Writing A Series by Devon Ellington

Old-FashionedDetectiveWork by Devon Ellington

Welcome to guest author, Devon Ellington, sharing with us tips on writing a series. Enjoy!


Working on a series is rewarding on many levels. You build a rapport with your readership from book to book. You live with your characters over a period of years, growing and changing together.

What do you need to work on a series?

There’s so much information to answer that question that I teach an entire workshop on how to develop a series, but here are some of the highlights:

A Strong Protagonist. Your readers have to love your protagonist, even when there are missteps, and be willing to take a long journey with this character over a period of years. Your readers will grow and change; your character needs to do the same. Don’t start so early in the growth process that the character is annoying, or the readers won’t stay. Start at a major turning point in the character’s life; you can either fill in backstory sprinkled and integrated over the course of a series, or write a prequel at some point in the future, if there’s a demand for it. You might have to write a great deal of material that is never actually used, but you’ll need it anyway to understand your character’s decisions and motivations.

A Strong Antagonist or String of Strong Antagonists. Will each book in the series feature the same antagonist, or will there be different antagonists from book to book? Whatever your choice, whatever serves your vision, the antagonist must be a strong match for your protagonist. Remember, your antagonist is the protagonist of his own story.

The antagonist must be a fully-developed, complex individual, not a cipher personifying an idea. If the antagonist doesn’t give the protagonist enough of a challenge, if it’s too easy for the protagonist, we lose respect for the protagonist, and won’t continue reading the series. There must be one or more points when we believe the antagonist COULD win, while still rooting for the protagonist.

If you’re writing a romance novel with an HEA or an HFN, (Happily Ever After or Happily For Now) remember that your hero and heroine are a PAIR of protagonists, even if they spend a good part of the book antagonistic towards each other. The antagonists in a romance novel are the ones who want to prevent the hero and heroine from getting their HEA.

HexBreakerAltStrong Supporting Characters. Your supporting characters, in both the protagonist’s and antagonist’s circles, need to be well-developed, complex, and interesting. This gives you fuel for subplots, and maybe even tie-ins or spin-offs.

Book #3 in the Jain Lazarus series, the upcoming CRAVE THE HUNT, is mostly from Billy Root’s POV. Billy is a supporting character in the first book, HEX BREAKER. The audience fell in love with him and wanted more. I was intrigued with his potential, and CRAVE THE HUNT, his coming-of-age/late blooming book was born.

Vary Your Arcs. The current preference is for each book to be a satisfyingly stand alone while still feeding the overall series. If a reader picks up a book in the middle of the series, it needs to make sense, while still engage the reader enough to go back and read all the books leading up to this one. Each book must have arcs that start and complete within the book itself. There will also be subplots. Some of those will complete within the book; others may continue through several books; still others may build over the course of the series. You need to reassess with each book the purpose of each arc.

Keep Details Consistent. This is where your Series Bible becomes your most valuable tool. Details can make or break your book. You must keep certain details consistent within the logic of your world. If a character takes his coffee one way in one book and three books later does it differently, there has to be a reason, and it has to be clear to the reader. Inconsistencies have to be plants to move along plot and character arcs, not mistakes.

What if you don’t know you’re writing a series until you’re done with the first book and realize there’s more to say? That’s fine. Sit down and plan out your vision for the series, or at least, the next few books in it. There’s plenty you can’t control in this venture, but you can control great stories and engaging character growth.



The Series Bible: Creation and Maintenance by Devon Ellington, available on Smashwords: http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/275031

Write Away! by Elizabeth George, Perennial Currents

Making a Literary Life by Carolyn See

Devon Ellington publishes under multiple names in fiction & nonfiction and provides writing and editing services for an international client base. Her blog is  Ink in My Coffee:  http://devonellington.wordpress.com. Check out her site:   www.devonellingtonwork.com. About The Jain Lazarus Adventureshttp://hexbreaker.devonellingtonwork.com. Connect with Devon on Twitter: @DevonEllington. Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/devon.ellington.31. Jain Lazarus Fan Page:  https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Jain-Lazarus-Adventures/267787063349359. Fearless Ink Author Services: http://www.fearlessink.com/authors.html.

Hex Breaker, The First Jain Lazarus Adventure: http://amzn.to/15PWjwY (ebook) http://amzn.to/YRC65J (print)

OLD-FASHIONED DETECTIVE WORK, The Second Jain Lazarus Adventure-http://amzn.to/10aZbBk


Get the Writers Fun Zone Blog on Kindle: http://amzn.to/ZjQFCc



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  • Kathy Hadley says:

    This is a lot of great advice. Thanks. My husband actually has written a series and one thing I found particularly interesting is that he has sold more copies of books 2-5 then he did number 1! I think a lot of people shared book 1 and then purchased the rest of the series after that. 🙂

    Thanks again.

  • suzanne says:

    Hi Beth – fab blog, lots of helpful info. I’ve just self-published a book on Amazon, will be back to look through all your pages in more detail to try and help me find that elusive publisher!

  • suzanne says:

    Hi Beth, just typed out a post and promptly lost it 🙁 Love your blog – very useful for someone like me looking for that elusive publisher!

  • I am sure glad I know the word “protagonist”, now.
    The “series bible” is new to me and it makes perfect sense.
    thanks for sharing.
    Looking forward to reading more.

  • […] of my articles is up, about writing a series, over on Writer’s Fun Zone. Check it […]

  • Kathy,

    Yes, generally sales build during writing a series, and then, often, after six or seven books, the first book gets a bump again. It takes awhile to grow the audience, and very often, readers want to know there are several books available before making the commitment. Congrats to your husband!


    The Series Bible takes a bit of time to set up initially, but it saves hours of frustration and stress in the long run!

    Thanks so much for stopping by!

  • Beth Barany says:

    Devon, Thanks for sharing your wisdom about writing a series with us. I know how much working writing a series is and I’m always looking for good resources. I’ll check out your series bible!

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