Navigation menu

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Writing the Fiction Series: The Complete Guide For Novels and Novellas by Karen S. Wiesner (Review and Giveaway)

I'm so glad that I have the chance to review Karen Wiesner's new writing guide book, Writing the Fiction Series: The Complete Guide For Novels and Novellas, because I am currently writing book one of a middle-grade mystery series. As Karen says in her introduction, "A better question might be who isn't reading, writing, and publishing a series?" which means that many of you are also probably writing a series—for children or seniors or everyone in-between. Readers love series! So, how will Karen's book help you?

First off, it's a well-researched study on successful series, and it covers multiple genres. I'm thankful for all the series mentions that Karen lists and explains in her book because she provides concrete examples that I can use when thinking about my own series and what I want it to become. For example, in my imagination, my middle-grade mystery series will have the same main character and his family members/friends in each book, and each story will solve a complete mystery. It's different than the Harry Potter series because readers won't have to read book seven to find out the ending to Patrick's (my main characters) story. However, I will still have to be consistent and have him develop through the books. So when Karen discusses "Recurring Character" series, I made notes because it's important to know what I'm writing and find other examples out there. I'm not creating a premise/plot series or a setting series, but now I have even more ideas brewing for other series after reading this chapter!

After you know what you're writing or want to, Karen delves into how to write it. Chapters two, three, and four help with this. If I was to tell you all the useful tips in these chapters, this blog post would go on and on and on. She helps you with your individual story and series arc, develop characters who can stand the test of a series, stay consistent in your series (you will need a series bible!), and how to organize yourself and your series. When I finish the second draft of my book this summer and my critique group gets finished giving me their notes, I plan to use SEVERAL of the tips in chapter four to keep myself organized—believe me, I need it. I'll use tips, such as the series organization worksheets—I'm going to fill one out before I ever start querying this book, ideas for my series bible, and creating maps of my fictional town (and even individual story places such as Grandma's house and Patrick's school).

The other thing this book will do for you (and I've mentioned this a bit already) is give you some ideas that you might not have thought of on your own. I love the idea of a "cameo appearance," which is an idea provided by an author Karen interviewed, Linda Varner Palmer. Linda stated, "Give evidence that the happy endings in earlier books are still in effect, i.e., characters show up in later books and are doing well." I'm already thinking about how Abby in my first book can show up in a later book . . .

At the end of each chapter, writers will find "build your series muscles exercises," which are call-to-action activities and writing prompts for you to do with your own series. In a nutshell, these should force you to work on your series while you are also using this book.

If you already have a series, this book is still useful to you because it can help with marketing your series (chapter 5), including creating your brand, and preparing for the conclusion of a series (chapter 6). Appendix A provides blank worksheets to use on a new or existing series to help with consistency and writing. Appendix B provides case studies of successful series from Twilight to Debbie Macomber's Dakota series to Terry Brooks The Heritage of Shannara. She also takes the seven Harry Potter books and shows authors the overall series arcs, the individual book arcs, and the series plant arcs for each book. This is an incredible resource!

I highly recommend Writing the Fiction Series by Karen Wiesner for anyone writing or considering writing a series! (You can also find more details and resources on Karen's site.)

Margo L. Dill is a children's author and writing instructor for WOW! Women On Writing. To find out more about Margo and her books, visit her website at:

***** BOOK GIVEAWAY *****

We are giving away a copy of Writing the Fiction Series: The Complete Guide For Novels and Novellas (Writer's Digest Books, May 30, 2013) by Karen Wiesner. Just fill out the Rafflecopter form below for a chance to win!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good luck!


  1. I'm planning to write a series, but right now,the thing giving me the hardest problem is hows to start the second book. Should I pick up directly where I left off in the first one or should I skip ahead and start with the new characters I'm introducing who are integral to the second book?

  2. OMG, Margo. You mentioned writing a series, and I would be thrilled to finish a "one and only" novel. ;)

    Seriously, thanks for the post. And again, you did a marvelous job as part of the panel at the St. Louis Writers Guild workshop. Bravo!

  3. This is so timely! Like you said, who is writing who isn't writing a series? Everyone is looking that direction because their more fun to write, and more importantly, more fun to read (and buy!). Great info. Thank you!

  4. Every short piece I ever wrote (and I mean every single one) mutated into a series - I'm swimming in them!

    My biggest challenge is keeping all the world building and large-scale stuff (such as overarching character development) organized so I can keep track of how I want things to develop. Not easy - but the world building is one of my favorite parts of the process.

  5. I'm not currently writing a series but I think maintaining consistency of characters without becoming cliche or boring would be quite difficult. Thanks for the chance to win this book.

  6. I'm glad this book is going to be helpful for so many of you. :) @Sioux: Thanks. Wish we could have had time to visit. :)

  7. I started to write a series, but since I haven't been able to get the first book published, I stopped halfway through book three. I would love for this series idea to become a reality! Thanks for the contest.

  8. So far haven't come up with a viable series idea, but might someday! Thanks for the review.

  9. My challenge is not coming up with plots for the series, it's coming up with catchy titles! Much as I realize the publisher may easily wish to change the name of these titles, I have to have a good one as a starting point for myself!

  10. I have finished a first book in a series but am now struggling with editing. I know the tone of the first book is so important because I will have to carry it from now on. Plus you have to create characters that are likeable and lasting enough for the long haul. This book sounds like it would be a great help!

  11. I've thought about writing a series. The book sounds like it would be very helpful.

  12. I am working on a series, and by far, my biggest challenge is simply keeping the momentum going past the first!

  13. Yes! I am almost to the end of the first in a series I'm working on. I'm feeling like I need to pull back a bit (while still pushing onward, if that makes sense) in order to assess the arc of the overall story. Everything is just kind of floating up in my brain and it's madness, I tell you! Looking forward to looking into this book. :)

  14. I haven't even published my MG, but my 10-year-old daughter and beta reader thinks it needs to be turned into a series! So many kids her age devour books so quickly and that is why I think this book would be a great resource for all children's book writers and beyond!

  15. I'm writing a series and have been eying Karen's book with interest. It's in my cart at Amazon.


  16. Anonymous12:44 AM

    I am just an avid reader so I am not writting a series. My daughter is writing and she has started a series. I would love to read Karen's book to see if I can help my daughter if she needs it.

  17. Anonymous6:07 PM

    Writing a series always seems like such a daunting task, but I see how breaking it down and the exercises will get you there step by step.

  18. I would love to write a series but I wouldn't know how to start it. I'm afraid I'd write a sentence or two and then I would have a brain freeze. There is a book I would love to write but I'm afraid it isn't anything most readers would like to read. It's about living in a nursing home. "What's going on besides the bed pans"! What's going on behind closed doors"! "What's not going on under the beds"!Etc. I think you get the idea. I lived in one for 4 months and what goes on or doesn't go on in there would make some people's hair curl or hair stand straight up.
    Thanks for the giveaway!
    Donna Harris

  19. I'm writing a four-part middle grade series. Books 1 is done, book 2 is in the revision stage, book 3 is in the writing stage, and book 4 is in the noodling stage.

    The most challenging thing I've found is getting people where I want them for all four books...and keeping track of where certain objects are and in what state of disrepair.

    Fun! I'm really enjoying myself and I love my characters...even my big bad bully :)

  20. I love reading continuity series books and have an idea for one of my own. Karen's Writing the Fiction Series sound like a wonderful source to learn what I need to know before I start!


We love to hear from readers! Please leave a comment. :)