Recently, I read Dani Pettrey’s Alaskan Courage series. I read and reviewed the fourth book, Silenced and liked it so much that I scooped up the others during a sale and proceeded to read the first book, Submerged, and the third book, Stranded. Out of order. The second book, Shattered, I bought at full price (something I rarely do) and I’m reading it next. I loved them. Sign of a great author right there, that I loved them after having read them out of order–so much, in fact, that I finished each of them in two days flat.
Are you writing a novel or nonfiction book series? Want to make it stellar? Read on for three tips on how to write a stellar series, from an author, editor, and reader’s perspective!
I just finished Jen Turano’s Ladies of Distinction series. I read and reviewed the fourth book, A Talent for Trouble, last year. I liked it so much that I signed up to review her latest release, A Match of Wits, and scooped up the others during a sale. I read the first book, then the second book. I liked them all.
This recent foray into reading series (in order or out of order) has led to a lot of thought about what makes an effective series. (Granted, my opinion is geared toward the inspy romance genre.) Read on for 3 tips to making a series stellar, from a reader and editor’s perspective.
Stellar Series Ingredient #1: Change of Scenery
Dani‘s series is set in Alaska; Jen‘s series is set in New York. Yet both manage to cover different locations in Alaska and New York in each book. Even if all of Dani’s characters are based in Yancey, the nature of the adventures take each couple into different wilderness spots. One book even ventures onto a cruise ship and an island off the Alaskan coast! In Jen’s series, a simple train ride takes her characters into different towns in New York–and even out on a ship.
A good series has something holding the books together (more on that in a minute). But each one must be unique, too. A simple way to achieve this is to set each book in the series in a slightly different locale (or corner of that locale).
In a series you’ve read, how did the author accomplish a change of scenery?
Stellar Series Ingredient #2: Binding Agent
No series would be a true series unless there is something that makes it stand out as unified, together, meant to be grouped as one. This is why we put books in a series together on our bookshelves. The titles may not be alphabetical; the authors can even be different (as in Single Title series).
But there must be something that says these stories tell a bigger story.
This can be accomplished in several ways, of course:
- The main characters come from the same locale/town/city (this often isn’t enough, though…)
- The main characters are members of the same family (this is employed by Roseanna‘s, Dani‘s, and Jen‘s series)
- The main characters are involved in each other’s lives (this is the method used by Sarah Sundin)
- The main characters are the same in each of the books in the series (this is a Continuity Series rather than a Stand-Alone series)
In a series you’ve read, what was the binding agent?
Stellar Series Ingredient #3: Separation
I hate this element, but it so often needed in middle books in a series, usually in the Continuity Series. When the main characters fall in love in the first book and so often get married in the third book, the middle book is a time when they’re apart, which is tortuous for the reader, but necessary. Because then we often see these two people reverting back to who they were before they met each other; it’s a taste of who they are independently.
It drives home why the two belong together. They’re better together. They’re functioning but floundering apart. It’s obvious they belong with each other; and it’s often beautiful how they find their way back to that.
So while the Separation is often my least favorite, it’s often the most powerful (read Joanne Bischof’s The Cadence of Grace series if you don’t believe me).
In a series you’ve read, how did the Separation work?
I’ve gotten more selective as I’ve listed these ingredients; first explaining that I’m talking mainly romances here and finishing up with the Separation ingredient that pretty much exclusively applies to Continuity series.
For a more expansive list of 5 Ways to Make A Series Work, check out this post by Roseanna M. White on Go Teen Writers, my favorite writing blog.
Check out Stellar Series I’ve Reviewed
- The Charlestowne Belles series, The Legacy of the King’s Pirates series, and the Surrender to Destiny series by MaryLu Tyndall
- The Cadence of Grace series by Joanne Bischof: Be Still My Soul, Though My Heart is Torn, and My Hope is Found
- The Culper Ring series by Roseanna M. White: Ring of Secrets, Whispers from the Shadows, Fairchild’s Lady (free novella), and Circle of Spies
- The Reinvention of Skylar Hoyt by Stephanie Morrill
- The Grand Tour series and River of Time series by Lisa T. Bergren: Glamorous Illusions, Grave Consequences, and Glittering Promises; Waterfall, Cascade, Torrent, Bourne, and Tributary
What is your favorite series?