future. I know it would be hard for me to close the door on beloved characters for good. I enjoy revisiting them. In many ways, they’ve become like family. It's a joy to watch their growth as individuals, lovers and friends.

So, back to the story of what happened when I was a young author staring at a bunch of fan letters asking for a sequel to a story I hadn’t planned. What did I do? I took the challenge and penned my first sequel titled Across a Moonswept Moor. The book went on to win several awards, much to my astonishment. A few years later I wrote my first planned series in conjunction with my sister. Together, we penned a paranormal historical trilogy about three sisters who are descendants from the Salem witches. I wrote the first and third books,and she wrote the second one. It was so much fun!

After that, I took on a more ambitious project, sitting down and plotting out a detailed series arc for what I hoped would be a long adventurous, mystery series featuring geek girl extraordinaire, Lexi Carmichael. Nine books and one novella later, I guess I can safely call it a success. Even better news, I’ve signed with Carina Press (HQN) for three MORE books in the series. Yay!

A Few Quick Tips to Remember When Plotting a Series:

1. Determine what kind of series you want to write.

Will it feature one main character (i.e. Harry Potter) over the life of the series? Or is the series based on location (i.e. Robyn Carr’s Thunder Point Series) where the location is the focus, but features a different main character in each book? Or is the series a job/occupation the focus (i.e. Suzanne Brockmann’s Navy SEAL Team Sixteen) where the characters are part of a team or share an occupation in each book?

2. Make sure each book in the series can stand alone.

There is nothing worse than a reader buying a book in the middle of your series and trying to get caught up, only to be completely lost. You must provide enough backstory in EACH novel in the series to help the reader navigate the story AND be intrigued enough to go back and read the other books, too.

3. Make sure your ideas for the series can stretch across multiple books.

If you intend to have a series arc tying all the books together, make sure it’s flexible enough to stretch, in case you want to add any more books to the series. Be aware that most science fiction and fantasy series will require a series arc that stretches across several novels.

4. Tighten your timeline.

If years stretch over the course of the series, readers will expect significant change and growth in your characters and plot. The author will have more leeway the tighter the timeline. For example, the first 10 books in my current Lexi Carmichael mystery series all take place over the course of one year.

5. Characters MUST change.

You MUST plan a growth/emotional arc, along with a plot arc, for your main character. This can be for the entire series (if you are focusing on one character) or for each novel (if you are doing a different main character per book). Characters must develop, learn new things, take stands on issues, and become different people than when you started. Craft your characters carefully, leaving plenty of room for growth.

6. Keep track of your series.

I keep a series notebook, as well as separate notebooks for each novel. It will help you stay organized and consistent. Trust me on this one.

7. Foreshadow.

One of the coolest things about writing a series—especially one that has a series arc—is that you can foreshadow things that will happen in each of the novels as you head toward your series conclusion.

8. Know the end.

Even if all the details are murky for the individual novels within a series, you should know your end game. What is final goal for your characters both plot-wise and growth-wise? Make sure your series takes the readers to that point and gives them a satisfying conclusion.

So, that brings me to you — the reader. Do you like series or do you prefer stand-alone books? Why or why not? Inquiring minds want to know.

I’m giving away one autographed, mass market paperback copy of my latest release, NO LIVING SOUL (An Ancient Secret, a Deadly Mystery, Geeks in Egypt – what could go wrong?) to someone who comments on this post. Open internationally!

About No Living Soul

An ancient secret…

Computer geek Lexi Carmichael heads to Egypt with her best friend, Elvis Zimmerman, and boyfriend, Slash, to help track down Elvis's missing and estranged father. Apparently, genius runs in the family, and the group quickly discovers that Elvis's father is hot on the trail of an ancient and elusive artifact…one that people are willing to kill for. Tombs, tablets and code come together as they follow a set of clues that has been waiting millennia to be discovered.

Cracking code is Lexi's specialty, but she never expected to tackle one from fifteen hundred years before the advent of written language. Time is running out, and Lexi has to keep the artifact from falling into the wrong hands. So it's up to her to find and safeguard the secret to ensure no living soul ever encounters it…again.

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iTunes | Indie Bound | Book Trailer


  1. As a reader, I enjoy both. I'm reading a trilogy right now and each book can be a stand-alone.

  2. I also like to read both, but there is something special about reading a series and coming back again and again to characters who slowly become like family! :)

  3. Once I get to "know" a character, I like learning what happens next. I like your point about keeping track. I dropped a series I enjoyed because the basic facts kept changing. One character when to college with another, no she had a baby, no she got married then had a baby. Thanks for sharing

  4. My sons will find these tips helpful sonce they have been writing both shorts and started their own series. Thanks for sharing the tips and the joyful moments with your characters!

    1. Awww... good luck to them and let them know I'm available if they have any questions!! :)

  5. Great tips! I really enjoy reading series. It's interesting to see how the characters develop and grow as they experience the adventures in the novel. I find myself looking forward to the next adventure and can't wait to get the next book. I guess that's the point right? LOL!

  6. I'm starting the fourth and final book in my TetraSphere series, and I know what you mean about keeping track of the series as well as of each individual book. This is all great advice, much of which I wish I'd had when I began the series. Where were you then? Obviously writing your own. I love Lexi Carmichael and her adventures, and I enjoyed your time-travel books. Well-crafted. Well-done!

  7. Oh, I'm sorry! Lol! You know you can ask me questions ANY time!! :)

  8. My daughter Chloe loves to write! I will have to have her read this to get some ideas that she can use to get started!

    1. Oh, that's great!! Tell her I said good luck! :)

  9. I love character development, and series allow for that in spades. I own No Living Soul as an e-book, but my Lexi collection won't be complete without a hard copy!

  10. I'm passing this on to my niece-in-law who is currently crafting her second novel. Everything you listed out is what I crave in a series, ESPECIALLY continuity of events from the first book through the last.

    1. Perfect! Have her contact me if she has any questions!!

  11. **WINNER!!** A name has been drawn from my son's Cub Scout hat and the winner is Vgiles! Please email or PM my your snail mail so I can get the book to you! :)

  12. I love series most because the characters become like family to me. I become attached to them and actually grieve when the series comes to an end, yet feel enriched from having known their joys, struggles, and victories. or world (I tend to read fantasy genre) feels like a place that really exists and is somewhere I'd love to revisit, if only within my mind.

    1. Me too. My niece and I talk about them like that. :)