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Arts & Entertainment

Developing a Book Series

R.L. Stine

Lesson time 15:18 min

To develop a series, focus on selling the first book. Learn how to construct rich settings and characters that leave your readers eager to read book two.

R.L. Stine
Teaches Writing for Young Audiences
The Goosebumps author teaches you how to generate ideas, outline a plot, and hook young readers from the first page.


This is bad for my horror image, but one of my favorite writers is PG Wodehouse, who wrote the Jeeves and Wooster books and a whole lot of other books. And I just-- I've read-- well, he wrote 92 books, and he lived to be 92. And he wrote 92 novels and they were all exactly the same. They all took place in the same world, they all took this wonderful world you want to be in, and all the same zany characters in book after book. They're basically the same plots and I love them. And I think when you're writing something, you have to think about that, and think about, how are you going to get people to feel that way about you? How are you going to get people to think, gee, I want to read the next one. I want to be back in that world. And as a series writer, I mean, that's what you try to do. That's why you write a series. You want people to like the world you've created so much that they'll come back. [MUSIC PLAYING] I think readers like series because they know what to expect. They're going to go back in the world that they know, they know exactly what's going to happen in the book but it's going to be a little different. They know they like these characters, and I think this is why they-- series have always been popular. But as far as writing a series, I would say don't count on it. Don't start out by thinking you want to do a series. Let's say you have a book that really catches on. You have some characters that people really like, and the first book is a bestseller. Then think about doing a sequel, doing a second one. Then think about, maybe I can keep going with these characters. Maybe I can keep going with these stories and then have it develop into a series. But I think it's very hard these days, especially, to start out saying, I'm going to do a series. Publishers aren't looking for series and it's kind of a dead-end for beginners and for people. Publishers, they don't want series anymore. In 1992, we took "Goosebumps" to Scholastic, and we said, we'd like to do this scary series. Here's a bunch of titles we'd like to try. A scary series for 7 to 12-year-olds. And they said, all right, well, let's try it out. We'll buy four of them. Let's start out with four. That would never happen today. No one buys more than one book, or maybe two. It just doesn't happen. It's publishing. It's just changed, and they're much more careful and much more cost-conscious, and they're not going to buy 12 books unseen, without knowing. They're going to buy one and see how it does, and if the first one catches on, then they'll buy another one and try that. The thing is with "Goosebumps", if we had tried it today, it never would have worked. We put out the first "Goosebumps". No one noticed it. We put out the second one, there were two of them, no one-- they sat on the shelves. And today with bookstores, with computers and everything, they would have been gone. But when we got four books out, and there were four of them on the shelf, sudde...

Take the fear out of writing

Award-winning novelist R.L. Stine wrote jokes and funny stories for 20 years before he switched gears and became a horror-writing legend. Since then, the author of the Goosebumps and Fear Street series has sold more than 400 million copies. In his first-ever online writing class, Bob takes the fear out of crafting fiction. Whether you’re a beginner or a pro, you’ll learn new ways to conquer writer’s block, develop plots, and build nail-biting suspense that will thrill young readers.


Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars.

I spent so much time finding every last goosebumps book. My son and his 2nd grade teacher bonded over them. Great to learn how you do it.

Oh my gosh, I was so blown away by R.L. Stine's Masterclass course. He gave clear, tactile advice and broke down the process of writing into chunks that were easy to understand. Best of all, his attitude towards writing is very positive, which makes me feel excited about starting!

Excellent course that was key in helping me complete and self-publish my first novel aimed at 8-12 year olds interested in scary stories. 5/5 stars!

Wonderful class that really provides Mr. Stein's perspective on why he writes and how he plans and finishes his novels. I've long-admired his work and was delighted to discover his class.


Keven P.

That's how I found the Goosebumps series as a kid. The first four were in the school library.


I used to work at Barnes & Noble. There's a retail algorithm that the company uses to know how many books to push out, and which ones are selling. For example, if you sell 3 of the same book in a week, the algorithm might automatically send your store 5 more. That's what he means by the computers in stores. You'd also get lists of books to pull, that would be sent back to a central site if they weren't hot enough.


We'll call it "Channel 11". What a punchline. He should rethink leaving comedy writing.

Amanda G.

I hire an editor sometimes, great guy. I recommended him to a young lady who wanted to self publish, she was probably 19. She hired him, and promptly came back to me, sobbing because he raked her over the coals. I said, if they do nothing but flatter you, they’ve stolen your money, for one. And for another thing, much better an editor abuse you privately than letting readers slay you in Amazon reviews!!!!


This masterclass has been so funny. I didn’t expect to laugh this much. What a perfect class! Learning while laughing.

Margaret M.

RL, who is the "we" in setting up the mythology of Fear Street? Was it you and your wife, or you and the Scholastic editors? Anyway, good work!

Jayne F.

I love Stine as a teacher- entertaining and relaxed. Enjoying this series..... and the advice is great.

Jacob R.

I started writing a series as a kid, but after a while, it got monotonous. One of my problems with reading a series, like Animorphs, has always been that I know that there is another book coming after this. So I already know that everyone is going to triumph and nothing catastrophic is going to happen. With Goosebumps, this isn't really a problem, because there were never any guaranteed sequels; each story is its own world, and sequels don't come immediately after.


I like his honesty. He is not here to pretend having done what he has not. I very much like the fact that he always seems to find inspiration in advertising! Goosebumps is indeed, a very catchy double-meaning name!


I'm loving this workshop and there's great advice in this class. But, Mr. Stine is speaking from a traditional publishing perspective. There are a lot of opportunities in the indie world that are not available in the trad. Series are NOT dead. Indies are rocking series. Indies who have series do much better than most with single titles. As a reader, I love being immersed in series - in the words and characters. I read over 200 books a year (yes I read very fast) and the majority of books I read are in series. And, there are things that traditional publishing companies won't take a risk with. Indies are able to do so and there are many series out there doing well with a mix of characters - vampires, ghosts, shifters, you name it. If you're looking to submit to publishers, then yes - you'll be restricted to what they'll accept. But, if you plan to go indie - you can take those risks. I don't fault Mr. Stine because his experience is within traditional publishing and he may not have any experience within the indie world.