Over the last few I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about how to balance all the things that a good series book needs to.
There’s the book’s individual arc, without which it’s not so much a story on it’s own as part of a multi-volume story. There are series arc considerations, and mini-arc considerations.
Also, how do you give new readers enough info to who is who and what their backstories look like without boring your long-time readers to tears.
For example there was a question from someone in my writers group last night about why a main character took a particular action. I was hard pressed to come with a good short answer on the spot and thinking about it later, the answer is ultimately: because the end of Book III., plus bits elsewhere in other books. The character, of course, knows what happened, as does everybody else in the room for this scene. It’s also not something that can easily be summed up because it’s a multi-chapter chunk of story and character that lays out across multiple books.
So, what of that do you put in? A big chunk will bring the current story to screaming halt. A small chunk would, in this case, probably make the decision seem even stranger. I think that sometimes you just have to leave bits out and hope the reader will trust you that it will all make sense in the end.
Another question has to do with what bits that don’t advance the book arc do you put in to serve the fans and the bigger arcs. There are a lot of character in these books and long time readers like to see the important ones from earlier stories. When is a cameo fan service and series maintenance, and when is it unnecessary diversion.
I really don’t have concrete answers to any of these questions, since it’s something you have to do in context and largely by feel, but this is what I’ve been thinking about, and I thought you might find it interesting.