The Preparation Method
I know right away or before the first book is finished whether or not it’ll be a series. For instance, in “Beyond the Colored Line” (Book 2 in The Stella Trilogy), Joseph and his brother Edward come to blows in their mother’s living room. As a consequence, Jo leaves home.
After I finished writing this scene, with Karen’s voice still screaming her brother’s name as he stumbles down the street, I knew I wanted to explore more deeply Joseph’s story. What happens to him on his journey? Where does he go? What does he do? What kind of thoughts run through his mind? I knew that Book 2 would end, and yet there was still more to explore.
The Ingredient List
a. A pinch of completion
b. A tablespoon of deep plot elements
Most people don’t like having to wait for the next book. This is why a pinch of completion is so important for me when it comes to writing a series. You see, a series doesn’t have to be defined by a cliff hanger where you have to wait for the next book to finish the story. Instead, the story can have an element of completion about it. In this way, readers can read it as a standalone without feeling lost that they haven’t read the other books.
What makes it series material if it can be read as a standalone?
The answer to this question cannot be explored with one answer as it will be unique to the individual author. For me, I know a book is a series when there’s enough depth and subplot to extend beyond just one book. For instance, it wasn’t that I wanted to pick up where I left off that prompted me to make Stella’s story a series over a novel, but rather the family connection. The protagonists in each book are related. Stella, Sidney, and Joseph are all part of the same family. This is what encouraged me to write this series. I thought how powerful to explore the lives of three different people from the same family, living in three separate time periods? Stella in Book One comes of age during slavery, Sidney in Book Two grows up during Jim Crow, and Joseph in Book 3 exists during the Civil Rights Movement.
Though a series, each book is complete enough to stand alone, but deep enough to explore overreaching plot elements. For me, that’s the basic ingredient of a series.