3 Ways to Spin Your Novel into a Series
So you’ve written a book — you might have even written several different books — but have you ever thought about building a series of novels that are related to one another? If you haven’t considered this yet, it could be a wonderful component of your evergreen book marketing gameplan: after all, you already have an existing readership that will buy your books (and even recommend them to others!).
Now, you may be thinking that series are not very common in your genre, or you don’t know if there’s enough material for you to write several more books about the same characters. Don’t worry! In this post, we’ll be going over three different ways you can turn your novel into a series. Be ready to take some notes, and let’s dive in!
1. Create a bigger problem
Every standalone novel has a central conflict around which the plot revolves. The built-up tension and stakes that come with this conflict pull readers in, keeping them turning the pages until they reach the resolution. You can apply that same logic to writing a series: if you have a problem with enough gravity to keep readers curiously returning to your stories to find out what will happen, then you’re golden!
The only problem, as you sit back down to your writing station after Book One, is how to find this overarching conflict. One effective method may be to return to your first book and study the antagonist of your story. Do they have a backstory that explains their motives? Is their history somehow linked with your protagonist and therefore can be brought up naturally at a later time?
What you want to find is an underlying, big-picture issue that somehow fits with your first novel, even if you insert it into the narrative in retrospect. That often requires perusing your existing work to find little character and worldbuilding details that can be teased out more extensively in order to create a new challenge for your protagonist. If you mull over them enough, you might find yourself latching onto a new problem and how it might be discovered and solved. This works especially for stories that are set in a complex society with many different underlying problems (think of The Hunger Games trilogy).
2. Branch out from a secondary character
If you’re not sure that you can find a convincing end-all, be-all mission somewhere down the line for your protagonist, maybe it’s time to move onto another character. This option is ideal for authors who find that their readers have an affinity with many of their first novel’s characters, not just the protagonist.
What you can do here is write a book about this secondary character — in other words, make them the primary character of the next book in your series. This will give you a fresh challenge, since you can write about a central conflict that has little to do with Book One’s problem and you work up some exciting new character development. (You might even introduce some new characters to be featured in sequels to this novel.)
Of course, there should still be some connections to the realm and characters of Book One, though it’s not necessary to create an airtight link between novels. Another nice thing about this approach is that there’s no need to think too far ahead, because there isn’t an overarching problem that needs to be solved by the end of the series. Still, you want to have some kind of consistency within the society of your novels, as readers will most likely return to your books because they love the world you created in the first place.
3. Take your protagonist on a new adventure
Now, if you can’t really find an overarching plot but also can’t bear to leave your primary character, then here’s a solution for you: write a new episode of your story.
Taking a look at a sitcom like Friends might help you see why this kind of series is referred to as episodic — as well as why it’s so successful. Someone who’s never seen Friends before can pretty much pick any episode from any season, and enjoy it without much trouble. This is because, while the show follows the same six friends, each episode follows a different self-contained plot which has little bearing on the next episode (with the exception of end-of-season revelations and cliffhangers).
Your book series can be like that too, if you believe the first book to be so self-contained that you can’t branch out from it. Instead of expanding the existing plot or turning to a secondary character, double down on your primary character! Take them on new adventures, perhaps even in new cities or countries, without worrying about the plot progression of the series as a whole. Keep in mind that for an episodic series, you’ll need one or two very strong and impressive characters, since they will be the thread that ties the series together. Give them specific, noteworthy character traits (e.g. Sherlock Holmes and his peculiar mind) so that they are memorable and compelling to readers no matter what they’re doing.
As with the interlinked stories of different characters, this kind of series works wonders if you’re not particularly fond of planning ahead. A collection like this can even go on indefinitely— as long as each new adventure that you write is unique and interesting. (That’s another thing to note: to keep your readers coming back for more, actively revise your plots to make sure they don’t mirror previous installments’.)
And that’s it — those are the three routes you can consider taking to craft a series! Whether you prefer plotting long arcs or coming up with new adventures, whether you love your world or your characters best, there’s a way for you to create a beloved fictional realm that fans find hard to leave. Doing this won’t be quick or easy, but the interest and loyalty of readers for your series will make every ounce of hard work you put in worthwhile.
Thao Nguyen is a writer at Reedsy, a platform that connects authors and publishers with the world’s best editors, designers, and marketers. She enjoys writing non-fiction, especially the historical kind, and is delighted by the prospects that self-publishing provides for aspiring authors nowadays.
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