HOW TO WRITE A KICK-ASS SERIES
1. Make each book a stand-alone story in its own right. The goal here is to have someone be able to pick up any book in the series and still get hooked. Don’t make it harder for readers to get into the series by forcing them to figure out what order it goes in, or confusing them if they get it wrong. The first Miles book I read was Mirror Dance, which is not only in the middle of the series, but in the middle of a three-book story arc. I still loved it enough to rush out and read everything else — completely out of order. But I never felt lost. (It did result in a lot of “oh, that’s why that happened!” moments, but that’s okay.)
2. The main character has to grow and change. Writers are taught that a novel should have a character arc, that through the story the main character should learn something, should be changed somehow. That the main character is the one most affected by the story. This shouldn’t change just because it’s a series and the character continues across many books. The character still needs to be invested in the story, each and every time.
3. There’s a corollary to this: The main character needs to be the kind of person that lots of life-changing stuff happens to. Let’s face it, for one person to face a dozen life-changing character arcs over the course of a series might be pretty unbelievable. But not if that person is naturally that kind of person. Over the course of his series, Miles flunks out of the military academy physical exam, gets into the academy anyway, graduates, starts a military career, accidentally becomes admiral of a mercenary fleet, becomes a pan-galactic super spy, screws up so badly he destroys his career, has to find a way to pick up the pieces of his life and find a new career, and he does, as an investigator which takes him on all sorts of new adventures, and then he meets the love of his life, and then — you get the idea. Miles is the kind of person who will never run out of adventures.
So, the short version of this: don’t be afraid to have your characters grow up. Don’t be afraid to throw vast, life-changing problems at them. That will make the series more interesting, more realistic, more vivid, and will make your reader that much more invested in it.
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