Welcome all dreamers, fantasists, bibliophiles, and romantics. Join me Mondays and Fridays for speculation about other worlds, exploration of the human heart and soul in fiction and fact, sojourns in history and science, advice and tidbits in the realms of story, and thoughts on everything in between...

Friday, December 6, 2013

Worldcon Treasures: Keeping Control of a Long Series

For those of us who love long fantasy series, or any long series, who enjoy returning book after book to the characters we’ve come to adore, an author who lets a series get derailed is a nightmare scenario. So how do authors control their series? In this year’s Worldcon, Lone Star Con 3, authors Elizabeth Bear, Steven Brust, Trina Marie Phillips, Saladin Ahmed, and L. E. Modesitt shared their insights.


  • When the author starts writing things that aren’t true to that particular series.
  • When the author starts into tangents with minor characters.
  • Remember though, some lack of control is essential when writing a series.


  • Especially if it’s a longer series, include things in the early books that can be picked up as things to explore in later books.
  • Remember that all narrators are unreliable, so be aware of how unreliable any given narrator is. How does this narrator lie to himself? Narrator unreliability can be used to keep things interesting. (A note from me: If a narrator lies to himself or to the readers, it should naturally fit that narrator. Don’t force it.)
  • Especially in science fiction and fantasy, be careful not to have things in later books contradict what’s established in earlier books.
  • On the flip side, intentionally contradicting something can give the impression that the characters live in a complex and inconsistent world.
  • Alternately, keep in mind that different narrators see the world differently, and that can cause inconsistencies.
  • A few inconsistencies can actually add to believability. After all, does our world make perfect sense?
  • Throw everything into each book. Don’t hold back on the cool stuff just because you have other books to write.
  • Keeping control of a series might be overrated according to some.
  • Choosing point-of-view and tense can be very impactful to how the series goes.
  • The first book in a series must work on some level as a standalone.
  • Bring that first book to a point of emotional closure.
  • To handle those readers who begin a series in the middle, give bits and pieces of explanation of previous books. Use a sentence here and there, but nothing big.
  • Keep a series bible.
  • Fans will keep up with all the series’s content. They’re a great resource.
  • Sometimes, keeping control is knowing when to stop writing.

Thank you for joining me for today’s Worldcon Treasures. We’ll resume this series next Friday and look at what might be the next trend after urban fantasy. Until then, swing back by on Monday for our read of The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson and for more great writing tips directly from his masterful work.

Can you think of any examples of a series that lost control or any series that do a great job at staying on course?


  1. I'm a fan of Laurell K. Hamilton. I like her Merry Gentry series, which she keeps on track and gives interesting twists to. I love the faerie-court politics.
    Nice post, Laura. Great tips!

    1. Yeah, Hamilton is truly a testament to keeping a series going. She's so popular for a reason. Thanks for the example, Jessi!