How to Outline a Series {Part Two}

Some stories need more than one installment to tell. Sometimes, that’s the author’s decision from the beginning. And other times…those stories inform us there’s more to be told! While I don’t always outline my writing projects, I thought it would be fun to take a look at how I approach writing series when I outline them.

In the first half of this series, I talked a bit about how I outline a planned series. For the second half, I’ll be talking about how I approach an unplanned series!

Which happens a lot. Because I have a very difficult time not chasing after shiny new ideas.


Sometimes, it’s an open plot thread that prompts the thought of a sequel. Other times, it’s a vivid scene or line that starts to paint the mental image of what a sequel could be. I try to let the ideas simmer for a bit before deciding whether or not to start writing them.

As with planned series, I have some questions I like to consider when brainstorming the idea as well:

Does the sequel focus on the same characters? How long after the first book does this one begin? Will this installment be the same format as the first (short story/novella/novel)?

I’ll also go back through and look at the first installment and see if there are any other storylines that I want/need to close. Then, if the idea feels developed enough to pursue, I start piecing the details together:

Book Two:
  • Main events:
    • What are they?
    • Order of occurrence?
    • How are they influenced by the first installment’s events?
  • Characters:
    • How have they changed from first installment?
    • How does that affect the story?
    • Are there new characters?
      • Who are they?

A few notes:
My outlines are usually only marked by major events. I like having the rest open so the story can take its own turns. This is also why I don’t spend a lot of time trying to figure out my subplots until after the first drafts are done—I usually don’t know what they are until then! :)

Have you ever written a series? Tell me about your process! Any tips?