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Tips to Crafting a Successful Novel Series

Many authors plan to write a series, but I’ve noticed when critiquing and editing novels that are part of a series, they often fail to keep in mind important elements that may not pertain to a stand-alone novel. Navigating through a series can be a kind of obstacle course, keeping focus through the many story developments to reach the finish line.

I’m not talking about a series of stand-alone novels that just feature the same character(s) but in different situations, such as in a mystery series showcasing a particular detective. In novels like those, just as with many TV series episodes, the plot is set up, developed, and resolved all in one book.

However, even in such series, you’ll often see characters grow and change. There may be long-term overarching storylines involving the characters that play out over many books.

There is no hard-and-fast rule regarding how to craft a series, but there are some things a writer should be careful to do.

Each Book Must Have a Plot That Resolves

Just as with a singular work, a first book in a series needs to present the characters and their goals and needs. The basic novel structure applies—a protagonist going after a goal, with him either reaching or failing to reach that goal at the climax.

When writing a book series, it is important to know that each book must have its own plot, one that is concluded by the end of the book. You can’t assume readers have read your first book. And even if they have, it may have been a year ago, and they aren’t going to remember all the details. Odds are they will end up confused and frustrated if you make that assumption. Continue Reading…

Grand Finales: Tips for Writing Great Endings of Novels

Today’s post is reprinted by permission from editor Alan Rinzler. Alan worked for years at the top publishing houses with some of the most successful authors (as you’ll see below). I feel his terrific post on book endings ties in wonderfully with our look at scene structure. Be sure to check out Alan’s website to glean more from this very insightful and knowledgeable editor!

Writing a great ending for your book is just as important as a dynamite opening that rivets our attention and compels us to keep turning those pages.

A well-written book requires some kind of symphonic climax that resonates in our heads and hearts like the famous 40-second E-major chord at the end of the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart Club Band. Our response may be filled with joy, hope, and happiness, or it may lead us to feel uncomfortable, to frown, scratch our heads, and worry about the unknown mysteries of life.

I’ve worked with many fiction and narrative nonfiction authors to achieve such closure for plot-driven thrillers, mysteries, romances, literary novels, memoirs, and young adult books, but also histories, biographies, travel books, and other stories. Continue Reading…

The Secret to a Great Plot Lies in Scene Structure

Do you want to know what the secret is to a great plot? If you read last week’s post, you already know the answer. No, it’s not having a fantastic concept and kicker. That’s not plot.

We’ve been looking at a special way to think of plot. Yes, it’s my way, but I’ve found this understanding of plot has helped hundreds of my editing clients. Too many writers have great plot ideas and elements, but few really have a clue how to take all those great bits and turn them into a great novel. They often succumb to the false belief that their cool concept will somehow convert into a great novel.

The Daunting Chasm

There seems to be a huge chasm looming in front of many writers—with no bridge across. On one side stands the writer with all these terrific ideas, characters, themes, and conflict. On the other side is this nebulous thing called a coherent, finished novel ready to jump to the top of the best-seller lists. This seems to be the drop-off point for most novelists—ending in a long, painful fall to the bottom of the chasm. Continue Reading…

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