I normally try and post these on Wednesday, but having my wisdom teeth out last week has really thrown me for a loop. Sorry this is late, but I look forward to being back on track next week.
In the last post I shared how I decided my idea was worthy of expanding into a series. Here I’ll go through my process of building enough reference material and ideas to actually form the foundation of a series.
There is a difference between a story idea, a novel idea and a series idea. Some story ideas are great but only have a few thousand words in them. Other stories can naturally grow into a longer work and become a novel. Taking a concept from an idea into a multi-book series requires you to think beyond the traditional steps of planning a book.
Even though I validated my idea and was confident that I had more than one book I didn’t have any concrete thoughts about the story arc or what the characters real journey was going to be.
Having made plenty of mistakes when it came to writing my first two series I wanted to do better planning my new Off Earth series before I jumped in and started writing. The challenge is that you have so many thoughts and ideas floating around in your head, how do you start making sense of them?
Here are five steps to take for expanding your idea into a series.
- Think on it. This isn’t as easy as it sounds. When I have a new idea that excites me for a couple of days I want to jump in and start writing. But what happens when you scratch that itch? It’s easy to finish scratching and then forget about it.In my case I started to obsess over what could pose a threat to Earth and force this character to change his goal of living on the planet to saving it. I also thought about back story quite a bit. How did this character end up orbiting Earth, and what was the society and economy like that had him feeling trapped there.
- Write on it. Don’t start writing the stories, but write out your thoughts and ideas. This should be a brain dump where every possible character and scenario is spit out onto the page. Spelling doesn’t matter, grammar doesn’t matter, and punctuation is irrelevant. It’s brainstorming 101 and some if the ideas will never make it into your series, but others will become the foundation of your characters and your world.I spent 3 hours on 5 consecutive days brainstorming ideas for the OEI series. Some of them have already been rejected and others have become key elements. After 15 hours of free writing I had plenty of content, conflict and mystery to start coming up with a story arc for the main character and the people living in this world.
- Research it. Is anyone else writing about this idea? Are there real world equivalents or parallels to your idea? Even if you’re writing fantasy or science fiction you’ll want elements of reality woven into your characters and your world. Your characters have to be believable no matter what setting you have them in.Doing research will help you to understand what realistic characters look like and how much detail you’ll need to invent if you’re straying from an actual setting. To my surprise I found out that there are companies already working to mine asteroids and manufacture items in space. Their websites are full of inspirational ideas and issues that can cause conflict.You also want to understand other books in this genre. What aspects do readers enjoy or dislike? Never copy another story, but know how your story fits into the genre.
- Embrace it. If you’ve gotten this far, this is your idea. Own it and love it. Many times this is the stage when self-doubt starts to creep in. Yeah you’ve thought about the idea and done some free writing, there is a market for it, but…Don’t get stopped by the but. You’re writing this series and you need to be excited about it. I always tell aspiring authors that if they love their idea and write with passion, readers will be able to tell. Dig in for the hard work but get excited about what you are going to create.
- Talk about it. Don’t shy away from your idea. I get asked and hear other people ask “What’s going on?” all the time. Tell them! Say I’m writing a new series and I’m really excited about it. Their feedback may not shape your work in major ways, but you never know when a friend or acquaintance will share that one tid-bit of information that puts your story over the top.It’s also a way to start finding readers. You don’t have to sell, but if an acquaintance knows you’re writing and they’re a reader they will ask you how the book is coming. If you keep them posted they may be willing to buy your new release when no one else will. Every sale in the early days helps.
At this stage your story idea is big. It’s ready to get planned and plotted and you need to prepare to shift your focus to actually writing the story in a way that makes sense.
I’ll share a few thoughts on plotting and planning in the next post.
I started work on my new series in October 2017. With my commitment to full time writing I expect to be working on the first three books in this series for 9 months.
Over the coming weeks and months I’ll share with you my thoughts, notes and tips for each step. You can easily follow along by joining my mailing list. In return I’ll send you a copy of my Successful Series Writer Manifesto and a weekly digest of posts.
Become a Successful Series Writer
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