Writing, 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.

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Topics include: Book Series and the Publishing World • Types of Book Series • Case Study: The Goosebumps World • Rules of the World • How Goosebumps Started • How Fear Street Began


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...

About the Instructor

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.

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R.L. Stine

The Goosebumps author teaches you how to generate ideas, outline a plot, and hook young readers from the first page.

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