Why Authors Should Organize Story Ideas into Series
When I first started seriously writing, I made a pretty big mistake. A story idea would pop into my head, and I’d get so eager to write it, that I never considered the bigger picture: readers love book series.
Book series don’t even need to be a continuation of one character‘s journey. A series can consist of standalone books within the same “universe” or the same theme where there’s a bit of crossover of characters or places mentioned in the other books. Just enough to connect the series together.
Over the last couple of years, I’ve collected a ton of story ideas, often popping up at random times and places (basically any time when I wasn’t near a computer to write them down haha). So, I’d email the ideas to myself, write them in my phone’s notes app, scribble it into my notebook, or add it to my Trello board so I wouldn’t forget.
When I had a tiny break in between writing stories this year, I gathered them all and organized them properly. When all was said and done, I had more than 50 story ideas!
As I stared at the randomness of these ideas, I thought back to the lessons I learned at the RWA conference in 2019. Basically, readers fall in love with characters, themes, or places and want to continue reading more about them. If authors create a series—even if they’re standalones—they’ll see more reader loyalty and buy-throughs.
With that in mind, here’s what I did to organize my book ideas into series:
First, I tried to find elements that could make it easy to group together without completely changing my vision for the story. For example, I have a wanderlust series I’m planning to write that focuses on travel stories.
As a traveler, I knew I wanted to incorporate stories from my trips around the world. Although none of these stories will have any crossover (at least that I can tell), they are all rooted in the common theme of travel, or being a fish out of water, or finding purpose through exploration.
So, any stories that focus mostly on travel will be grouped into this standalone series.
Identify Crossover Opportunities
Next, I looked at stories that could realistically have crossover opportunities, even if it meant a bit of tweaking. For example, a few stories took place in Charleston, so I’ll work to incorporate characters from other books based in Charleston to connect them all.
That’s how I came up with the idea for the four-book Defiance series. I had a few different story ideas that took place in Charleston, so I looked to connect them all. I ended up tying them to a major setting in the first book: a wine bar. They could work there or have some other connection like a photographer for their marketing, a food critic who has it out for the chef, or someone who was doing construction for their expansion.
Identify Genres and Subgenres
Lastly, I tried to find opportunities for genres and subgenres. I mainly write contemporary romance and women’s fiction, but there are about a zillion subgenres within these. For example, fantasy, thriller, chick lit, historical, and so on.
In looking at my story ideas, I grouped together romantic suspense, paranormal romance, and even a series about fairy tales with a modern day twist.
Now, all of those seemingly different story ideas are nicely packaged together. So when I start plotting a story, I’ll consider other potential stories in the series to tweak my outline and make it easy to tie together.
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