Saturday, August 12, 2006

Series Writing

I'm sitting here, it's a beautiful Saturday morning and I had no idea what to post today. I was about to threaten you with more travel photos when I hopped over to Alison Kent's blog and found this link to the The Lipstick Chronicles.
One of the great debates in authordom is the great series question: How long is too long? Putting aside the exceptions - Sue Grafton, Diane Mott Davidson, J.D. Robb - who have created and run with such great characters that we never want them to end, I think the fact is that every series has an endpoint.
The question interests me since I'm embarking on a new series with Slave to Sensation. So far, my closest brush to any kind of series writing has come with Desert Warrior and Craving Beauty, two loosely linked books set in the same fictional desert kingdom. But I always knew I'd write a series because I really like exploring the same set of characters or the same world, learning new things and watching the world/characters develop.

In fact, it's eye-opening to realize just how many of my favorite authors write series - J.D. Robb, Sherrilyn Kenyon, Christine Feehan, Mercedes Lackey (Valdemar books), Anne Bishop (Black Jewels trilogy), Laurell K. Hamilton, John Sands, Kathy Reichs, Kay Hooper...the list goes on and on. I think part of the reason I love reading series is because you get to watch things change over time. Instead of a snapshot into the characters lives, you get a motion picture that goes from act to act.

But having said that, I'm very aware of the initial question that started this blog: How long is too long? It's really something that I think must play in the back of the mind of every series writer.

What influences you to carry on or not carry on with a series?


Milady Insanity said...

If I feel like I'm reading the same book again, it's over. It's as simple as that.

And if I ever decide to write a series and I do that, I hope somebody smacks me silly over it.

meljean brook said...

I've been struggling a bit with this, too -- I've just started a series that I originally intended to be a trilogy...but in writing it, several directions opened up that I hadn't anticipated, but that I'd really love to explore. I do have an overreaching story arc in mind; it might just take me longer to get to the end than I originally planned.

I think once there's nothing new, or if I ever feel that I'm rehashing something I've written before (yep, what May said) then I'll want to end it. I don't see any reason to assign an arbitrary end to a series that is still fresh, or saying, "eight books is too much!" when it might take twelve to tell the story.

On the other hand, some series maybe should end after a three or four -- but it all depends on the series, the depth of the worldbuilding, and the characters populating it.

Olga said...

I read some good series Dundee, Idaho, by Brenda Novak, for example, and I like finding out what happened to the characters I grew attached to. Laura Iding has great series about Flight Doctors. But if it's the same thing chewed over and over, I'll never pick up the book from that series again.

Stacy~ said...

There definitely has to be growth with the characters, and the exploration of new territory. The thing with the JD Robb books is that with Eve's reluctance to open up and trust, we've slowly gotten to know her, and the need for the continuation of the series hasn't ended because even at book 23(?) we are still learning new things about her that explain so much and are pivotal to the development of many aspects of her life - her marriage, her career, the possibility of children.

But not all series are created equal and even if an author only intends to have 2 or 3 books but contimues beyond that, it's okay as long as there is a need for it, but 9 times out of 10, there is a forseeable end.

Nalini Singh said...

I agree with the things everyone's already pointed out. I also think that the author should always know what the endgame is. That way, everything is working towards that ending, whichever # book that ending ends up being in.

Stacy - I love the JD Robb series and agree with you about Eve completely. I think part of what makes the JD Robb books so powerful and interesting is that they're about a single couple. Most romances go from couple to couple, which I think makes them more vulnerable to the 'repetition' that May, Meljean and Olga spoke about. Which makes it even more important to have a long-term story arc worked out in advance.

Kelley said...

That is a hard question to answer. I think it all depends on the story being told. Some can go on, others you feel like it is the same story over and over again.

Anonymous said...

You have to love it as a writer. Do you have the vision to go beyond a few books? Can you see an arc of plot throughout several books?

These are the things I think

Way helpful, huh?