Plotting a series

Do you write standalone books, or series? Are series limited to particular genre? How do you go about plotting a series?

Plotting a series

[photo: Lefteris Pitarakis/AP]

JK Rowling [above] said in 2006 that the fact she’d sketched out the entire Harry Potter series had been criticised by some. “I think they thought it was very arrogant of me to write the end of my seven-book series when I didn’t have a publisher and no-one had heard of me.” Now she is series planning again, this time for up to seven crime novels featuring PI Cormoran Strike, who first appeared in The Cuckoo’s Calling. Second novel The Silkworm was published in 2014, and the third is said to be on the way. Plotting a seriesI don’t have a problem with that, do you? Is it arrogance, or just confidence in a good character and lots of story ideas? When indie/trad published author Hugh Howey [below], of Wool series fame, was asked at the 2104 London Book the secret to selling lots of books, he said: ‘write the next one’ and ‘write a series’.

Plotting a series


Howey and Rowling are prolific, they are obviously driven to tell stories. Rowling famously invented Harry Potter during a train journey, without pen and paper to hand. “Perhaps,” she says on her website, “if I had slowed down the ideas to capture them on paper, I might have stifled some of them (although sometimes I do wonder, idly, how much of what I imagined on that journey I had forgotten by the time I actually got my hands on a pen).” Plotting a seriesBut it seems to me there are ‘series’ and ‘series’. There is the Harry Potter type of series, where the story is continuous from book to book, and it is essential to read them in order. There seem to be lots of this type in the children and YA sectors. And then there is the Ian Rankin/Kate Atkinson [Jackson Brodie] type of series, probably most common to crime, featuring a consistent character in individual stories. These can be read in or out of order. There are exceptions of course. Stieg Larsson’s trilogy is crime, and has to be read in order. I am sure there are more examples.

To read more Hugh Howey’s article ‘My Advice for Aspiring Authors’, click here.