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I've been working in a novel for a while and it's coming out quite big. If it continues to expand in the current pace, it will probably be over 150k words, so I was thinking about splitting the book into a series.

How do you turn a single book into a series? What kind of adjustments have to be done to story structure and pacing? All of the books should be satisfying to read, but not necessarily independent.


I've read some similar questions on the site and when talking about series, most people like to pit Lord of The Rings against Harry Potter or Percy Jackson. It makes sense, because those are good representatives of two different kinds of series: ones who tell one cohesive long story (LoTR) and ones who tell a long story made of shorter stories (HP).

I'm personally aiming for something more LoTR-like, but maintaining well defined arcs in every book, somewhat similar to what the Star Wars (original trilogy) movies do. SW is frequently said to be a very vanilla interpretation of the Hero's Journey, and that can be applied to both A New Hope and the trilogy as a whole.


Everything having been explained, here's the question:

When turning a single book into a series, what changes must be made to pacing and story structure?

Where should the split point(s) be?

How make single books satisfying?

Does every book need to repeat the three act structure (presentation, conflict, resolution)?

How to keep the reader interested?

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    I'd say the split points are at the 1/3 marks, approximately. BUT of course your split is directed by story. You make the single stories satisfying by being certain they successfully meet the promise you establish early: The Problem. IMO every book repeats the three act structure though I also believe rules are made to be broken and the human brain is capable of understanding a different structure. Keep the reader interested with good characters. (Also, first book has challenge, second book has bigger challenge, third book has grand finale challenge.) Yes? – DPT Oct 19 '17 at 16:30
  • It by Stephen King has more than 1, 100 pages in his book. – Aspen the Artist and Author Oct 19 '17 at 21:07
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It mostly comes down to pacing and how detailed you get with the story. Lord of the Rings can easily be chopped down into a single book. It's about the content and not just fluff content, but good relevant content to the story that keeps people interested. Let's take a look at your questions

When turning a single book into a series, what changes must be made to pacing and story structure?

The pacing, if you want a one story epic arc like LoTR, needs to be slower, significantly slower. That isn't to say you add in all the boring details, but you need to expand on the important events. Add in more skirmishes between armies, add in new, more key event plots. Spend more time explaining important elements. Add subplots and layered stories. If the MC has a background (Aragorn's background story), use that to help build the richness/depth of the character instead of lightly touching it as you may in a single book. Have it be a reoccurring and growing subplot that boils into the apex of the story.

Where should the split point(s) be?

This is something only you can address. Think of your story in acts. Where would be a good cliff hanger? Where would be a place that if your first book ended, I am running to the store to buy the second book? Reflect on LoTR again, the second book ended with Sam hiding as the orcs came and took Frodo's webbed and unconscious body away. Cliff hanger. What is going to happen to Frodo? Is it all over since he has the ring and was captured? We don't know.

How make single books satisfying?

What satisfies you when you read a book, in particular a series? Each book should be an act, a sub segment of the greater story. As I stated with one of your earlier questions, adding subplot helps to create great individual books. The subplots have all the elements of a story, but the main plot is still growing. The subplot climax is resolved and the heroes can continue on their journey into the next book as they climb the main plot.

As with any book, what makes a book satisfying is not letting your reader feel cheated by skipping/rushing events, but not going too slow over boring topics. Pacing and quality writing that is well organized leads to satisfied readers. If the topic is boring, if the material isn't good, no matter how well written it is, the readers will lose interest.

Does every book need to repeat the three act structure (presentation, conflict, resolution)?

Yes, to some degree. Possibly not a resolution, or a resolution to the main conflict, but it does need to follow the normal flow of a plot. As stated in the last question, some times ending on conflict draws readers into the next story followed by immediate resolution of the subplot and continuation of the cycle.

How to keep the reader interested?

As I have stated several times, interesting stories, and quality writing is how you keep a reader interested. Pacing of the story, action, cliff hangers, tension, release. Maybe not every story needs to have a ton of elements to it, but I have found the best stories utilizes all the emotions a person feels at the right times a person should be feeling them if they were in the story.

As with running a business (location, location, location) a story is all about content, content, content. Not just content but also, the delivery of content. I can go out there and tell a joke and no one laughs. You can say the same joke, to the same people, and get the whole room rolling on their backs. Bottom line is that story telling is like a good joke, if it is told well, people will be interested and satisfied.

Also some advice that really stuck to me from one of our own (Mark Baker), "Not everyone will enjoy a rhubarb and pickle cookie. A lot of people though want a really good chocolate chip cookie."

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  1. Split points should be logically placed after resolutions of story arcs. Avoid "vertical" splitting like it was done for "A Feast for Crows" and "A Dance With Dragons".
  2. It would be really dissatisfying (at least to me) if a book is ended without clear resolution. I remember I wasn't happy about the ending of "The Fellowship of the Ring". But I wanted to to read more right away :)
  3. For subsequent books in the series, you can skip presentation, although it might be nice to refresh reader's memory. Conflict and resolution should be present, I think, otherwise it would not be a real book that can stand on its own.
  4. That is a million (or is it a billion now?) dollar question. If the story and the characters are engaging, readers will finish your series and come back asking for more.

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