Series Writing

I’m thrilled to welcome Guelph author and editor Donna Warner. Today, Donna shares tips on series writing and her debut novella, Targeted.

Here’s Donna!

book series

Creating a book series can be both rewarding and taxing for an author. Some considerations before taking the plunge into these murky waters are summarized below:

• Your personal time line. Series books are usually released by publishers a year apart. Are you prepared to immerse yourself into the fictional world of your protagonist for many years?

• An intriguing concept should be at the core of every conflict. Will your series be open ended or have a predetermined shelf life? Will the series be a collection of stand-alone books or will each be a continuation of the previous story?

• Which Point of View (POV) will you utilize for each book?

• Character, plot driven, or both? There should be a perfect marriage between plot and characters to sustain the strength of a series.

• Character Roster. Will all characters move through all the books or only the main characters? Do you plan to add new characters as the series progresses?

• Main characters must be memorable and have activities thrust them into situations to test their courage or resolve. Through the course of their adventures, personalities should evolve. Make every crisis relate to their inner development.

• Setting is a time period and space. This is the world you give your characters to dwell in or visit. Decide whether the setting is an integral part of the story or just a backdrop. Once you determine this, you can create a setting that is interesting and believable in the mind of the reader.

• Plot the timelines when you write the first book in the series. Will story timelines be concurrent, consecutive, or will there be overlap?

• Be consistent with the genre of each novel or readers’ expectations won’t be met. Maintain a similar tone or style throughout the series.

• Be thorough with fact-checking. If you have a lot of research material, excess can go into subsequent books.

• Keep readers guessing – avoid getting stuck in a formulaic pattern. Plant clues and connections for future stories within each book. Make notes about how characters, events, and location may intersect and influence each other. Plot high points and incorporate other tension points such as internal conflicts between main characters, secondary characters getting into hot water, or past traumas popping up to haunt the protagonist(s).

• Introduce new questions to deepen mysteries across stories but ensure each book has its own story question, conflict, and resolution. Don’t solve the big questions or resolve all the conflicts in the first book.

• Order of stories. Will it matter if they are read out of order? This will happen so ensure each book is both dependent on and independent of the other books.

• Will the climax of each story leave readers with a different feeling? What about the ultimate climax for the series?

• Each previous book is backstory. Excess backstory can stall the current story’s momentum. Pretend each sequel is the first in the series to avoid the dreaded info dump and avoid repetition when relating snippets of backstory.

• Hook readers’ interest within the first paragraph of each novel. Some authors repeat one book’s closing line as the opening in the next book or provide a sneak peek of the sequel.

• Keep track of essential details. Develop a “bible” of vital statistics or a style sheet of your main character(s), world settings, timelines, etc. Create a draft synopsis for each novel, as you write.

• Become a sketch artist when creating fictional or real settings. Mapping out rooms or crime scenes where your action takes place can help you keep details straight. Tools like Google Earth are helpful to view satellite imagery, maps, terrain, 3D buildings, etc.

• Be creative with each book and the series’ title. The title will be what represents your work to the rest of the world, now and forever. Aim for interesting, easy to remember titles, appropriate for the genre. A number of famous writers create titles that follow a pattern unique to their series of stories.

Books have personalities. Enjoy the time you spend creating memorable characters and weaving interesting threads to connect your novels. With advance planning, an eye for detail, and a little luck, readers will relish spending time with your series’ character(s) the same way you enjoy immersing yourself in a T.V. series.



What could be better than a week of sipping rum cocktails, basking in the sun, and listening to waves lap against a Caribbean beach? Nothing, according to Jordan Blair and her friend, Ellie. Until their vacation takes a sinister turn.

The former occupant of their hotel room has vanished and the charming resort manager is unconcerned. He suggests the woman has taken off for a romantic interlude with a sailboat skipper. Given the visible police presence, Jordan doesn’t buy it.

An enigmatic guest, Darcy Piermont, attaches himself to Jordan and Ellie, but his covert activities arouse Jordan’s suspicions. Could he have been involved with the woman’s disappearance?

Plagued by unanswered questions, Jordan trusts the wrong man. Now, she and Ellie are running for their lives. Will her survival skills save them, or will their return flight home be in body bags?

Purchase Links

Amazon (Canada) | Amazon (US) | Black Opal Books | KOBO | Barnes and Noble


donnawarnerDonna Warner’s debut novella, Targeted was released Nov. 2015 by Black Opal Books. This mystery thriller, set in the exotic Caribbean setting of Roatán Island, Honduras, is co-authored by award winning mystery author, Gloria Ferris.

Donna’s prior careers were in education, communications, and management. She taught adult education courses; owned a private vocational school; was communication manager for the Canadian Network of Toxicology Centres; and provided freelance editing consultation.

When not attempting to outsmart fish at her cottage, home is a country property near Guelph, Ontario, Canada. She enjoys tutoring English as a Second Language students and trading writing, editing, and publishing war stories with members of local writing groups. She is a member of the International Thriller Writers and Crime Writers of Canada.

Where to find Donna…

Author Website | D. J. Warner Consulting Website | Twitter | Facebook | Pinterest


5 responses to “Series Writing

  1. Your correct about this. We’ve been living within the world of our series “The Turning Stone Chronicles ” for the last five years. We have been enjoying the ride however.

  2. Excellent tips here, Donna. I’m working on book 2 of my series, and it is such a delicate balance, what to include and what not to, from the first book. You don’t want to spoil book 1 for people who haven’t read it, but you also don’t want to bore readers from book 1. Shall bookmark this for future reference. And of course, add Targeted to my ever-growing to-read list!

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