Imagined the books lined on shelves…
Saw yourself on that pedestal with your own favorite series writers…
“And Then You Discovered The Truly Crazy Obstacle Course That Stands Between You And Getting YOUR Series To The Finish Line!”
And you’ve wondered…
Where do I start — With the characters, or the conflict they’ll face, or the world, or the thing inside the series that makes me want to write it?
What EXACTLY do I need to put into the first series story or book?
Should I use cliffhangers or endings in each series episode, or both?
What about telling stories inside of stories—how important is that?
And my characters—what if I want different characters in each story, but I STILL want the stories to all be part of a series?
What if I want to have one character all the way through?
What if I get sick of some of my important characters halfway through, when I already have stories published, and want to kill them off and replace them?
How about the story itself… How do I plan a whole freakin’ series when I have a hard time getting to the end of a single story without wrecking the train?
And I’ve watched writers start out with normal characters that they’ve ruined by making them so super-powered just a few books in that I can’t stand to read about them anymore. How do I NOT do that?
There are a million ways to totally wreck series fiction. You’ve read the results. So have I.
When a series goes down in flames, you don’t just stop reading the series. For the really bad wrecks, you stop reading the author.
And in the back of your mind right now, you’re thinking, “What I really want is to not end up being THAT writer.”
The good news is, you don’t have to be.
Just as there are a million bad ways to write a series, there are a million good ways.
Don’t run away screaming. You don’t have to learn a million good ways.
You only need to learn one.
Good fiction is built on a foundation of learnable principles.
Each of these principles allows you vast latitude in how you use them.
It’s like learning how to use a wrench, and then using that wrench to build sections of a car, a house, and an airplane.
The wrench isn’t the only tool you’ll need to build each of those things—but it’s one important tool, and when you have all the tools, you can build the car, the house, and the airplane.
Writing series fiction is the same. When you understand how it works, you can write any kind of series.
Welcome To My Series Fiction Toolbox…
In How To Write A Series Version 2, you’re going to learn how to write the series YOU want to write.
And you’re going to learn it by doing it. You’ll write a series as your class project.
I recommend that for your first series, you build shorter stories – 10,000 to 30,000 words each.
You don’t have to. The class is self-paced, and once you’re a student, you can reuse the class as often as you want, so if you’re so inclined, you can take a dozen 200,000-word doorstop novels through it.
But if you just want to get the principles and implementation down as quickly as possible, (and have something you can start publishing and selling sooner) write shorter stories this first time through.
And because I wrote the stories while I was writing the class, I followed my own advice (mostly), and did the six-episode demo series for this class at mostly around that length (though the last two episodes became full novels). You’ll get that series as part of this class.
So What’s In the Class?
Let’s Start With MODULE ONE
Your first three days are an introduction, in which you learn how to use the BASIC tools in the toolbox.
With these tools, you’ll learn the different kinds of series you CAN write, find out how to figure out the kind of series you WANT to write, and then you’ll lay out the basic pieces that will make your series what you want.
This process kind of like picking out the plans for that house you want to build someday.
You don’t have any of the materials you’ll use yet, you’re haven’t found the land on which you’ll build it, and you may not even know how you’re going to pay for it…
…But from the very start, you have a decent idea of what your house will look like, and where you’re going to put the beds, the fridge, and the swimming pool.
After that fast-paced “picking out the plans” process, lessons will arrive in your classroom at a pace of one per week.
In LESSON 1, You’ll Build Your Story Core and Octopus Map
If you follow some basic planning principles while imagining your future series, you can (all other things being equal) prevent your series from falling apart in the middle, dying at the end, and/or leaving you and all your readers wondering when your next book is going to come out.
You can’t stop your series from being cancelled by a commercial publisher, but if your series ISN’T cancelled, you CAN avoid Wandering-Without-A-Plan Syndrome, which is what one of the most famously broken series of all time suffers from. No naming names here, but in class we discuss the wreck of a truly epic series disaster millions of us wanted to love.
And WHY it broke.
And how to build the tools so that you don’t follow down that sad path.
Even if you don’t know what your exact ending is going to be, you can know how you’re going to get there, and you can have enough concepts in place TO get there.
In LESSON 2, You’ll Build Your Series Matrix
This lesson, you’re going to build the map for your first series episode, and along with more of the infrastructure for your series as a whole.
Since getting this right is what guides you from episode to episode smoothly, making sure you don’t miss any of your core characters or drop any of your essential conflicts, you want to spend as much time as you need on this lesson.
It make take you a few weeks.
It may take you a month.
Don’t rush it.
Get this right and you’ll discover the individual episodes of your series will be jumping at you, waiting for you to write them.
Get it wrong, and… Well…
You really don’t want to get it wrong. So this week, you’ll…
- Do the preliminary work to create the pieces you’ll need for each series episode
- Build your Series Matrix to keep your series from falling apart, dying in the middle, or wandering into the realm of “I had a point, but I LOST it…”
In LESSON 3, You’ll Start Writing Your First Series Story
And you’ll discover the Truth and Traps that are going into that episode, which sets the stage for your entire series.
Your first story in any series determines what is canon throughout the rest of your series — your overall story’s unique Truth.
And every Truth has at least one Trap. You’ll find them, identify them in detail, and figure out how you WON’T fall into them. This is the essential step you take to keep from breaking your series in BOOK 2, or BOOK 30.
LESSON 4 Is Fitting Your Story to the Series Structure YOU Want
This week you start writing the first episode of your series.
You’ll do some planning first—things that will help you not run your story (or any of its subplots) off the rails, things that will allow you to prevent series killers like wild superpower acceleration.
You’ll have a handful of new worksheets, but we’re already just about done with new worksheets. You reuse some of what you’ve built throughout your series, and do a few anew before starting each new episode.
But when you’re writing a series, you’re already working in lots of words. So I’m streamlining the part of them that aren’t fiction.
And this week, you’ll:
- Determine how you are using each essential element of a series in your current story
- Work through your Structure Checklist
- Build your Series Structure Cheat Sheet
In MODULE TWO, Your Focus Will Be On Finishing Your First Story
So in LESSON 5, You’ll Meet Story PLOTTING Versus Series PLANNING
It’s way too easy to overbuild your Series Plan, and far to easy to overcomplicate your Episode Plot.
This week, you’re going to use the Octopus Map you built back in EXP Lesson 1, and the Cheat Sheet you built last week to create a light, flexible, workable outline for your story.
And you’re going to think over your Series Plan. Don’t faint when you see mine.
This week, you’ll…
- Read Longview Episodes 1, 2, and 3 if you haven’t done so already. You’ll need to understand how I built them for the work you’ll be doing this week.
- Build your Episode Plot
- Think through your Series Plan
Which brings us to LESSON 6, Series Characters and Continuity
The thing with series fiction is that to win over your Perfect Readers, (the folks that will make up your True Fans) you have to write stories they like better than food and nearly as much as oxygen.
You do that by building your Oxygen Test, and then running all your characters through it.
This week, you’ll…
- Build your Oxygen Test for your series—it may take you a few attempts to get it right, so be patient with yourself.
- Decide on your best possible Character Viewpoint (or viewpoints)
- And keep writing your first episode.
In LESSON 7, You’ll Write Your First-Episode Ending
Every work of fiction contains within it two implicit promises:
- That you will entertain your reader
- That you will not waste his or her time or money
Beyond that, there are:
- the promises all fiction makes,
- the promises you intended to make,
- the promises you didn’t realize you made…
And then there are the promises that ONLY series fiction makes.
Figuring out what those promises are, and then writing your first episode ending to meet them, is what you’ll be doing this week.
So now it’s time for you to:
- Work out what you’ve promised to your readers,
- Figure out the promises that your reader will hold you to, and…
- Write the ending that fulfills the promises you’ve made
In LESSON 8, I’ll introduce you to Tracking: Prevention VS. Cure
HINT: Prevention is BETTER.
There are two ways to deal with tracking all of your stuff through a series: By tracking meticulously, and by building things that don’t need to be tracked.
I’m a big fan of the latter whenever it’s applicable.
So in this lesson you’re going to find out how to put into use several important concepts:
- The use of central sets and satellites to cut down on what you have to track,
- The “Don’t Start Nothing, Won’t BE Nothing” principle (the name is borrowed from a quote in Men In Black. The principle is one I discovered on my own the hard way),
- And how to figure out “What Matters, and Everything Else.”
Because if you build your series the right way, you don’t have to track as much as you think you do.
On To MODULE THREE, And Writing Middle Episodes
In LESSON 9, You’ll Learn How to Use, Adapt, and Alter Soap Opera Series Structure
Soap operas have their roots in some truly beloved classical literature and dramas, and can be written at any level of literary skill you choose to pursue.
You’ll need to know the four rules that make them different than regular fiction, and realize that breaking these rules means you won’t HAVE a soap opera structure…
…But even when you break them, you’ll still have workable fiction.
In LESSON 10, Look at Series Episode Two and Beyond: How to Spread Your Story Evenly
Somewhere between evenly spread chunky peanut butter and Velociraptor Conflict vs. Sparrow Conflict lies the path to keeping your last series episode as gripping as the first (or maybe even making it better).
This week, you’re going to be working on making sure your current series plan can support the amount of conflict you’re going to need for the number of episodes you want to write. (There’s a little self-test, even.)
So this week, you’ll:
- Make sure your existing series plan is built to offer enough conflict for all the episodes you want to write
- Create additional conflict of varieties you haven’t used before to add more story in your current episode
In LESSON 11, We’ll Spend One Week Exclusively on the EXACT Steps for Building a Story Arc
Story arcs are stories within your series, and if that was all you had to know about them, life would be easier.
But what you actually DO have to know to get them to work for you isn’t all that tough.
- This week, you’ll learn what story arcs are, how you use them, and how using them helps you
- You’ll build your series Long Arc
- And you’ll build some episode Short Arcs
In LESSON 12, You’ll Learn How to Build the “Start Reading ANYWHERE” Series
I am endlessly hungry to read fiction of this sort, and I’ve spent years tearing apart every series of this type, figuring out what made each one good, what made the bad ones awful, and how to hit the former and sidestep the latter.
Because THIS is the perfect series for the indie writer, and pretty close to the perfect series for the commercial writers. No one can break your series by putting books one and two out of print.
There are no books one and two.
But there’s so much more to the Start Anywhere Series. So this week you’ll:
- Learn to identify and build “Home” in a Character-Centric series
- Discover the difference between Re-Identification and Repetition
- Find your Focus
- Learn to identify and build “Home” in a World-Centric series
- Determine your elements of change
- And learn what to embrace and what to avoid
In MODULE FOUR, You’ll Spend Time Building Advanced Series-Writing Skills
LESSON 13 Takes You Into the a Deadly Series-ONLY Problem: Stakes Escalation
This is the lesson where I speak from painful experience, and not just from the perspective of one book or one series.
This is where I’ve been burned repeatedly.
In Lesson 13, I’ve given you two BIG examples and one little example, and I’m telling you now that in spite of what I know, this is something that slips around me from time to time and gets into my writing before I realize what I’ve done.
So be really careful here. The Ounce of Prevention is no big deal.
The Pound of Cure?
Oh, boy! Oh, boy… You do NOT WANT the Pound of Cure!
So this week, you’ll:
- Understand what causes escalation
- Find any likely culprits in your Octopus Map, Series Matrix, and existing episodes
- And then you’ll prevent now, OR
- <shudder… and run, run, run away!!!> Cure later
Next, in LESSON 14, We’re going to be all about YOUR world versus YOUR READER’s world…
I learned about expository lumps the hard way while working my way through the NeverEndingRevision that was Hearts in Stitches. (Seven years of revision — NEVER sold, but when I finally did get a $500 offer for it, I had the fun of burying the damn thing at the back of the garage.)
By the end of that seven-year revision ordeal, I was cured.
Figuring out how to create conflict slivers from my worldbuilding that I could plant throughout my manuscript took a bit longer.
Now, it’s second nature, and it is a CRUCIAL series-writer’s skill.
At this point in my career, I don’t even realize I’m doing it. But until you get to that point, here’s the walkthrough on the process.
- Identify the conflict generators in your worldbuilding
- Break out the very best details to develop into conflicts
- And turn those details into conflict slivers to plant in your series
In LESSON 15: You’ll Face A HAPPY Problem… What to Do When Your Story Takes a GOOD Unexpected Turn
It’s what you want — to have that lightning bolt from the blue that suddenly makes your story deeper, richer, more compelling, more YOU.
Doesn’t mean it isn’t going to make a bunch more work for you.
So this lesson is about how you make sure your amazing brainstorm doesn’t wreck your series, and how you work it in and make it look like you planned it all along.
- Understand Continuity Walls
- Continuity Gaps
- And Continuity Fields
- Identify brainstorms worth keeping vs. the ones that aren’t worth the trouble
- And learn “serendipity control”
Finally, In LESSON 16, You’ll Learn How to Expand Your Series In New Directions
Prequels, sequels, Big Damn Books that need to become Really-Big-Book series, stand-alones that need to become series, interstitial episodes, fill episodes, spin-offs…
This is what they are, when and why you do them, and how you do them.
This week, you will understand the terminology:
- Big Damn Book to series (BDB)
- Stand-alone to series
- Interstitial episode
- Fill episode
AND THEN you’ll learn:
- HOW you deal with each one
- And WHY
IN MODULE 5, You’ll Go In-Depth on Special Problems Unique To Series Fiction.
In LESSON 17, Learn How to END Your Series
So now you’re ready to write the final episode, to put down the series, and to move on to something else.
Here’s what you have to know.
- It’s possible to make people who loved your series hate it in the final scene of the last episode, and I give you three demos of series that did exactly that.
- It’s important to understand what a good series ending contains, and I walk you step by step through each part.
- And when you get ready to write it, it’s important to know how you can pull the separate parts of a great ending into different kinds of endings… and I’ll show you three that I particularly love, and how you build each one.
So this week, you’ll:
- Avoid series-destroying finales
- Understand what makes a GREAT ending
- And then learn how to write one you and your readers will love
IN LESSON 18, You’re Going to Learn How to Deal With the Special Problems of The LINKED SEQUENTIAL SERIES
In this lesson you’ll discover the problems most commonly shared by linked sequential series fiction…
- Character escalation, where normal human beings become unidentifiable gods in just a handful of books
- Dumping all the “good stuff” in the first episode of your series, then having to scramble for other stories that pull your series off course
- Having the series feel rushed in some episodes and draggy in others
- And figuring out not just whether to recap or not, but how to do a recap that will keep folks buying the NEXT books
- Learn to write Big and Little Endings
- Learn to grow your characters to your plan
- Learn to use In-Episode and Between-Episode Time
- And learn to recap
And then on to LESSON 19, Where (Ahem!) You Learn How to Break the “STORY TEMPLATE” Trap
Linked Stand-Alones are the series most likely to suffer from Template Traps. Thing is, templates CAN bring to your work a sense of “same but different” that readers of such series love.
They can also drive you nuts.
So this week, you will:
- Discover what fiction templates are
- Learn the benefits and drawbacks
- Learn to become Reliably Unreliable
- Build a Game-Spinner Template
- Build a Tricky World
- And finally, Build a Changeable Character
Pause here for a moment.
Some things you may never face when writing a series you love. And I hope you never do. But sometimes things happen to work you love that hurts beyond belief…
And sometimes, ten years after you got kicked in the teeth and knocked to the ground and trampled all over, something breaks YOUR way, and you finally get to stand up, make a rude gesture in the direction of your past, and say to the universe…
“SCREW THAT! That was then… and this is MINE!”
Happened to me. And when things finally broke my way, you’ll see how I used that break.
In LESSON 20, You Learn How to Pick Up a Cancelled Series Ten (or Twenty… or more…) Years Later
You can’t save them all. (At least not if you started out in commercial publishing).
But in general, this is the ugly truth about writing series fiction, and whether you’re publishing commercially or independently, if you write in more than one series, you’re going to discover that some of them are keepers, and some need to be let go.
This week, you will learn:
- Which series you don’t want to save
- Which series you can’t save
- Which series you can and should save
And then you’ll learn how to save the one you love by:
- Identifying your assets
- Dealing with losing all your worldbuilding (the Worst-Case Scenario)
- Picking up your old voice in your new episodes
- Figuring out what to do with old unpublished episodes or partials
That Takes Us To MODULE SIX
In LESSON 21, You’ll Learn How To Write Connected Series Cycles
Here’s how this goes…
You start writing one series, and a second series grows out of it, and a third series grows out of that.
All the series have readers, and you need to understand what you have to hang onto in each series to make those “not always the same folks” who are still your readers happy.
So this week you will learn…
- The questions you must ask to define your series
- The path to maintaining the essential variations
- The way to get USEFUL help from your series readers
- A step-by-step tutorial in how to build and use Segmenting Questions
In LESSON 22, We Get Down To The Nitty Gritty: Building Your Series Production Schedule
Here we’re dealing with the reality of “Life Happens”.
Whether you’re publishing commercially or independently, you have readers waiting for your work.
You have to build ideas, write pages per day of first draft, revise, deal with editing and copyediting.
You have to produce, and to get paid regularly, you have to produce regularly.
This week, you’re going to learn…
- How to control the Per Episode Components of commercial AND indie fiction
- How to build your series production schedule
- And, how to set up your series production checklist
Then, in LESSON 23, We Face One of the Unpleasant Realities of Writing Series Fiction: “The MISTAKE’s Been Published! NOW What?!”
This is not a lesson about typos that make it into print, or missing pages in some editions, or about dealing with bad cover art or crummy reviews.
This lesson is where you turn when you discover AFTER you’ve published one or more books in your series that one of your series episodes has a fundamental story mistake in it. (In my case, it was a MASSIVE worldbuilding mistake.)
It happens, and it happens because things you assume are valid inside your story world turn out to be devastating when you follow the fiction writer’s rule: Actions Have Consequences.
(And just so that you don’t lose sleep or stress out that this sort of thing is the end of the world or your series, just know now that when I discovered my epic, story-character-world-destroying monster of a mistake in my favorite of my own series… I figured out how to turn that nightmare from a disaster into a FEATURE. Seriously. And I show you exactly, step by step, HOW I do that.)
In LESSON 24, You’ll Learn How To Write Multiple Series Simultaneously
Deadlines can conflict when you’re writing commercial fiction, while publishing faster can help your bottom line if you’re writing independently.
Point is, sometimes you can find yourself needing to work on more than one series at the same time.
And sometimes, you might discover that you WANT to write more than one series at the same time.
So here’s how you do that.
- The importance of “same vs. different” and the mental trick that makes keeping multiple series straight
- Rules to get you through the work
- And a step-by-step process for setting up multiple series that you intend to write and produce simultaneously
In MODULE SEVEN, We’re Dealing With Some Big, Serious Career Stuff
LESSON 25: Learn How to Prevent Author Burnout
Yeah. You can in fact get tired of writing the same people. Hell, look at Agatha Christie desperately wanting to kill off Hercule Poirot, or Arthur Conan Doyle actually murdering Sherlock Holmes by throwing him off a cliff.
And then having to revive him because of the readers.
You don’t want to end up there. So this week, learn:
- How to Twist in New Directions
- How to Meet People You THOUGHT You Knew
- And How to Go to New Places with New Faces
In the Last Lesson Before the BIG BONUS
LESSON 26: Learn How To End Your Cancelled Series
Whether its the series you were going to write in forever that’s getting cancelled by your publisher at Book Three, or whether YOU’RE the publisher who has to pull the plug on a series that isn’t feeding you, you need to make the LAST episode the BEST episode.
- Because you want the folks who read it to want more of what you’re doing now.
- And because crappy endings hurt the readers who loved the first books.
IMPORTANT CAREER HINT HERE:
The only way to get even with publishers who kill a series you LOVED is to succeed without them.
Trashing your own work just trashes YOU.
So in this lesson, you’ll learn how to…
- Walk Backwards to Plan Your Final Episode
- Discover what makes dropped threads and lost characters a GIFT
- Plot the series ending your fans deserve
FINALLY, You Get The Graduation Bonus Chosen by The First Graduating Class
The HTWAS VERSION 2 BONUS LESSON:
How To Turn ALMOST Any Book Into A Series
At some point, your publisher or your readers may clamor for a follow-up novel or several to a book you thought was going to be a stand-alone.
Figuring out how to do this isn’t, it turns out, just automatic. I turned down a contract from an enthusiastic publisher who wanted the next book for a story I’d written as a stand-alone because back in the day because I couldn’t figure out how to do it.
Now, many years later, I’ve done it (with Cadence Drake).
And it’s nowhere NEAR as difficult as I imagined it would be when Jim Baen asked me for the follow-up to Minerva Wakes.
This final week in this class, you’ll learn how to do…
- Your Objectives Assessment
- Your Original Story Read-Through
- Your Question Session
- Your Results Brainstorm
- And Your Series Build-Out
And with those done, you’ll be ready to write as many follow-on series novels as you need to fulfill a contract or reward your hungry readers with more books they’ll love.
So now you just need to decide whether writing series fiction is something you want to do.
And then whether you want to learn how to do it here.
You get some good things when you buy my classes (especially if you buy one of my BIG classes, which How to Write a Series IS).
How to Write a Series is a one-time purchase.
Let me take a moment to explain why this matters.
A lot of folks who create courses sell you time-limited access to a specific version of a course. If you do the lessons at the suggested pace of the class, you’ll be able to finish your project… but if you fall behind, or life intrudes… you discover that you’ll have to pay again to rejoin the class later.
I think that sucks.
So once you have paid for this class, you can use it as often as you like. For the series you want to start, and for your second series, and for your third series…
You can stay in the forum and talk to all the other folks who are writing. You are one of us.
And you get all my updates on this course.
I do them as I can, and as things in publishing change… with the understanding that:
- I’m a novelist first
- I do my best to make the majority of my course content evergreen
- I make specific changes to classes as things that affect specific lessons change in the publishing world
- AND I fit updates in as I can around my publishing schedule
- AND that after I do a SIGNIFICANT update or an upgrade or an expansion, the price goes up.
- This doesn’t affect YOU. Once you own the class, you own it.
- It definitely affects folks who decide they want to come back later to buy.
As a class member / course owner, YOU can share the lessons with your significant other (and if you have another family member in your house who writes… or who wants to write… you are entirely within the terms of service to share the course with that person, too.)
FOLKS WITH WHOM YOU CAN SHARE YOUR CLASS INCLUDE:
- your parents, kids, and significant others who live at the same address
- and if your grandma lives with you and wants to learn how to write series fiction, she’s welcome, too.
THE SHARING CLAUSE DOES NOT include roommates or parents or grandparents or children living in other parts of town or the planet.
But if Mom, Dad, and all dozen kids (yep, even adult kids) still live in the same house and all want to write fiction, you’re good to go.
HOWEVER, only the course owner can use the forum on your account. Other family members are welcome to create their own accounts to post… but your forum username needs to just be JUST you speaking.
When I did a massive overhaul of How to Think Sideways, everyone who owned the previous version of that class got all the updates for free. When I say you get updates, that means something.
Along with the class… and any updates… you get the community.
Mine is a community of published writers and writers working toward publication.
Everyone taking my classes wants to improve their work, and most want to sell it.
They are a supportive and wonderful group of folks, and a joy to be around — which is part of the reason I spend as much time as I can in there.
When you ask questions in the private HTWAS forum, fellow classmates will answer. Moderators will answer. And if I see something I need to add, I’ll answer.
Along with the Lessons, and All Future Updates,
You Also Get EXISTING Additional Content
You get the series I wrote for this class.
This is The Longview Series.
You’ll see exactly how I built each episode, what initial drafts looked like, and how it ended. The entire series is published and on Amazon now, and well-reviewed, and it serves at the lead-in for the (as I write this) finished-in-first draft, not-yet-revised, waiting-for-me-to-have-time-to-work-on-it Wishbone Conspiracy, which I’ll revise AFTER I’ve written Ohio Five, and after I’ve revised and published all five books of the Ohio Series. That’s my 2022 fiction project.
ALL FIVE BOOKS of the Longview Series are available in your classroom NOW.
With How to Write a Series, You GET:
- 26 Complete, in-depth writing lessons specifically geared to writing SERIES fiction
- Downloadable, printable worksheets you can use for building the pieces of as many series as you care to write
- The published versions of the Longview Series, written while I wrote this class to demonstrate the methods I teach
- The live, private, well-moderated forum where you can ask questions, and get answers, and other feedback
- The Graduation Bonus: How to Turn Almost Any Book Into A Series
- Permanent access to this version of the class PLUS all course updates
Author of The Arhel Series, The Secret Texts Series, The Korre Series, The World Gates Series, The Moon & Sun Series, The Cadence Drake Series, The Longview Series, and the upcoming OHIO series (definitely not the final name… AND coming out under a pseudonym) and several more.
Make today YOUR day.