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Secrets to a Successful Series by Addison Moore

First and foremost, there aren’t any hard and fast secrets to a successful series, there are only ideas that, through hard work and passion, can be plausible avenues to propel your private manifesto into a story that is wildly embraced by readers the world over, or in the least hopefully your mother will like it.

Get organized:
Keep a journal to store all of the details of your new story world or open a new Word doc and organize that way. Bottom line, have all of your info available and easy to access while writing. The benefit to doing it on your computer is that you can back it up. And please back up even if your backing up method simply consists of emailing the doc to yourself, do what you have to do, but make a copy in the event things go south with your hard drive.
It all starts here. Do not pass go. Do not write two hundred words without this vital key ingredient. At the nexus of any series there is one common denominator, the author. It is the author who decides what world this series will take place in, develop the rules, and breathe life into each one of its inhabitants, so the first task at hand is to sell the idea of the series to yourself.

If passion is key, then how can you be sure you have it? Well, let’s be honest, a writer is not in love with every aspect of their story at all times, not with their plots, not with their characters. There is always room for improvement. However, there must be some element that excites you about the project. When I started Celestra, I was gung-ho on writing a young adult series that had paranormal elements. I spent countless hours envisioning, planning—even labeled myself a resident of this fictitious world because I felt I had logged so much time there, and best of all—I never wanted to leave. I was in love. I wanted to marry Celestra and have little book babies. Still do.

It’s important that you as the writer feel an enormous amount of excitement and exuberance when it comes to your newfound series. Nothing will kill your books faster than your own lack of enthusiasm. Your best scenes, your best books,are going to be the ones you had the most passion to work with. So, as easy as it sounds, become enamored with your idea, and all of the tender loving care you put into it will translate to your readers.
It sounds so incredibly simple. Just write a good story, enough said, we’ve all heard it before, common sense, right? It’s not that simple. First, in a series, story takes on a whole new meaning.

Usually there is a series arc. For my Celestra series, the long arc was the faction war that would help Celestra maintain control and get out from under the stronghold of the evil Counts. Fortunately for my readers, the war did not span all nine books in the series. Each book had a plot of its own, with its own arc and achieved its own goal. So, to complete a series with the right amount of story, you need to know at least roughly how many books your series will be and plan accordingly to move the story and pacing along to achieve your arc at the right time. Subplots however are a much more lenient and don’t necessarily need to be resolved right away. The nice thing about subplots is that they offer continuity and familiarity to the storyline through to the next several books. It keeps your readers involved on an intimate level and the resolutions seem more natural rather than tying everything off in a neat little bow with each book.

Also, I don’t think there’s much protest to this idea, but when it comes to a series I strongly suggest you end with a heart-stopping cliff hanger. You want the reader to demand that you write your next book. And then, just to be courteous, don’t wait too long to deliver the next installment. Most of my series was published with a two month delay between books with the longest wait being five months. I’m not recommending that pace, but if you don’t value sleep or the hair on your head, go ahead.
Story needs to move. It needs to breathe and push the plot forward without feeling fake or forced or stiff. The best way to create a story that meets this criteria is to backward engineer your series. Write a jacket blurb, or if you’re a diehard panster, at least write a two-sentence tagline. A story can and should be efficiently stated in a brief statement. And every little bit of structure helps. If you’re an outliner, and feel the need to storyboard every scene before you ever start, more power to you. Whatever works is fine as long as you’re aware of the beginning, the middle, the climax and the end, you’ve got it made. You’ve got a story.

“We must not see any person as an abstraction. Instead, we must see in every person a universe with its own secrets, with its own treasures, with its own sources of anguish, and with some measure of triumph.”? Elie Wiesel

Were there ever any truer words spoken? Every character, from your main character right down to blonde number three, is their own universe. Each person is complex, has their own desires and quirks, their own misgivings and foibles. No two of us are ever alike and neither should our characters be.
As my series grew so did the intimate knowledge of my characters. It’s inevitable to know someone better the longer you spend time with them, but there is a better way. Character sheets. It sounds like homework, right? Jotting down every nuance of every detail could get boring. If that’s not for you, in the least, write a few facts that could act as triggers to the type of person he/she is.
Character growth arc:  It’s your characters that breathe life into your story and influence how your readers feelabout your series. Characters, like people, are often flawed. Make sure to leave ample room for growth and maturation as the series crawls to a close.
Okay. Let’s be honest. There are dozens and dozens of series out there that have a writer with passion penning each word, and great stories with unbelievable characters that you either want to slap or drag to bed—so what makes a series really stand out? Marketing.
I wish I had a magic bullet that had the ability to propel your series to the top of the charts but I don’t. All I can do is share what worked for me.

When Celestra came out I offered an e–copy to any blogger willing to take it. I had an enormous amount of blogger support, which as a new author just blew me away! The next wonderful surprise was readers. Every writer’s dream is to have someone read and appreciate their work. I must say, I have the kindest readers on the planet. I LOVE my readers, and I also love to keep
touch with them as much as possible. So, if you’re a people person, I really recommend getting to know your readers because if they’re anything like mine they are the most amazing people.
And lastly, don’t hesitate to experiment with paid ads. I wouldn’t do more than one at a time. And, please, track the success of each ad outlet so you know what works best for you. There are tons of places to advertise such as Kindle Nation Daily and the Kindle Fire Department. Blog tours are another great venue. For a set fee your book can be featured on over thirty different blogs or more. It might just offer the right amount of exposure to rocket your series up the charts.
Lastly and most important, enjoy what you do. At the end of the day, the first reader is you.
Have fun, write with passion, and enjoy every last word.
If you have any questions please leave them in the comments section and I’ll be glad to answer everything I can.

Addison Moore is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author who writes contemporary and paranormal romance. Previously she worked as a therapist on a locked psychiatric unit for nearly a decade. She resides on the West Coast with her husband, four wonderful children, and two dogs where she eats too much chocolate and stays up way too late. When she's not writing, she's reading. Addison’s Celestra Series has been optioned for film by 20th Century Fox.

Feel free to visit her blog at: addisonmoorewrites.blogspot.com

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This Post Has 36 Comments
  1. Loved this, Addison!! I’m currently mapping out #2 in the Mindspeak series, and I couldn’t agree with you more about being super organized about your story world. I think I thought I would remember every little detail about my world when I wrote a book. I mean, I wrote it, right? Not true.

    Also, thank you for the tips about blog tours and marketing. I hear so many say that blog tours don’t work, but I’ve gotta wonder… If you’re a mostly unknown, new author, you’ve gotta get the word out somehow. And though Mindspeak is off to a great start, I worry that the momentum will die w/o more exposure. Maybe a blog tour would feed additional life to the word-of-mouth campaign I started with the launch? And I so love the amazing passion of bloggers of young adult fiction – well, all fiction, really. Thanks for giving me something to think about.

    1. Hi Froze8! Thank you. And I agree, organization is key. As for the running free promotion, I do have the first book in my series currently free on Amazon. It’s a nice way for readers to try the series. I also have the next book priced low in the event they’re still undecided.

  2. I also taught meditation and part time taught centering and meditation to mental health clients. I am writing now because I needed a change. Are you also writing now after having worked with mental health clients?

    1. Hello WisdomsSpark! Yes, I used to work in psych as well. Writing has always been something I’ve enjoyed doing. I think working with people helped season me and I’m glad I had the experiences I did. It is a nice shift. Good luck with your courses! Writing classes are always fun. I hope they stretch you and you glean lots from them!

  3. Thanks for the wealth of information. Spending a majority of my time writing being that I am back in college for a new career challenge. Currently, I am an English department student taking professional career writing classes. I am gathering a bit of basic information on Indie Publishing for a class project, so this conference is quite timely and beneficial.

  4. Addison, I really enjoyed this look at writing a series from an author who has completed one. I think you are so right about the passion. I don’t think anything else will carry you through a series:) I also really appreciated what you wrote about characters and how they need to grow. Congratulations on the success of your Celestra series! Nine books is awesome!!!!

    1. Thanx Heidi! The best part about writing my series is the fact I enjoy it. I’m penning the final book now and although I’m thrilled that my characters are going to finally meet their goals I’m sad to see it end. Perhaps that’s why I’ve decided to move my MC on to another series. I just can’t seem to leave that island. 😉

  5. Thanks, Addison. Very insightful post. Like Heather, I’ve found the simple way for me to keep track of characters and/or place names is by using Scrivener. I cut and paste key descriptions that I’ve written to remind myself who these people are.

    1. Addison, Scrivener was originally designed for Mac. Us PC people had to wait much longer to get a copy, or were in the beta like me.

      I recommend watching the 30min program overview video they have on their site. Really shows you how to use all the awesome things the program provides.

  6. Thanks for your awesome post and great information, Addison! Do you plot the arc of each book as you write; or the entire series first? And do you try to keep the word count the same for each book so they’re all the same length? I want to make a series of my mid-grade novel I’m working on, where the main characters are the same, but the plots are different for each book – do you think that’s a good idea? Thanks again for your time and generosity in helping us writers – this is a great conference! ~ Julie

    1. juliecatherinevigna – I plotted the overall arc, so I knew the beginning the middle and the end. When I wrote each individual book I plotted those out at that time. And some things I let surprise me. It’s always fun to have an organic experience in writing. 🙂

  7. A way to help you get organized, their are many tools that allow you to do texting, or text grouping, these tools are wonderful useful and amazing. Notepad++ does folding, Basket notes is another open source option to help with your grouping and your organizing. Microsoft came late to the train with onenote, which has some wonderful note taking features. Don’t forget that you can also go to sourceforge, look for great opensource software to help you on your mission. Their is a great mindmapping software their that is available to you and this can help you put together disparate ideas in a map so you can visually make sense of things quickly. Hope this helps your friend luminosity.

    Chocolate forever….

    1. Scrivner has become my best friend for organizing character/world info, especially since it’s all pre-labeled form me. I just have to change the names. 🙂

    2. Luminosity – Awesome! I’ve been using the notepad on my phone when I’m out and need to jot something down. It’s nice to know I have it all in one place. I’ll have to check those out. I’m always looking for better ways to do things!

  8. Love these tips, Addision! Thank you. Your experience in mental health helps explain your rich character development. I really appreciate the idea of character sheets. I am curious how you initially connected with bloggers for your tour. Any advice for making new connections?

    Thank you so much for your time! Jennifer

  9. Thanks for the tips. I have 2 books out in a epic sci-fi series and your post is a steady reminder of how important it is to keep everything organized. I am also getting ready to launch a small serial in March.

    Side note, this online con is great. Thanks to everyone who works behind the scenes.

    1. Mike – Congratulations on your series! I really can’t stress enough how every detail should be recorded right down to the physical landscape. It’s too easy to forget details and digging through old manuscripts can be a pain. I know! lol!

  10. Thanks Addison. You mention so many important elements to a series. The point about character really drives home. I’ve heard readers say they’ve stopped reading a series they loved because a character never grew. It aggravated them so much they put the book down!

    1. Tricia – Yes very important to show character growth. If it’s arced over the length of the series I can see how this can be frustrating to readers. Perhaps a few stages of growth would be best.

  11. Another great post, thank you! One question: is there any particular knack to finding blog tours? Do you just email around or are there places to find blogs that do this?

    1. I googled blog tours, and I came to find out that they are bloggers and reviewers that write an article, or keep an add for you for about a week, or a month of intensive activity. I hope this helps.

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