A book series offers readers a chance to immerse themselves in a vivid world you’ve created, follow characters they grow to love, and experience complex stories that evolve over time.
But why should you take the time to brainstorm book series ideas?
Not only does a series provide a richer experience for readers, but it also allows you, the author, to delve deeper into your story’s universe.
However, the process of creating a series requires careful planning, consistency, and dedication to keep readers invested book after book.
This guide aims to navigate you through this challenging journey, offering practical advice on expanding your initial story into a captivating series.
Whether you’re in the early stages of your first book or contemplating how to move forward after a successful start, these insights will help you plan, develop, and maintain a series that will keep readers coming back for more.
This advice on how to find book series ideas explores:
- How to know if a story is worth developing into a series
- How to develop a consistent book series theme
- Why a book series should develop your characters and settings
- What are the different types of book series?
- How to create a book series outline
- How to manage reader engagement and series pacing
- How to manage relationships and conflicts over the course of a book series
- How to manage the workload of writing a book series
- How to handle feedback and criticism
Let’s start with an important first step – how to know whether your story should or should not be developed into a full book series.
How to know if a story is worth developing into a series
Before you consider writing a series, you need to evaluate your story’s potential for expansion.
Does the world you’ve created have enough depth and breadth to explore further?
Are there characters whose stories are waiting to be told?
Assess the narrative arcs you’ve begun – could they extend in interesting and meaningful ways over several books?
This initial evaluation isn’t about stretching a thin idea, but discovering whether your concept has the inherent richness necessary for a series.
How to develop a consistent book series theme
A consistent theme is the glue that holds a book series together.
It’s the central idea, moral, or message that resonates throughout each installment.
Whether it’s the resilience of the human spirit, the complexity of moral choices, or the exploration of a particular culture or period, this theme should be a thread that ties your series together.
However, it’s crucial that your central theme can unfold and deepen over time, offering fresh perspectives and insights with each new book.
Why a book series should develop your characters and settings
When planning a series, the long-term development of characters and settings is paramount.
Characters should evolve, and their relationships should grow and change; no character should be the same at the end of your series as they are at the beginning.
Equally, the setting of your story should be dynamic.
Don’t make the mistake of allowing the setting of your series to stagnate.
Whether it’s a fantasy world or a small town in contemporary America, new elements should be introduced with each book to maintain reader interest.
This sustained development creates a living, breathing world that readers will want to revisit.
What are the different types of book series?
Expanding your story into a series requires choosing the format that best suits your story.
Each type of series has its own set of conventions and expectations, and understanding these is crucial for both the structure of your series and meeting reader expectations.
A sequential series follows a strict chronological order, with events in each book following on from events in the previous book.
This format, common in genres like epic fantasy and certain sci-fi narratives, requires careful planning of a long-term plot arc and consistent character development.
Spin-off series take a secondary character or subplot from the original book and explores it in depth in its own series.
This allows for the expansion of your story’s universe and the opportunity to explore different themes or perspectives, while still maintaining a connection to the original narrative.
In a shared universe, books are set within the same world but may feature different characters and standalone plots that contribute to a larger, interconnected narrative.
This type provides great flexibility and is popular in comic books and certain speculative fiction genres.
Anthology series are united by theme rather than plot or characters.
Each book is a standalone story, often with entirely new characters, but all entries explore similar themes or conceptual ideas, creating a cohesive reading experience.
Choosing the right type of series for your story isn’t a decision to be made lightly.
Consider your narrative’s strengths, your characters’ potential for development, and how you envision your story’s world expanding.
The right choice will support and enhance your storytelling, creating a framework that feels natural and satisfying for your readers.
How to create a book series outline
Embarking on a series without a solid plan can lead to narrative confusion and inconsistencies.
Here’s how to create an effective series outline:
Step 1. Define the overarching narrative
Identify the main plot that will extend across all books, including the ultimate goal or resolution.
Step 2. Plan character arcs for the entire series
Determine how each main character will grow, change, and contribute to the overall narrative.
Step 3. Establish key events in each book
These should drive the story forward and contribute to the overarching plot.
Step 4. Identify the climax and resolution for each book
Each installment needs its own satisfying conclusion, even while contributing to the series’ larger narrative.
Step 5. Review and adjust
As you write, revisit your series outline regularly and adjust as necessary, ensuring consistency and continuity in your storytelling.
How to balance storylines that impact the whole series with those for each book
Each book in your series should feature its own unique conflict and resolution, contributing to the overall storyline.
These individual narratives give readers a sense of closure at the end of each book, while the overarching plot maintains their interest in the series as a whole. Striking this balance is crucial.
The key is to weave book-specific plots seamlessly into the larger narrative, with each resolution paving the way for new challenges, while keeping readers engaged with the broader story’s progression.
How to manage reader engagement and series pacing
Keeping readers invested in a series over multiple books is a challenge.
Here are five tips for maintaining reader engagement and pacing:
1. End each book with a hook
Give readers a reason to anticipate the next installment without resorting to unsatisfying cliffhangers.
2. Introduce new characters or settings
Keep the narrative fresh while maintaining continuity and familiarity.
3. Vary the structure and pacing
Shift the focus between main plots and subplots, and between action-packed sequences and character-driven scenes.
4. Reintroduce and expand on key themes
Remind readers of the story’s core values, deepening their resonance with each book.
5. Listen to feedback
Pay attention to reader responses to each book and be prepared to adapt if an aspect of your series isn’t resonating.
How to grow and evolve your characters during a series
Character development is the backbone of any compelling series.
As your story progresses through multiple books, each character should undergo significant growth and evolution.
This isn’t limited to your protagonist; secondary characters also need arcs that readers can follow and appreciate.
Remember, people change due to their experiences, and so should your characters.
Consider challenges that will push them out of their comfort zones, compel them to question their beliefs, or force them to confront their fears.
These transformative experiences will keep readers emotionally invested and eager to see how characters handle new challenges.
Consistency is key, but avoid predictability.
Readers appreciate well-rounded characters who surprise them, yet remain true to their established personalities and values.
How to manage relationships and conflicts over the course of a book series
Sustaining reader interest over several books often hinges on the characters and their relationships.
Here are five practical tips for developing these elements throughout your series:
1. Develop relationships organically
Avoid forced connections; let relationships evolve naturally from characters’ interactions and shared experiences.
2. Introduce conflict
Relationships shouldn’t be static; introduce conflicts that challenge bonds and push character growth.
3. Vary relationship types
Not all relationships are romantic. Explore friendships, family bonds, rivalries, mentorships, and more.
4. Let relationships influence the plot
Decisions made because of these connections should have real, tangible impacts on the story.
5. Show the consequences
Relationships come with emotional baggage; depict the joy, heartbreak, frustration, and reconciliation realistically.
How to expand your book series setting
Keeping the setting engaging over multiple books is just as important as maintaining compelling characters and plot.
Here are seven tips for expanding your story’s universe:
1. Explore different regions
Introduce new cities, countries, or even planets, each with its unique characteristics.
2. Delve into culture
Expand on traditions, arts, cuisines, and societal norms of your world’s inhabitants.
3. Introduce new technologies or magic systems
Show how they affect society, politics, and individual lives.
4. Deepen history and mythology
Reveal past events, legends, or prophecies that shape current events.
5. Explore societal structures
Look at government, class systems, and power dynamics, and how they affect the plot.
6. Show natural evolution
Settings should change over time, just like real-world places do due to events, discoveries, or natural progression.
7. Keep it relevant
Ensure new elements contribute to character development or advance the plot, preventing the world-building from feeling like filler.
How to keep the world of your book series consistent
Maintaining consistency in the rules of your world is crucial for reader immersion and belief in your series.
These rules could be laws of magic, technology functions, political power structures, or cultural norms.
Once established, there should be few, if any, deviations, and any exceptions must be clearly justified within the story’s context.
This consistency prevents your series from feeling disjointed or arbitrary, which can disrupt readers’ engagement and suspension of disbelief.
It’s also important to keep track of these rules—consider maintaining a series “bible” for reference to ensure continuity across every book.
How to introduce new elements of your story’s world
Introducing new elements of your fictional world can keep readers intrigued, as long as the introductions feel organic and relevant to the story.
Earlier, we mentioned some of the areas that are good choices foe freshening up your story world.
Now, we will delve a little deeper and look at exactly how to work with each of these.
Here’s how to explore different areas without overwhelming your audience.
Venture beyond the initial locales presented in your first book.
New landscapes can offer varied backdrops for action and can influence the plot in unique ways, such as a hidden desert city or a remote mountain monastery.
Dive into diverse cultures within your world.
Show varying traditions, beliefs, and customs, and how these differences can lead to conflict, trade, or alliances, enriching the reader’s understanding of your world’s complexity.
Reveal other political entities or governing systems.
Introduce readers to neighboring kingdoms, rival empires, or insurgent groups, each with its own agenda, to heighten tension and introduce new allies or adversaries.
Explore your world’s economic systems.
Showcase trade routes, marketplaces, or resource scarcities that can drive conflict, create power imbalances, and offer insight into the daily lives of citizens.
Unravel local legends, myths, or religious beliefs that vary from place to place.
These stories can influence characters’ decisions, foreshadow events, or add depth to the world’s history and ethos.
How to avoid repetitive conflicts and resolutions over the course of your book series
When crafting multiple books in a series, it’s paramount to avoid rehashing conflicts or resolutions.
Each book should present a unique challenge that grows from the previous ones yet stands distinct.
The characters must evolve, and their problems should reflect this growth, demanding new solutions every time.
This continuous evolution in conflicts keeps the readers intrigued and the narrative fresh, without feeling like they’re reading the same book repeatedly.
How to raise the stakes as your series progresses
As a series progresses, the stakes must escalate.
It’s not merely about creating bigger threats, but more personal, consequential ones.
Subsequent books should build upon the established narrative, deepening character backstories, revealing hidden secrets, or introducing larger antagonistic forces.
This amplification ensures that readers remain invested, understanding that the outcomes matter significantly, not just for the characters but the entire narrative scope.
How to use foreshadowing and callbacks in a book series
Mastering foreshadowing and callbacks can elevate a series from simple storytelling to a complex, interwoven saga.
Here are seven examples of how to do this effectively:
1. Seeds of doubt
Plant subtle hints of potential betrayal among allies that don’t pay off until later books.
2. Mysterious artifacts
Introduce an artifact with unknown powers or origin early on that becomes pivotal in a future installment.
3. Hidden motives
A character’s vague actions in early chapters become significant due to a big reveal about their motives in subsequent books.
4. Evolving threats
Early warnings about a minor enemy who evolves into a significant threat over the series.
5. Past lessons
Characters apply lessons learned in earlier books to overcome challenges in later ones.
6. Symbolic themes
Recurring symbolic elements or themes that reach a meaningful culmination by the series’ end.
7. Unresolved tension
Relationship tensions or conflicts introduced early that don’t resolve until later books, keeping readers hooked.
How to manage the workload of writing a book series
Embarking on a series is a marathon, demanding sustained energy and focus. Here are five tips for managing the workload:
1. Detailed outlining
Plan the series’ arc and individual book outlines to stay on track and maintain continuity.
2. Regular writing schedule
Establish a routine that suits your style, ensuring consistent progress.
3. Organizational tools
Utilize tools and software for tracking plot points, character arcs, and research.
4. Breaks and self-care
Schedule regular breaks to recharge and avoid burnout, keeping the writing process enjoyable.
5. Feedback and revision time
Allocate time for revisions and incorporating feedback from beta readers or editors.
How reader expectations should influence your book series
Meeting and subverting reader expectations is a nuanced art.
Readers come with established ideas about where the narrative will go, based on genre conventions or previous books.
While it’s crucial to meet these to a degree for satisfaction, a little bit of subversion can lead to delightful unpredictability.
This balance keeps readers engaged, knowing that while the narrative feels familiar, surprising twists await.
How to handle feedback and criticism
Feedback is a double-edged sword, especially in series where responses to earlier books can influence subsequent ones.
While positive feedback is affirming, criticism is invaluable for growth.
The key is discerning constructive criticism from mere opinion.
Learning involves embracing the former, recognizing patterns in feedback that point to genuine issues or areas for development, while graciously sidestepping the latter.
Always filter feedback through your vision for the series, ensuring it aligns before making alterations.
Are you ready to explore your own book series ideas?
Writing a book series is a big project, but you’re now equipped with practical strategies to make it happen.
Remember, the key to success is not just in the planning but in the doing.
Take these tips and put them into action.
Start developing your characters, plot your series, and get the first words down.
It’s work, but you have the tools you need. Don’t wait for the “perfect” moment; start writing your book series now.
It could be the start of a truly epic fiction writing career.