How to Outline and Plan for a Series

A lot of books nowadays are part of a series. And we love to revisit our favorite characters and story worlds again. But there’s so much to keep track of and weave together to tell our series in the best way we can. So how do we manage this? By outlining and planning for our series.

Even if you’re a punster (one who flies by the seat of his pants when writing), you’ll still benefit from knowing the major plot points you will hit and the ending of your series. It gives you something to write towards and keeps all the subplots straight in your head. This goes double for series, which are way more complicated than standalone novels. So some planning and outlining is crucial to our success. This doesn’t have to be super detailed down to each scene for each book, but major plot beats should be mapped out to make sure you have enough story for each book. You do not want your book to be crammed full of filler and a stretched-thin plot. Every scene should move the story forward, not just take up space.

So how do we outline for a series? By looking at the overall arc for each book and the overall story put together. The series will have a story goal or story problem to be solved by the end. For example, in the Lord of the Rings it’s destroying the one ring. So you know it will be figured out by the climax of the final book of your series. You also know you’ll have a dark moment in the middle of the series where things may seem impossible for the protagonist to solve. Pay attention to your series story arc as well as for each book. Plot out each major plot points for each book as well as the highs and lows for the series. Get the overall picture for your series arc.

Plot out your character arcs for each major character as well. Who has a positive character arc and who has a negative one? Where does each main character end up in each book as well as at the end of the series? How do the character arcs interact with each other and the major plot beats?

Keep track of your subplots and weave them all together. Some subplots will be resolved as individual books end while others will run throughout your series. But they should all be resolved in the end. Make sure enough subplots are being resolved in each book to keep your readers satisfied and enough run through the whole series to tie all the books together. Thematic threads should be found in each book.

Planning ahead can make sure your series is as complex and well developed as possible. How do you outline for your series? Share below and happy writing.

Julia

Follow my column at Our Write Side and Twitter for more writing tips and inspiration and find me on Facebook for weekly prompts.

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