Planning Your Book Series, Part Two

Asking the Right Questions

Fiction is really about questions: posing them, complicating them, delaying the answer, and then arriving at a satisfactory resolution. For the series author, two sets of questions must be considered.

Series Question

First, the overall series arc will have a question. In order to make sure a series feels like parts of a whole, it’s important for the author to think through what the overall series question will be before beginning. This question will be posed, either expressly or implicitly, at the outset of the series.

For example, in my series about a twenty-something woman who is finding herself, the series question might be, will she find the satisfying life that God has planned for her or is she missing it, or has she been forgotten? Book One might detail how she comes to understand God’s love for her and risks leaving behind what she thought she knew to test what is unknown. Book Two might show the resolution of her professional life while leaving an unanswered question about her romantic life. Book Three would wrap it up, showing that yes, as she learns to trust God her faith life, her professional life, and her romantic life all come together.

A historical series may show different people, either common or well-known, living out their faith through difficult times, or may be centered in a particular era that works toward a common theme – the empowerment of women or the social justice issues of the day. Each book would then aptly explore those questions through its characters and the situations they find themselves working through.

Story Questions

Even though series books will be episodes of a larger story, it’s important to make each book a self-contained whole. When a reader buys a book, she expects to feel satisfied with the journey as she finishes the last page. It’s not playing fair to lead the reader through an entire book only to say, in one way or another, to stay tuned for the next book in order to have anything resolved.

Does this mean that there are no unanswered questions in a series? Of course not. What it does mean is that each book will have a story question of its own that will be answered by the end of the book. However, the overall series question will still be outstanding, and readers will want to follow the series to have that question answered, as well as join the characters for the next installment in the adventure.

While the overall series question is being answered bit by bit, each book has a story question that is answered within its own book. That way, the author both satisfies and tantalizes the reader.

Next, let’s look at how many books are in a typical series and how to close them.