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Lessons I Learnt from Writing my First Book Series

BooksComing to the end of my first series, and starting on my second got me thinking about what I wanted to do differently. About the mistakes I made, and the lessons I learnt.

Start Your Series Bible While You’re Plotting

I definitely learnt this the hard way. I started my series bible while I was writing book 3. I’ve never finished it. I spent much of my writing time flicking through the previous books looking up character names and fact checking. Having my series bible would have been so much easier.

You won’t remember side character names, or which side of your main character’s nose has the scar, or what they ate for breakfast that morning. Start your series bible right at the beginning, and keep it up to date throughout.

Plot Subsequent Books Before Writing the First

One word: foreshadowing. I had a lot of happy accidents with my first series, but it would have been great to have been able to purposefully place things that would be used in subsequent books. It links them together (and makes you look clever).

Knowing how the series ends before you start writing it allows you to place hints and little reveals along the way. It keeps you focussed, and keeps your characters focussed, and just makes for a tighter, more coherent series.

Release in Quick Succession (no one cares about an unfinished series)

Marketing your books is tough when your series is unfinished. There’s so much I’ve put off until the last book’s released. And I really feel for those quick readers, the ones reading a book a day, unable to complete the story. I worry that I might lose them in the wait between books. Many readers won’t even start a series until it’s finished.

I’m not the fastest writer, and I’ve managed to get the time it takes to produce a book, from plotting to release, down to around six to nine months, but I’d like to get it down even more. Pre-plotting all the books is a good start, allowing me to jump into writing book 2 the second book 1 goes off to betas.

Retain Your Beta Readers (but accept that you’ll likely lose some)

Picking up new beta readers part way through a series brings its own issues: do you send them the previous books and wait that much longer while they read them all, or get their opinion of it as a standalone? It could give an interesting perspective, but where do you find beta readers happy to read a random book from the middle of a series they don’t know?

Far better to recruit a good number at the start, understanding that you’re likely to lose some along the way, and keep hold of them throughout. After all, good beta readers are like gold dust, and you should be keeping them close regardless.

Outsource What You Can (and use the same suppliers)

Writing and publishing a whole series is a huge undertaking, and if you are aiming to publish in rapid succession, there’s a load of stuff you can outsource to save yourself the time and effort: editing, proofreading, formatting, blurb writing, cover design, marketing. Of course, we don’t all have endless budgets for this, so outsource what you can’t do yourself.

With a series, consistency is key. You want loyal readers to know at a glance which books are in the same series. Just as you wouldn’t change the main character’s name after book 2, where you can, use the same suppliers. You know what you’re getting, and, hopefully, there won’t be any surprises to deal with.

4 thoughts on “Lessons I Learnt from Writing my First Book Series”

  1. Great post!! I’m working on plans for my first series! How do you organize your “Series Bible”?

    Also, what do I do if I’m not sure how many books I’ll have?

    1. Everyone’s series bible is going to be different, so the important thing is to put it together in a way that makes sense and is useful to you.

      Mine is really quite simple, I’ve just divided my notebook into two. At the front, I’ve dedicated two pages to each character. The information about them is just bullet points in the order I’ve thought of things. At the back, I’m putting all the information about the world, dedicating a page to each thing. So, for example, important locations, important historical events, I’ve got a graph of the hierarchy of both the police force and the government. I’ve also stuck in a timeline for my world, so that I know how old the main characters were when different things happened, and a glossary of world-specific terms.

      Now, as for the number of books, this largely depends on how you write. I need to write chronologically, and, if I want to actually finish a book, I need to know where I’m going. I really winged it with my first series, but plotting out all the books in advance is really paying off this time because I’m finding a huge amount of things that need to be foreshadowed in previous books. So I would recommend plotting the full series first, and figuring out how many books it will cover. But, it really does depend on how you write.

      If, later on, you found you wanted to write more, you could always write books set in the same world but about different characters, or time periods, much like the Star Wars franchise.

      I hope that helps.

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