Four Steps to Structure a Novel Series

For people that have stumbled upon my blog, there is a common theme with my posts: the stage of my editing process for my novel.

Four steps to structure a novel series.

First things first: before you do anything else, you need to decide if a series is the right choice for the story you want to tell. There’s no point setting out to write a series just for the sake of it; it needs to be the right vessel to deliver your particular tale.
If you don’t intend to write a series, that’s fine but there are some points you can apply to stand alone novels.

While you might believe that your story needs to be told over multiple books, in reality, your plot might not be able to stretch that far.

Every successful series features a protagonist and cast of supporting characters who are compelling, complex, evolving, endearing, or all of the above.

Alongside solid plot development, a series must focus on constant character development in order for it to hold any hope of sustaining itself. Your characters must undergo significant changes throughout the story. They should not be the same people at the series’ conclusion as they were at its commencement.

STEP 1: Brief Outline

The first thing you want to do is solidify the ideas you have for your series’ plot. Write down a brief outline of all the key events you have in mind so far, forming a rough chronology. Don’t worry too much about structure or order just yet; we’ll get to those below. For now, just concentrate on mapping out the main events of the story.

Step 2: Think about the structure

Each individual book should have its own contained plot that feeds into the larger plot of the whole series. Once you have a rough idea of how you’ll break up the overarching narrative, focus on the concept and the climatic plot points.

Where will the climatic points appear?
How many books will you write?

Step 3: Get to know your characters

Your characters are just as important than your plot. The main reason readers will keep reading a story is because they’ve invested in the characters.

Of course an engaging story line is vital, however readers must also care about what happens to your characters. If they don’t, they’re much less likely to keep reading.

Character profiles

Start the planning process by creating a rough character profile for each of your main players, paying special attention to your protagonist. Write down everything you already know about them, from their appearance to their key personality traits to their family history. Try to make them different, with their speech, clothes – so the reader can clearly identify the character.

Next, it’s time to consider each character’s arc – the transformation or journey they will undertake throughout the series. As discussed above, character development is vital to any series; static characters just don’t cut it over multiple books. At the end of the story, most of your characters (especially your protagonist) should not be the same people they were the start.

Not all of this information will be included in the actual story, but it’s vital for you as the author to know your characters inside out so you can write them effectively and realistically.

Step 4: Work on your setting

Whichever kind of series you’re writing, you should start this part of the planning process by writing down everything you already know about your setting. Note down any aspects you want to include, big or small, and keep the list handy throughout your writing and revision processes.

Setting is of vital importance in a series, no matter what the genre. If readers are to stay with you for multiple books, you must create a setting rich enough to immerse them and complex enough to sustain their interest.

They must want to return to the world you’ve created, whether it be completely imagined (as in fantasy or science fiction) or realistic (as in a crime or mystery series).


Tips for writing a series from other sources

  • Keep a digital or physical folder full of all your notes and ideas about the series. This will be your Bible, to which you’ll undoubtedly need to make constant reference during the lengthy writing process.
  • Never edit as you go, and never backtrack to include new details you’ve thought of unless it’s absolutely vital to do so. Instead, make notes of any problems, ideas or missing parts that occur to you and amend them when you’ve finished your draft and are conducting a complete edit.
  • Strengthen the arcs between books later in the editing stage.


Hopefully these four steps to structuring a novel series will guide you to publication.
If you have any questions, please post them below.
If you think someone has an interesting point of view and answer, please invite them or share this post to them.

#DWTSmith #structuringaseries


5 thoughts on “Four Steps to Structure a Novel Series

  1. I know that it has almost become a necessity these days, especially for self-published authors, to write novels in series. But I’ve never liked the idea of authors starting out with a plan to write a series. Start with the first book, and if the story and public response warrants it, write a sequel. It’s beneficial to both writers and readers since, if the first book bombs, neither will be forced into finishing it and a lot of time will be saved on both sides. But maybe that’s me. And of course, authors never plan for failure (which they definitely should).

    • I agree with the last point – authors should plan for failure.
      I think planning plots for a series helps writers fathom and explore these grand ideas and help new writers if they want to dive into series.