Writing

Developing a Book Series

R.L. Stine

Lesson time 15:19 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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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.
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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.



Reviews

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

Thank you Mr. Stine! You inspired me. I usually pause a course video because I get tired or bored, but this time it was different, this time I stopped watching because I wanted to start writing.... After 2 to 3 hours I looked the counter and I had 3000 words, INCREDIBLE. Looking forward hopefully to your next class, I bet there is still more to tell :)

It just reinforced what I already had in my head about how to write. The main thing I got from Bob (can I call him "Bob"?) was not to be afraid of not giving characters development for younger readers.

R.L. Stine is absolutely great. After taking the class I have such respect for this man. One of my favorite classes thus far.

This class was fantastic. I loved every lesson and his straight to the point advice. Can't recommend it enough.


Comments

Yu-Han

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.

Debbie

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!

Rhonda

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.

Miles T.

I got some book series ideas too, but perhaps I should work on the first book before I pitch it as a series.

Ryan L.

My book was bought by the publisher pretty easily despite being pretty explicitly the start of a series. I suppose it helped that I took the Star Wars approach: there's some definite sequel hooks in there, but in case this ends up being the whole story it's still basically a satisfying beginning, middle, and end all on its own.

Carey

The Channel 11 joke was hilarious. I am really enjoying the R.L. Stein classes!

Patricia F.

I love the CHANNEL 11 Joke! Hilarious. I am concerned though. I have a ms and an outline for a series of 6 with an editor at a large publishing house. The ms is action adventure, anthropomorphic. Completed the premise/promise within the ms. But ended it on a down note as the hook to the second book. I guess they could always ask for a revision of the denouement. Please, cross your fingers for me!