I've learned a lot about Writing a Series over the last couple years, not the least of which is my writer brain tends to think in continuing/connected storylines. Almost every book tries to pull me into a multiple-secondary-characters-must-have-his/her-story-told vortex of never-ending WIPs. While they're always single titles, they may or may not have an ongoing subplot. This can cause major problems for a plantser like me if I don't follow a few basic guidelines. I'd also use these same tips if I ever wrote a serial.
1) Decide on a record-keeping method. Some options are Scrivener, OneNote, spreadsheets, handwritten notebooks or paper and file folders, Word documents with computer files. I prefer paper and file folders so I can have my manuscript open and look at my notes at the same time. Do what works best for you!
2) I keep a running list of character first and last names so I don't accidentally use the same name twice in a series. Even similar names can sometimes confuse a reader.
3) At some point, most main and secondary characters need profiles. The amount of information I include depends on the level of participation in the current story. For main characters, I list hair and eye color, height and weight, distinctive characteristics, age, occupation, anything that may be mentioned more than once (nickname, youngest of five siblings, etc.). Secondary characters usually have personality quirks or other traits that make them unique (uses a cane, has an accent, etc.).
4) If secondary characters in book 1 will be the main characters in book 2, note how they know each other or any info that might be important in book 2. If you're like me, you can't depend entirely on memory for those details. Readers will notice mistakes and inconsistencies!
5) Jot down ideas, plot points, etc. for future books in the series as they arise. It won't make you a plotter if you aren't one. It will, however, keep you from having to remember that great idea you had two weeks or months ago. Trust me on this!
6) Use a timeline to keep time frames and dates straight. Someone WILL notice if the heroine from book 1 is eight months pregnant in the opening scene of book 2 four months after conception.
7) Think about common themes in the stories to come up with a series name, whether it's location, family name, dragons, etc. Brainstorm a list of related words and work from there. My current series involves romance, food, and restaurants, so Love on the Menu fits great to tie all the books together.
8) Use similar titles or types of titles for books in the same series to help connect them. Does each title in the series have a common word? Do they contain related words or themes? Are they similar in length?
Whether you're a plotter who creates a series bible before you begin writing or a pantser/plantser who notes as you go or when you're finished writing the book, consider a method of organization. The time you save searching for one small detail is time you can spend writing!
Let's look at the differences between Internal and External Conflicts next week!
Romance...With A Kick!