Tag Archives: standalone

How to Plot a Series and Make Every Book Stand Out

16 Aug

As an author with three series under my belt, I’m often asked how to plot a series, and I thought it was finally time to share a few tips. 

First thing is first, anyone considering traditional publishing should make book one a standalone. Don’t get me wrong. It’s great to have the dream of writing a series, but in traditional publishing, that choice is out of your control. Agents/editors will get discouraged by proposals that say, “this is first book in a five-book series,” because no one can guarantee that will happen. (In fact, a series can be very rare for a debut author.) 

Repeat after me: “standalone with series potential”

But that’s more to do with traditional publishing than writing—and it doesn’t affect those who are self-publishing as much—so let’s get to those writing tips: 

Identify the Sub-Genre of Each Book

When I set out to write a series, I know each book needs to feel special. The way that I do that is by identifying each book’s sub-genre. For example, in my Timely Death trilogy, book 1 is a paranormal romance, book 2 is a paranormal mystery, book 3 is a paranormal action. In the Tomo trilogy, book 1 is certainly dystopian action, but book 2 is dystopian horror. (Time will tell what book 3 is.) 

When each book has its own sub-genre, it’ll help them stand apart while also inviting new energy into the storyline. Personally, I’d recommend every first book heavily lean toward your main genre in order to set the overall tone and expectation. Using my example above, the Timely Death trilogy is a paranormal romance, and book 1 is heavily focused on that, both in the main plot and the subplots. It’s the next books where I allow a little more deviation. 

I encourage anyone writing a series to keep that tip in mind when plotting out numerous books that follow the same characters. If you’re unsure what sort of sub-genres might work with your overall genre, “20 Master Plots and How to Form Them” by Ronald Tobias is a fantastic resource that helps explain plot and genre expectations. Play around with a few and see how they feel. 

Avoid the Dreaded Middle Book Slump

Avoid that middle book slump by throwing everything you can at it. What do I mean by that? I mean that a lot of writers stop themselves from using amazing material because they want to save it for the big, explosive finale. And that’s valid. But personally, I disagree with that method. Trust me when I say not to hold back. Give each book everything you got. You will come up with something even bigger for the next book. I know it can feel scary, but I’ve done it before, not knowing what I was going to do with the last book, and everything came together perfectly. 

If you want that example, I’ll explain, but it does spoil book 2: 

In the Timely Death trilogy, there’s a prophetic fight-to-the-death between two clans alluded to in the first book. Every reader expected it to be in book 3. And guess what? It’s in book 2. Though it seems to be set up as the ultimate climax from book 1, I knew I wanted to push against that formula the moment I started writing book 2, so I trusted my gut and used it in book 2. Book 3 ended up being even bigger and followed the fallout of that fight. Using everything I had in book 2 opened the series to even more dramatics, plot twists, and drama than I ever could’ve planned had I tried to save material for the finale.  

Don’t Fear Character Change, Including Relationships 

Too often I read series where characters’ friendships and romances remain intact book after book. Granted, the romance genre requires a happy ending, but you can still have a happy ending while pushing what it means for a couple to be together. You can break friendships and meld them—or break them up forever. You don’t have to have a happy ending for everyone. In fact, if I know my main couple won’t work out, I make sure to show one that will, and vice versa. 

To me, this tip is reminiscent of being willing to kill your darlings. 

If no one’s relationships ever suffer, then readers might get too comfortable with the stakes. Be willing to part family, friends, and lovers. Allow them to make new friends and find new families. This will allow for fresh scenes and stakes because new relationships mean something new to lose. New relationships will also show how your characters are changing. My favorite kind? A villain who joins the good side in the end. There’s something so interesting about showing what it takes to get the hero and villain to see eye-to-eye, even if one of them can’t exist in the end. 

These are just my top three tips for planning a series.

How do you plan yours?

~SAT

#MondayBlogs: Writing Tips for a Trilogy or Series

4 Jul

So, you have an idea for a trilogy or series. Awesome! Writing a series can be a lot of fun. I mean, who doesn’t want to spend more time with their characters and worlds? But many aspiring writers aren’t sure where to start, and writing a series is a lot of work. With these three steps, though, it might be a little easier than you think.

1. Determine the arc for the series—and each book

This step is important for your series whether or not your books will be standalones or need to be read in order. Each book should have an arc (and don’t forget that every character in your series should have an arc, too). On top of that, your overall series should have an arc. This means each book is building up to something by itself and working together to build up to something bigger. One easy way to do this is to consider your “sub-genre.” Maybe your first book of your paranormal romance trilogy will be a mystery (Who is the villain?), while your second book will be a thriller (We have to run from the villain!) and your last book will be your adventure (We have to go after the villain!). This method ensures each book brings something new to the series, while also working through an overall arc (in the example’s case, defeating the villain). Again, this is only one method, but you can mix and match to study your series and determine if you are keeping your books fresh and exciting but also unified.

Writing Tips for a Trilogy or Series

Writing Tips for a Trilogy or Series

2.  Keep Notes

Consistency is SO important. You might think you know your characters from top to bottom, but chances are, you don’t. We’re only human. We can only remember so much, and as your cast grows and changes, it gets harder and harder to remember every little detail. That being said, you must remain consistent throughout each book. You wouldn’t want a side character who is allergic to chocolate in book one to eat chocolate ice cream in book five. Same goes for scenes. If you’ve said a door was to the right, it better be to the right in the other books, too. Personally, I keep a file on places and characters, and I create an overall timeline. What’s a timeline? This tracks years before and during the books. This means if I have a character who says she broke her leg at five years old in book one, she says she was five in book three, not nine. Another file I keep is a summary of what was told to each character in previous chapters so I know what my characters know from scene to scene. It seems easy to remember, and it might be for some, but sometimes, we have to go work on something else or step away for a few months, and it can be hard to remember when you return. Keeping notes is never a bad idea.

3. Be Open

Writing a series is hard, even with a plan. But don’t fret! We all know that writers aren’t completely in charge of their characters, worlds, or ideas. Sometimes, the protagonist throws a curve ball, and everything changes. That’s okay! Think of writing a series like a road trip: You know where you’re starting, you probably know where it’s going to end, and you might have places you want to visit in between. But there might be some surprises along the way. Embrace them, and keep going. That’s where the fun is. And don’t give up! Following your dream is worth it, even if you have to rewrite that dream a couple of times along the way.

Original posted September 5, 2013

In this article, I discuss lessons I learned while writing my first two trilogies.

~SAT

A new review came in for November Snow! “Truly, Thompson has done an incredible job here of story weaving. Just wonderful. Don’t underestimate your need for tissues here people, don’t do it. Prepare yourself with tissues and a cuddly stuffed animal.” – Babbling Books (Seriously, listen to her advice. Tissues will come in handy.)

Catelyn's Story on Wattpad

Catelyn’s Story on Wattpad

This week, Catelyn’s Story released on the FREE Bad Bloods Prequel on Wattpad. This is also the first origin story seen from the Southern Flock’s perspective. They formed later than the Northern Flock, so from now on, you’ll see stories flip back and forth between the two flocks. If you ever wondered why the groups of bad bloods are called flocks, this origin story explains why! In Bad Bloods, Catelyn is Serena’s best friend. Here is a preview: The girl was pretty enough for plenty of crimes. Read her story by clicking the link.

Pre-Order Bad Bloods

November Rain, Part One, releases July 18, 2016

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November Snow, Part Two, releases July 25, 2016

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