A few weeks back, I reached out to see who had questions, and Rachel had a great one about how to write a children’s novel series:
Back when I read the Baby Sitters Club as a kid, I would always skim over the whole “introduction” to the club and group, which appeared in each book. I am currently working on a novel series and wonder if each book needs the “introduction” to the story, or if they are a bit unnecessary these days?
This astute reader is totally right. A catch-up introduction is no longer the norm when you’re writing a children’s book series. Whew! No need to write a dry and skip-able synopsis for your manuscripts. (Though, unfortunately, you’ll still have to craft one for when you submit.) However, this opens up a bigger question: “So how do you begin a novel series without boring readers who are familiar with your premise?”
How to Write a Children’s Novel Series: Weave Context into the Beginning
For a more modern feel, you want to include that information in your opening few chapters. However, you don’t want to bog the opening down with tons of facts right off the bat. So when you’re approaching writing a book series, it’s a good idea to start each book with several key facts about your main characters and their relationships, and about the world in which your story is set. Even if it’s in our modern non-fantasy world, each “world” has its own rules and climate, like a high school cafeteria from a popular person’s POV vs. an underdog’s, those “worlds” look very different. If there’s anything else from previous installments that’s crucial to know, make sure to include that information, as well.
By providing this context but weaving it into the first few chapters of the story, you will be welcoming your existing readers back into the story while simultaneously giving new readers a chance to catch up. All without info-dumping. The important thing to remember is to keep everything brief and relevant. The story should start in action that continues the plot you’ve already been telling. This way, it’s easy to keep pacing quick while providing some relevant context.
If your characters are at war at the end of Book 1, open Book 2 with them gearing up for an important battle. From the action, new readers will be able to gather that they’re at war and something important is coming up. During that scene, you will want to drop hints concerning why they’re at war, who they’re fighting against, what the stakes are, etc. Since characters will be interacting as they prepare, you can start introducing a sense of their relationships, values, personal objectives, and motivations. Sure, you have all this juicy backstory about the king and some palace intrigue, but leave it for later (tips on writing backstory). Open with big action that carries the pacing and buys you a few moments to balance it with information.
If you’re wondering how to write a children’s novel series, take a look at some craft books about starting your story. Whether it’s a stand-alone manuscript or part of a novel series, I’d recommend The First Five Pages by Noah Lukeman.
Bring me on board as your children’s book editor. I’ll help you craft a strong beginning that draws readers into your story.