Unlocking the Secrets of a Series

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The middle-grade mystery that began its life as a tiny glimmer of an idea is finally done (I’m pretty sure). You know how it goes – just one more tweak here, change a word there. But at this point, I’m hitting the ‘save’ button one last time and calling it done. Now, what do I do with those great scenes that didn’t make the cut and the ideas that are still swirling around in my head? I’m considering a series of three, but I need to see what I’m getting myself into.

“Why three?” you ask. Well, the story and setting lend themselves to a series of three. The first book (set in northern MN) takes place in October. So, I’m planning the second to take place over Christmas break and the third when school is out for the summer. That pretty much gets me through one year and there are fun and exciting elements that come with each one – holidays, blizzards, wildlife, and danger.

Even though they’ll be a series, they need to be able to be read as stand-alone books. For readers of the first, I need to ensure accuracy with details, history, and be consistent with what was presented in the first book. For readers out of sequence, I need to provide enough background information so the story has a firm foundation.

So, I’m scouring the Internet to find the pitfalls in hopes of avoiding them. At the same time, I’m reading an adult series, so my brain is taking note of what bits and bobs are carried forward that helps explain why a character is behaving a certain way, why they’re where they are, or why they have that unusual attitude.

Some of what I’ve gleaned so far – the story needs to be able to stretch to the end of the series. You can’t run out of ideas in the second book and end up with blank pages for the third. I need to know where the series ends (I do) and account for the passage of time (got that). I need to be consistent, but not boring. I need new details, characters, and life events in each book or the reader will think they’re reading the first book over again. I can’t leave my reader hanging without answers. If I establish something in the first book, it needs to be resolved by the end of the series (people can’t stay in jail forever, or can they?)

I think my plan moving forward involves lots of outlining, post-it notes, and charts. No one said it would be easy. But it’s going to be fun.

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