If you’re planning several series that take place in the same world, there are three considerations.
Standalone Series: If one series won’t intersect with the other but shares the same world, then you can outline each series separately as if each were a standalone series. This process is straightforward.
Intersecting Series: If the series will intersect, start with a simple series outline for each series. Factor into it the characters and the timeline.
Since I assume you won’t work in more than one series at the same time—from a marketing standpoint, I’d advise against it—the next step is to make a book outline for each book in the first series. Again, note the characters in each book and the timeline.
As you deviate from your outline when you write, update your outline with this new information. This step is critical because you’ll need these details for consistency and continuity when you write the other series. Document everything. Don’t trust your memory.
Also, will the same characters appear in multiple series? This is a delightful occurrence for readers, but it’s a perplexing dilemma for creators because it requires detailed planning and attention to detail.
Document the personality, description, and backstory for each of your characters. Each character will also need a timeline, so they don’t appear in different places at the same time in different series. For example, we shouldn’t have a person stranded on an island in a book from series one and on a yacht circumventing the world at the same time in another series. Don’t depend on your memory to recall these details, which you might not need for several years as you move from one series to the next.
Multiple Authors: If different authors will write in different series, then you need to provide each author with the initial details about the world. This information will help each series stay consistent with the other ones. And if a writer adds a detail to the world that no one has yet defined, then you need a way to share this detail with the other writers.
For example, let’s say the original information about the world contains no mention of it having a moon. If one writer needs the planet to have a moon, make sure the other writers are aware of it. This effort will keep a third writer from talking about the planet having twin moons or no moons, which will frustrate readers who read both series.
This undertaking can get confusing fast and is hard to manage—even more so when multiple authors are involved. Documentation and communication are key.
Summary: Regardless of whether you’re writing all the series yourself or involving other writers, pursue two intents: the first is the need for detailed planning and the second is careful and up-to-date documentation. And if multiple writers are involved, you need a way to communicate this information to everyone. Writing multiple series in the same world is a grand undertaking with the potential for great rewards.
Learn more about writing and publishing in Peter’s new book: The Successful Author: Discover the Art of Writing and Business of Publishing. Get your copy today.
Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is an author, blogger, and publisher with over 30 years of writing and publishing experience. Check out his book The Successful Author for insider tips and insights.