A few days back there was an interesting discussion on one of my writing loops about series. And given that I’ve recently ordered a bunch more books in Ilona Andrews’ Kate Daniels series (which is ZOMG-so-freaking-awesome-I-can’t-tell-you!) and that while I’m waiting for them to arrive I’ve been re-reading the all the books in the series I already own for the umpteenth time, I figured this is the perfect time to talk about series in general.
Okay, so from the point of view of an author trying to hook readers’ attention, and encourage them to seek out the next book, and the next, I guess writing series makes good financial sense. You’ve already invested a lot of time and effort in the “world” you’ve created, so in subsequent books you can build on that — add layers and complexity, finish off one plot or character arc and start a new one, without having to come up with a whole new idea/premise. And if you’re writing a series featuring the same hero or heroine (or both), then I guess you’ve already done the groundwork — laid the foundations of that world in the first book — and hooked readers who’ve become invested in those main characters. Ditto with giving secondary characters their own stories — you’ve (hopefully) already hooked the readers of your original story enough that they’ll be eager to check out what happens with, for example, the heroine’s BFF, or the hero’s scapegrace sibling.
And I guess that’s why, for some of those participating in the discussion, writing a series is perceived as being “easier” than starting from scratch each time with a standalone book featuring a shiny new premise/world/characters, that must wrap up every thread by The End because there isn’t going to be a “continuation” for want of a better term.
The other side of the fence pointed out — and rightly so — that it’s not easy to hold readers’ interest with already “drawn” premises/worlds/characters and keep them coming back for more. Not only do you have to walk a fine line between keeping long-term fans happy (“Do we really have to explain how this works? I already know all this stuff!”) but you have to reveal enough “backstory” that you’re not confusing new readers who’ve picked up the series four books in (“How’n the hell does that work–how come he can do that, but others can’t? God, I’m so fricking confused/frustrated right now!”)
Hey, I’m not making any judgments, here. There were excellent cases made for both sides :) And it made me take a good hard look at why I write series. (Or, in the case of the standalone books that I haven’t written sequels to, why I’ve left the doors open for subsequent books set in those worlds.)
Honestly, it’s a little embarrassing looking back through my old manuscript files and realizing I started out writing series. No BS: my first ever writing project was an entire trilogy; a rather loooong trilogy, too. And the next project, albeit a different genre, was three books of a series. It honestly didn’t occur to me back then that it didn’t make good business sense (i.e. it was totally bat-shit crazy!) to write subsequent books in series if you can’t get an agent/editor interested in the first one. I just… liked writing series. So, at the beginning of my career, I didn’t overthink it; I just wrote ’em because I needed to write ’em.
Yeah, I was pretty damned clueless *eyeroll*.
It was only later on that I became a bit more industry-savvy, and would limit myself to writing the first book only before moving on to another project. And when I did finally get published by a small press, what did I do? Write two novellas in a series, and leave the two full-length novels I published with them open for sequels, too. Just couldn’t help myself, apparently.
So, not counting my small-press pubbed books (no point including them in this discussion as I don’t intend writing any more books in those worlds because, reasons), to date I have three ongoing series — including the sequel to Liminal that I’m currently working on — and one completed trilogy… that I hope one day to write a prequel for.
In contrast, I currently have one standalone indie-published book: Lightning Rider. I planned the story that way. I knew enough by then to not “waste my time” outlining subsequent books in a series, let alone writing them. But I recall at the time of writing I did have a couple of vague ideas in the back of my brain about subsequent books in the Elemental Riders “world”– Earth Riders, anyone? And despite my best intentions of wrapping up all the threads, and writing a complete story, I suspect I infused my hope to someday explore more of that “world” in that book, because even though it’s my least successful indie book sales-wise, I’ve been asked to write a sequel too many times to count.
Anyway, I’d have to be a totally idiot not to realize that series are in my blood. And I write them because first and foremost, I’ve always been an avid reader… and as a reader, I love series — love them with the power of a thousand fiery suns. Heck, for the most part I don’t even get rage-y about cliffhanger endings — yeah, I know! And I think it’s because I’m that reader who will happily wait until that next book comes out, and before I read it, go back and start the series all over again by reading book one, book two, etc. etc., all the while inwardly hugging myself with the sheer joy of knowing that this time, when I get to the last, cliffhanger-y page of book three (or five, or ten!) there’s another book to savor. Hard to get cranky about a cliffhanger when it gives me an excuse to re-read the whole series again :)
Yep, this is my guilty pleasure, folks. I’m that bizarre bird who bought the 14th book in The Wheel of Time series (A Memory of Light) and refused to read it until after I’d re-read books 1 through 13.
Mmm. Maybe it’s because I’m a pretty fast reader that I enjoy re-reading series so much? I find that during the first read, I simply can’t wait to get to The End, and I will speed-read as fast as I humanly can to get there. Whereas during subsequent readings, I’m more relaxed — ready to absorb and savor more of the details and nuances. And if it’s an amazing book that has blown my tiny mind, I have been known to get to The End, and immediately turn to page one and start re-reading….
Ah, no point in over-thinking it. I like what I like! And what I like — love!!! — are series.
So what about you? Are you a serial reader? Or do you prefer one-offs? Inquiring minds need to know!
And here’s my full reading list for May 2015:
- Murder of Crows by Anne Bishop
- Dark Descendant by Jenna Black
- Where The Heart Leads by Stephanie Laurens
- Vision In Silver by Anne Bishop
- Dead Beat by Jim Butcher
- Feyland: The Complete Trilogy by Anthea Sharp
- An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir
- Practicing Pagan by Faie Bell
- The Wrong Girl by C.J.Archer
- What Happens in Ireland by K.E. Whitney
- Cry Uncle by Judith Arnold**
- Falcon’s Fire by Patricia Ryan**
- A New World by Patricia McLinn**
- Of One Heart by Cynthia Wright**
- The Heretic by Joseph Nassise
- Magic Bites by Ilona Andrews
- Magic Burns by Ilona Andrews
- Magic Strikes by Ilona Andrews
- Magic Bleeds by Ilona Andrews
- Magic Slays by Ilona Andrews
**Marriage of Convenience Boxed Set
Maree (The dyed in the wool series-lover)