You dreamed of writing a series,
Imagined the books lined on shelves,
Saw yourself on that pedestal
with your own favorite series writers…
Where do I start — With the characters, or the conflict they'll face, or the world, or the thing inside the series that makes me want to write it?
What EXACTLY do I need to put into the first series story or book?
Should I use cliffhangers or endings in each series episode, or both?
What about telling stories inside of stories — how important is that?
And my characters — what if I want different characters in each story, but I STILL want the stories to all be part of a series?
What if I want to have one character all the way through?
What if I get sick of some of my important characters halfway through, when I already have stories published, and want to kill them off and replace them?
How about the story itself… How do I plan a whole freakin' series when I have a hard time getting to the end of a single story without wrecking the train?
And I've watched writers start out with normal characters that they've ruined by making them so superpowered just a few books in that I can't stand to read about them anymore. How do I NOT do that?
When a series goes down in flames, you don't just stop reading the series. For the really bad wrecks, you stop reading the author.
And in the back of your mind right now, you're thinking, "What I really want is to not end up being THAT writer."
The good news is, you don't have to be.
Just as there are a million bad ways to write a series, there are a million good ways.
Don't run away screaming. You don't have to learn a million good ways.
Good fiction is built on a foundation of learnable principles.
Each of these principles allows you vast latitude in how you use them.
It's like learning how to use a wrench, and then using that wrench to build sections of a car, a house, and an airplane.
The wrench isn't the only tool you'll need to build each of those things — but it's one important tool, and when you have all the tools, you can build the car, the house, and the airplane.
Writing series fiction is the same. When you understand how it works, you can write any kind of series.
And you're going to learn it by doing it. You'll write a series as your class project.
You don't have to. The class is self-paced, and once you're a student, you can reuse the class as often as you want, so if you're so inclined, can take a dozen 200,000-word doorstop novels through it.
But if you just want to get the principles and implementation down as quickly as possible, go shorter this first time through.
With these tools, you'll learn the different kinds of series you CAN write, find out how to figure out the kind of series you WANT to write, and then you'll lay out the basic pieces that will make your series what you want.
This process kind of like picking out the plans for that house you want to build someday.
You don't have any of the materials you'll use yet, you're haven't found the land on which you'll build it, and you may not even know how you're going to pay for it…
…But from the very start, you have a decent idea of what your house will look like, and where you're going to put the beds, the fridge, and the swimming pool.
After that fast-paced "picking out the plans" process, lessons will arrive in your classroom at a pace of one per week.
In building terms, this is digging and pouring the foundation. If you don't do this, the house — or series — falls down.
You'll learn how novels and series fiction are different: A series is not just a really long novel, and understanding HOW they're different and building to embrace the difference is the difference between the future success or failure of your series.
This week, you'll be picking out your building materials for your entire series, and making sure you have all your pieces in the shapes and sizes and colors you can use.
Okay… I blame my grandfather for the carpentry analogies. He was a builder, and let me play with all his drafting and planning tools in the spare bedroom that was his office, and took me on jobs with him a couple of times — I learned how to use a square, a level, and a plumb line, got to help shingle roofs, learned how to drive nails with one blow, and some other cool stuff like that. (Yes, nine-year-old girls DO love that sort of thing.)
You'll also be building essential limits to prevent yourself from "runaway series" crashes.
(Railings! Railings! Did no one in STAR WARS™ EVER hear of railings!)
And you'll discover the Truth and Traps that are going into that episode, which sets the stage for your entires series.
Your first series story determines what is canon throughout the rest of your series — your overall story's unique Truth.
And every Truth has at least one Trap. You'll find them, identify them in detail, and figure out how you WON'T fall into them. This is the essential step you take to keep from breaking your series in BOOK 2, or BOOK 30.
(If we're still hanging with the "build a house" analogy, this step is making sure you build with stuff that's termite-proof.)
In this lesson, I'm making sure you get Time, World, Character, and Type right, and making sure that you're building the series the way YOU want for it to become the series YOU love.
The concept that you DON'T have to plan your series in advance is a strange one, but you don't. And shouldn't. Here's why…
If you nail yourself to the series ending ten years before you write it, either you will have outgrown the ending and find it unusable, or you will have outgrown the ending and hate writing it… and either way, your readers AND your series will lose.
So don't go there. I'll show you how to plan your series modularly, so you don't have to know the ending today, or the specific details of what will be in your middle episodes.
You have to know how your series works, and you have to know what KIND of ending you want. And you'll get that by building the pieces you'll use in each episode to get you to the RIGHT ending at the RIGHT time.
This week, if you're writing a series with one main continuing character, you'll make sure you're writing "THE" character — the one readers will come back for.
But you'll also learn how to determine viewpoints, how to control character change over time (so the normal girl in STORY 1 doesn't become the unkillable superhero in story three, leaving you with no place to go in your planned stories four through ten.
You'll learn how to age characters in series with sequential time, how to kill or remove characters who are getting on your nerves, and how to makes sure you're writing the antagonists your series needs whether those are romantic antagonists, villains, super-villains, or ridiculous villains. (There is ABSOLUTELY a place in the world for the ridiculous villain. Just maybe not in your story.)
Here you're going to learn to identify the critical series elements that go into the ending of the first episode. These set the stage for every episode to follow, and they’re what makes what you’re writing a series, and not just a long novel.
In this lesson you work through both Cliffhanger and Ending options, and figure out the promises you make in this first episode that you will have to keep as you write your way to the end. (This is something one famous author now stuck in the middle of his series never did — because if he’d done this he wouldn’t be stuck, and we wouldn’t be waiting to find out what happens next.)
There are two ways to deal with tracking all of your stuff through a series: By tracking meticulously, and by building things that don’t need to be tracked.
I’m a big fan of the latter whenever it’s applicable. So in this lesson you’re going to find out how to put into use several important concepts: The use of central sets and satellites to cut down on what you have to track, the “Don’t Start Nothing, Won’t BE Nothing” principle (the name is borrowed from a quote in Men In Black. The principle is one I discovered on my on the hard way), and how to figure out “What Matters, and Everything Else.”
Because if you build your series the right way, you don’t have to track as much as you think you do.
One of the big problems writers face in creating a series is using up all the good stuff in the early episodes, and then wondering how the hell you’re going to keep the series going.
There are a bunch of ways to prevent this from happening (and because you built a strong foundation in the early weeks, you’ll have all the tools in your series to keep YOUR series from tripping over its own feet.
You’ll learn Plot Threading; Leapfrogging Characters; Location, Location, Location; and Using Time Tricks.
You know how some of your own favorite series have stories that are complete in one episode, and stories that continue from the very first episode to the very last?
In this lesson, you’ll learn not just how to do that, but also how to know which stories are worth stretching out over the whole body of work… and which ones need to be finished in shorter fashion. And you’ll learn HOW to end these stories.
You know those series that don’t have any numbers on the covers? The ones that can be read in any order?
They can be written in any order, too. You have to make special use of your foundation materials to do this, and you have a series of rules you must NEVER break. But if you want the freedom of writing series fiction without having to track from episode to episode, this is where you’ll learn how to do that.
Series Escalation is when the writer makes makes the story stakes bigger, then gives the characters better skills or powers to deal with things getting tougher, then makes the stakes bigger so things don’t get too easy, then makes the characters even tougher…
This can get out of hand unbelievably fast.
You have two options here: The Ounce of Prevention, and the Pound of Cure. I’ll show you both, but for new series, you’re probably going to want to stick with the Ounce of Prevention.
You have to know a lot about the world in which you’re writing. Your readers have to know a lot about it too — but they definitely don’t need to get the information is indigestible blocks of description and explanation. I’ll show you how to give them your world so smoothly your world will seem like the place they’re living, not the place you’re telling them about.
The places where your series suddenly veers off in an unplanned direction can be awful. In which case you just back up and delete everything after that wrong left turn.
But they can also be wonderful. So when you write the thing that’s better than anything you imagined you could write, and it requires you to figure out a new approach to the whole series, here’s where you’ll learn to do that.
In this lesson, you’ll also learn how to turn a book you wrote as a stand-alone into the first book of a series, and you’ll learn how to create Prequels, Sequels, Spin-Offs, Interstitial Fiction, and Fill Episodes.
This lesson is all about doing things with your fiction that you didn’t know how to do — or even that you COULD do.
You’ll learn to change one Really BIG Novel into a series.
You learn how to turn the book you thought was going to be a stand-alone novel into a series (when your publisher starts throwing money at you to do so).
And you’ll learn how to create Prequels, Sequels, Spin-Offs, Interstitial Fiction, and Fill Episodes. Because you’ll need these for your blog, promotion, giveaways, and other goodies for your readers.
You’ll learn how to end the series magnificently, without clichés, running out the clock, or killing everyone (tempting though that may become).
And you’ll discover the techniques for getting both planned and unplanned endings to come out right.
From the perils of numbered books and the need for recapping, to using little and big endings, dealing with “in-episode time” and “between-episode time” and characters who grow (and fighting with characters who break), Linked Sequential Series offer the writer unique challenges.
But some of the greatest series fiction ever written has been Linked Sequential.
So learn to conquer the challenges and beat the perils and write something truly wonderful.
There are so many cookie-cutter series out there. And there are room for so many more. People do buy them.
But if you’re the writer who shudder at the idea of writing books stamped out by cookie cutter (which sounds like signing up for a long march of misery to me), you most definitely do NOT have to follow the herd.
I’ll show you how to avoid the Story Template Trap, how to break pattern (and give you a simple test to help you decide whether you should), and introduce you to the concept of Characters, Conflicts and Curry.
Or in my case, something like fifteen. Don’t have the book on hand, writing fast, so I’m having to go by memory. But, yeah. Hunting the Corrigan’s Blood was published in 1997-ish, and Warpaint was published in 2012-ish.
Why? Because sometimes that’s just what life does to your writing. But if you’ve read the first and second books, you know that I picked up where I left off, that I maintained style, voice, and content, and that both books are tightly connected parts of the SERIES.
I can, and will, show you how to do this. I hope you don’t have to. But…
In the world of runners, there are sprinters, milers, marathoners, and those lunatics who run 50 miles a day across country just because they can.
Writers of ring cycles are the writer version of “those lunatics.”
And since, with the introduction if the Longview Series to the Cadence Drake Series, I have become one of those lunatics, I’ll show you how this is done, too.
You build connecting points and free zones, and you do a few things differently when you plan and track. It’s all add-on stuff, though, so if your perfectly sane current series suddenly grows a second head that starts talking to you, know that if you built the first one right, the second one will fit like…
(MORE CARPENTRY ANALOGIES!)
…Like that second story you always wanted to add to your kind-of-cramped ranch house.
And if you really want an upstairs bowling alley, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise…
I’ll show you how to figure your Cost Per Episode, (and how to cut corners where you can to save money), how to figure your Episode ROI, and why this matters, and how to get the best possible results with a small budget.
With that out of the way, we’ll move to…
I am the queen of the big mistake. In Hunting the Corrigan’s Blood, I built the wrong universe. It seemed like a great idea at the time — I had this spiffy multiverse, and I used it interestingly in the first book.
In the fifteen-ish years that happened between HTCB and WARPAINT, I changed. I grew up some, I learned new science, I dumped old science, and I refined my philosophy (which is where you get the motor for your stories).
And when I read through HTCB while prepping for writing the second novel, I discovered my mistake. It was MASSIVE. Big enough to make me consider giving up on the idea of reviving the series.
But I wanted to write Cady, and I wanted to write that universe.
So I defined my mistake, I discovered the fix, and I saved the series. This did not include changing the original text.
The mistake is still in there. Only now it isn’t a mistake. Now it’s a feature, and a really cool part of an upcoming novel plot (Cadence Drake 3: The Wishbone Conspiracy).
If I can fix mine, you can fix yours. And I’ll show you how.
The big things you have to keep in mind here are keeping stories straight and scheduling. I’ll show you the Process-Shifting Technique, which also works when you’re doing multiple stand-alone novels simultaneously.
If you love a series, but you’ve run out of ideas, I’ll show you to find fresh ones. You’ll twist your series in new directions, discover people you thought you knew, and introduce new faces and new places… but with pulling a “Cousin Oliver.”
Back in the seventies, a TV series called The Brady Bunch ran out of gas. (Okay, that was about a year in, but never mind that.) So, in an attempt to save the series, they brought in “Cousin Oliver” to live with the family.
It was… Bad. So bad. So very, very bad. If you’re interested and didn’t ever see that particular abuse of television, I’ll explain why in class.
But I’ll also show you in this lesson how NOT to do that. ‘Cause… damn.
So that wraps up our sixth month.
We’ll go over promoting techniques before, during, and after publication — and then we’ll cover promoting WAAAAY after publication. Because with series fiction, you have to sell the first book along with the most recent one, and that can be a challenge all its own.
Then, assuming that I haven’t had additional question that push the series longer, I’ll do one bonus lesson for all the class students.
This will be voted on by all the folks currently in the class.
The Possible Bonus Lesson I have in place if no one comes up with something folks want more is this:
I’d use The Song of Ice and Fire (Game of Thrones) as my demo series, and pull together all the hanging threads into one diagram demonstrating how I’d end the series without dropping any threads or wiping out most of the characters with a plague.
This would show you how to pull in even the most scattered series and wrap everything up in one book.
This is ONLY a POSSIBLE bonus lesson because toward the end of building each BIG class I create, I ask the students taking it what they really want to know how to do that I haven’t covered yet.
There’s a lot of interest in the bonus I’ve listed, but folks come up with other things during the class, and I consider all suggestions, put up the ones that are most interesting and useful, and the students vote.
So the bonus might be something else entirely. Voters decide...and votes are by logged-in students from their paid lesson pages, so there’s no cheating. Votes are not anonymous... but they are PRIVATE.
That means that I’ll be writing lessons just a bit ahead of you, and while you’ll get solid, battle-tested information with demos that directly answer your questions and help with your problems (because I pull problems and questions off the forum to use in the lessons)…
… You will NOT be getting typo-cleaned, error-free lessons. And worse, I will not be slowing down to fix reported bugs.
In this version of the class, because I have to build one full lesson (and any side materials needed) in just seven days, I don’t accept bug reports unless they break the lesson.
So you need to have a certain tolerance for typos, spellos, and other accidental abuses of the English language.
And for things like headers with non-matching styles, bullet points with odd punctuation, and other imperfections.
Perfect comes later.
First comes getting it done.
(because I can create a much, much better and more comprehensive class if I have a lot of folks taking the class as I write it and asking questions that I can answer inside of the lessons) I’ll do what I can to make taking the SPLINTERS version appealing.
You get to ask questions that I build into new, unplanned lessons. You get to ask questions that allow me to tailor planned lessons to your needs. And you save some money.
And because it is cleaned-up first draft, it contains typos, spellos, places where in first draft I might not be answering the questions as clearly as I can for everyone. I'm also working on it at a rate of roughly one lesson per week, and I still have some six lessons that I KNOW I'm writing yet to go.
As I write this, on Sept 5th, 2017, and with best projections on Hurricane Irma heading the storm straight at my house, THE COURSE IS COMPLETED THROUGH LESSON TWENTY
PLANNED but NOT CERTAIN final SPLINTERS price:
Why am I not certain if this is going to be the final SPLINTERS price? It's because I'm still writing lessons. And if students come up with one more question that requires an additional lesson, that will take the class to 7 months of content, and if that happens, the class will go to $579 in the SPLINTERS version.
Following the SPLINTERS version, I'll do a Canary Revision version in which I will debug the class, take questions about the existing lessons, clarify anything that's still fuzzy for folks, add versions of the lessons in Kindle and ePub versions, and I may include additional extra lessons based on any questions I get about the current version. After the Canary Revision is complete, the price will go up to its final price.
HOWEVER... My current price is always my best price.
You can come back and reuse it, get all the updates (and I just did a massive overhaul of How to Think Sideways and everyone who owned the class got them for free. When I say you get updates, that means something), hang out in the community, and get shit done.
Mine is a community of serious writers working toward publication. Everyone in there wants to improve their work, and most want to sell it.
They are a supportive and wonderful group of folks, and a joy to be around — which is part of the reason I spend as much time as I can in there.
When you ask questions in the private series forum, fellow classmates will answer. Moderators will answer. And if what I would say doesn’t show up in there, I’ll answer.
Along with the lessons, forums, live interaction, and opportunity to ask the questions that will shape the content of the class, you’ll also get the series I’m writing for this class.
This is the Longview Series. I’ll show you how I build each episode, what initial drafts look like, and how it ends. I still have three episodes to finish, and I’m not entirely sure I can finish all three of them in the half a year I’ll be building this class.
But I’m going to give it my best shot. If I can’t, the final stories will go into the class as updates.
But I’m writing in the wee hours of the morning before the class goes live (Tuesday, April 11th, 2017) (updated Tuesday, Sept. 5, 2017) and I’m not going to do a lot to make this pretty.
This is the SPLINTERS letter, after all. The first draft that those of you come in early will see with all its imperfections.
Later I’ll do a professional letter and make sure I haven’t overlooked anything.
Right now, I have to get the page live so those of you who want in early can get there.
So write with joy.
And join me if you’re Splinters-Hardy and ready to ask questions and let me know when you run into trouble so I can figure ways for you to dig yourself out.
Author of The Arhel Series, The Secret Texts Series, The Korre Series, The World Gates Series, The Moon & Sun Series, The Cadence Drake Series, The Longview Series, and several more.