Developing a Middle-Grade Book Series…

Image: 123RF stock photo
Image: 123RF stock photo

Ever wonder how your favorite middle grade author came up with the idea to write a series? Many of the Emblazon authors here have written a series, including myself, and believe me when I say that it’s no small task. The most important thing to remember in creating a series for ANY genre is to connect the dots, create a common thread to tie your individual stories together into a nice, shiny bow at the series end. Complicated? Not really. Here’s a peek at the process of how I developed my middle grade series:

First: I made sure that my adolescent characters had enough problems going on both individually and together in order to carry my series through the ten books (eleven if you include the prequel) I have planned. In essence, the entire series needs to get from A to B to Z dragging my characters along (sometimes kicking and screaming) until, by the end of the series he or she or they need to come out changed. They need to have shown growth, they need to have evolved through the course of their adventures.

Second: I didn’t put any elements into my first story that I didn’t want to live with through the entire series of books. It’s a long haul to drag unnecessary fillers such as a troublesome pet, a psychotic boyfriend or an ongoing health problem for the ride. Like they say, “Use it or lose it”.

Third: I didn’t solve the big mysteries or resolve all my characters’ problems in the first book. Too much, too soon. The idea is to hook readers with that first book, and get them begging for more. Characters should still have dreams and goals and ambitions to work toward through the length of the series. And while I do answer the burning questions and resolve the terrible conflicts, I will make sure that I replace them with additional—hopefully more serious—ones.

Fourth: It’s all about building relationships between my characters, and getting my readers to care about them. So I throw obstacles at my characters and create the necessary tension to get readers to care about, and sympathize with the characters. It’s all about the journey and how my characters work together to resolve their problems. I want my readers to be as invested at the end of the series in how that relationship is working out as they were in the first book.

Fifth: I keep a series guidebook stuffed with all the vital information on my main characters— and recurring side characters. The color of their hair and eyes, their brother’s or sister’s names, or any allergies is vital to log. Believe me readers know when something is amiss and will call you on it!

Sixth: When I first sat down to plan my tween time travel series, I made sure I was writing it for the right reason—because I loved my characters enough to tell their story over a period of years. And hopefully, if I’ve done a good job, then I will be lucky enough to engage many readers to follow my series for years to come.

Remember—the first book in a series is the most important, especially if you’re a debut author like I was. This book will be your hook, and the first glimpse readers have into the world and characters you’ve created. So, what are some of your favorite middle grade series? We’d love to hear from you!

This post is part of Tween the Weekends, a monthly theme here at Emblazon. To participate, visit out TTW page and join in!

Sharon Ledwith is the author of the middle-grade/YA time travel series, THE LAST TIMEKEEPERS, available through Musa Publishing. When not writing, researching, or revising, she enjoys reading, yoga, kayaking, time with family and friends, and single malt scotch. Sharon lives in the wilds of Muskoka in Central Ontario, Canada, with her hubby, a water-logged yellow Labrador and moody calico cat.

Learn more about Sharon Ledwith on her WEBSITE and BLOG. Stay connected on FACEBOOK and TWITTER.

27 thoughts on “Developing a Middle-Grade Book Series…

    1. Thank you, Sara! All I’m doing is sharing my journey with other like-minded writers! Cheers!

  1. Fabulous, Sharon! And a good reminder while I get back into the second book of my Taylor Davis series after a summer off. I’m especially seeing the need for a log book. My first trilogy was more loosely related and didn’t require as much continuity, but this time I’ve already had to start a Word doc with some of those details, and I’m forseeing many more. Thanks for the peek into your methods!

    1. Thanks, Michelle! Writing a series can get confusing at times, and it’s best to be prepared in every way and detail you can think of. As the saying goes, “There’s method in my madness!” Cheers for your support!

    1. Humble thanks, Lisa! You got a great series going, if you don’t mind me saying. Best wishes!

  2. I love the log book idea. I am currently writing a series and I’m always retreading parts of book one for some of the character descriptions that I started with. Great post Sharon.

    1. I found it easier to have basic descriptions, likes and all of my characters at my fingertips. Log books can be an author’s BFF! Cheers, Linda Lee and best wishes with your series!

  3. Thanks for all the insights, Sharon. Never imagined myself attempting a series, but lately the idea sounds more and more intriguing. All these pointers will certainly be a huge help if I ever take the leap.

    1. A series is one way to develop a fan base, Cordelia! Try it, you’ll like it! Cheers for your support, girl!

  4. These are all helpful tips, Sharon, especially the log book. I’m working on a series, too, and I see how helpful this can be. Happy TTW!

    1. Thanks, Lynn! The log book is the glue that keeps my series organized! Best wishes on your series and happy TTW to you too!

  5. Sharon, These are some awesome points–advice I wish I’d had when I started my series. 🙂 But it’s never too late to incorporate them. And for my next series I’ll be on fire

    1. Is that why I smell smoke, Lois? Wink. You’re right, it’s never too late! You go, girl! Cheers for your support!

  6. All terrific points and some things I wish I’d paid more attention to while writing my series (it’s difficult to go back and find that specific passage where you described a side character’s appearance!). Enjoy your ‘tween the weekend day 😉

    1. That’s why I thought I’d start writing out everything I could think of, Alan! Cheers for your comment, and happy TTWing!

  7. AWESOME writing tips, Sharon. Everything you said was right on the money. Thanks for these great reminders (as I write the first novel in my next series.) 🙂

    1. Thanks, Adrienne! I think it was a learn-from-experience kind of thing! Cheers and best wishes in writing your series!

    1. I think that guide book has become quite a hit, J.L.! LOL! Thanks for stopping by to comment! Cheers!

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