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The Career Author Podcast: Episode 70 – Series and Writing Spin-offs

It’s not always easy to know when to end a series or if you should spin one off a successful one. Zach and J. break down your options for both existing and new series. You will discover the pros and cons of writing spin-offs and more:

  • What makes the guys such a good team
  • How to make sure you always have the story notes you need on-hand while you’re writing
  • The power of knowing the end of your series before you begin
  • How to decide when to end a series
  • Why you need to create your own unique definition of success
  • Why a flagship series – a series with at least six books in it – is essential to building long term success as an author
  • Where you can learn more about the state of paid advertising in publishing
  • How to plan for success as an author + the importance of focusing on commercially viable series
  • When writing spin-offs is a good idea
  • Some of the factors to consider before you start a spin-off series

The Career Author Podcast is a podcast where co-authors J. Thorn and Zach Bohannon share their struggles and successes as full-time authors, advice for improving your writing craft, and honest discussions of what it takes to build a successful career as an author.

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5 thoughts on “The Career Author Podcast: Episode 70 – Series and Writing Spin-offs

  • Hi guys. Great way today J. I’ve ignored that column in Scrivener because I’ve always wondered what I could or should do with it and now I know 🙂.
    Enjoyed the discussion today. I am a gardener (I think that’s what I’m called) in that I always know the ending and I know the next few chapters. I’ve tried to plot but my writing mind won’t let me stick to a plot however I can always stick to my ending because that’s what drives me on.
    I have written (not yet published) a 3 book military scifi series. I knew the ending of book 3 before I started writing book 1. When I heard about the idea of a “flagship” series I wondered how can I carry on my series? Then an ending for book 6 jumped into my head and this is the really spooky part (cue Twilight Zone music) the seeds were already in books 1 to 3. It’s as if my mind was thinking without me. So now I can write books 4 – 6 because I know the ending.
    If one wanted to plan a long series as you suggest, a way to do it might be to plan your arcs like this; 1-3-6-9-12, etc. So you need an arc (in my case an ending) for every book, 3 books, 6 books, 9 books and 12 books etc. By knowing the arcs (endings) that far ahead you can plant seeds in book 1 for the end of book 3, book 6, book 9 and book 12 and so on.This makes it easier to plant the seeds and it makes the seeds like clues in a mystery book. They are there but barely noticeable at the time and when they grow the reader will remember, sometimes with a small push, “of course, that’s why in book 2 that happened… or I wondered why in book 4 he did that…”
    You’re right about spin-offs never quite reaching the mark. Think Star Wars. Individually the spin-offs are not bad but there is no 6 book arc driving them on. They have the feel of money vessels. George Lucas should contact me or you guys to discuss a whole series. Maybe we can contact him and sell him an idea…🙂
    Great show today. Looking forward to the next few shows.

  • Spinoffs!
    My favourite TV spinoff is NCIS, which was a spinoff of JAG. I agree, though, a spinoff is at least as much of a gamble as a brand new series. It’ll hit or it won’t, and you’re going to have to do the same work.

    I use that panel in Scrivener for what I’ve been taught to call ‘the sentence’ – a 30-word or less statement of the primary change in the scene, who is most affected, who (or what) is driving it, and where it’s happening. It keeps me on track, and lets me know when I’ve finished. (Has the thing changed? No? You don’t have a scene yet.)

    I’m a moderate planner – I do a sentence-per-scene outline for the book I’m on, a sentence (in the form ‘Protagonist vs Antagonist in Setting with Twist’ – credit to Holly Lisle) for the whole Series, another Sentence for each planned book, and a sort of structure to let me know what each book has to touch on, what conflicts resonate through the whole series, and what people / people groups show up through the series. It lets me be pretty flexible with some details, but it means specific conflicts and relationships are laid out ahead of time. Though I may not know where exactly I’ll address them, I know I’ll get there. It’s sort of like pre-packing your pants.

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