How to Set Up a Long-Running Series by Melinda Curtis (Romance Author University)
Many writers today are producing a series of books rather than standalones. Why? Because it takes less work to set up your world one time, and readers love returning to something familiar.
So what do you need to consider when writing a series? Primarily, how the books are going to be connected.
You can set all books in the same location—a city, an inn, a small town, a military base, a planet, a school, a coven. This allows you to explore various parts of the location but to bring readers back to fan favorites—that quirky coffee shop, tattoo parlor, witches den, etc. I did this with my 11-book Harmony Valley series, as well as with my latest series, The Mountain Monroes. Which launches this month with KISSED BY THE COUNTRY DOC. In both cases, I picked locations my publisher was looking for. In one case, wineries (Harmony Valley). And in the other, Idaho, a state not currently featured in their small town line-up.
You can connect your books by writing about members of a family or organization, such as a unit in the military, a gardening club, a fraternity, etc. This allows you to begin with a subset and branch out if the series takes off and/or you love writing it. For example, in my Mountain Monroe series (about 12 grandchildren of Harlan Monroe) I have the Hollywood Monroes, the Vegas Monroes, etc.
Your books can have looser connections that are shared by a common theme or hook that readers find appealing. This allows you a lot of freedom, but you really have to love the theme or hook you’ve chosen. For example, all jilted brides, wedding planners, rodeo cowboys, billionaires, super power, werewolves, bikers, etc. I did this with my Hot Shot Firefighter series—all heroes are wildland forest firefighters. The books are set all over the place but always have a fire/rescue element. I’m also doing this in my Mountain Monroe series. All the books are second chance romance (hence the small town’s name—Second Chance).
Probably one of the loosest connections is when you’re writing a series that will end with a big finale. This is best exemplified in the Marvel Universe and the Avenger films. Each movie deals with a lesser villain, but the “Big Bad” is often referenced or introduced in some way (in this case, Thanos). But you could have a terrorist suspense series where the hero in one book is boots on the ground military, the hero in another book is a CIA analyst, and the hero in yet another story could be a military pilot or kidnapped politician. In my Mountain Monroe series, 12 grandchildren inherit a town but won’t learn exact details about their inheritance until one year after their grandfather’s death.
If you’ve done more than glance through the four ways to approach a series, you’ll notice I’m incorporating all ways in my Mountain Monroe books. Do you need more than one way to draw readers through books? No. I was overcaffeinated when I was planning this new series. Choose what works for you. And if you have written books but didn’t set up a series, all is not lost.
Let’s say you’ve written a great book that’s a standalone. I did this when I wrote THE WEDDING PROMISE for a multi-author box set. I didn’t plan on that book launching a series, but reader reaction was so positive, I backpedaled and created The Bridesmaid Series (six books and counting). I linked the romances by making heroines friends and relatives of the original heroine. And their individual plots always have them being a bridesmaid somewhere.
You can use one kind of connection or several. But whatever you decide or however you write a series (either plotted in advance or backpedaled), best of luck!
The lucky print copy winners of The Rancher’s Redemption are: Carol Sch.., Jerri C., Debra Larson Branigan.
Prior to writing romance, award-winning, USA Today bestseller Melinda Curtis was a junior manager for a Fortune 500 company, which meant when she flew on the private jet she was relegated to the jump seat—otherwise known as the potty. After grabbing her pen (and a parachute) she made the jump to full-time writer. Between writing sweet romance and romantic comedy, Melinda finds time to help her husband with home remodeling projects. She recently came to grips with the fact that she’s an empty nester and a grandma, concepts easier to grasp than jet-setting on a potty. Her latest release is KISSED BY THE COUNTRY DOC, the launch title available in print and digital formats for her 12-book Mountain Monroe series.
For more information about Melinda, catch up with her on www.MelindaCurtis.net or on Facebook.
Kissed by the Country Doc - The Mountain Monroes, #1
She came to sell a town…
But she found a home
Never in her wildest dreams could single mom Ella Monroe imagine co-inheriting the small town of Second Chance, Idaho—or falling for its curmudgeonly doctor, Noah Bishop. Despite his rough edges and protests for isolation, Noah has her believing in love at first sight again. But when she’s pressured to sell her stake, Ella is torn between family loyalty and following her heart.