“Not Another Series!”

I’ve seen some writers, and critics and readers, complaining about the number of authors writing series of books.  Now, I’m certainly guilty of doing just that, as you probably know.  But why do I write in series?  The simple answer is that some stories encourage  me to do so.  In fact, there’s a very real possibility that some of my shorter books could have been held back and put together as single works.  That said, there’s no guarantee that the prospect of a series wouldn’t have raised its head.  In truth, like readers everywhere, we writers get attached to some of our characters, and/or the worlds/universes we create for them!  And that phenomenon isn’t predictable.

Of course, some authors set out quite deliberately to write a series.  They have it all planned far ahead.  They have every reason to do so, too.  The emotional, creative and temporal investment in their invention is such that they would, in fact, be underselling themselves and their efforts.  They know this, from the very inception of the project.  I know that these circumstances exist, both from the biographies of such writers and from the fact that, many years ago, I actually planned such a series.  It was, most definitely, far more than simply a series of books!  I had to create detailed maps, not just of small areas but of a whole world.  I had to invent new languages, and even new scripts.  And then there were the numerous species, races and histories.  To contemplate going to such extremes of creativity for a single tome would, to put it bluntly, just utterly foolish!

But there are accidental series, too.  These can happen in two ways.  First, the author recognises a potential behind the original creation – and runs with it.  Second, readers can plead for, even demand, more!  Of course, the author has to be able to see what it is that has so strongly hooked those readers.  If they can’t, then no more can be successfully written.  I would, if it was in my character, envy those authors who enjoy such demands and pleas from their readers!  For myself, I’m limited to the first accidental event.  I can only hope that readers share my interest in a series which is taking an ever larger life of its own.

Let me take a personal example!  My novelette, Shade of Evil, was originally intended to be a single work, part of my experiment in genres I wouldn’t normally write in.  Even after I had finished writing it, there was no obvious course forward.  But then, during the final stages of preparation for publication, the final scenes of the book suddenly threw out grappling hooks!  They took a very firm hold.  The characters, and the organisation they worked for, piqued my interest.  It wasn’t long, therefore, before they appeared in a new story.  It was begun, and there was no turning back.  Why?  Well, apart from those sneaky grappling hooks, there was a question of a ‘tidy’ conclusion.  Sure, Harry’s story was definitely done, but I could feel the suspended story of that intrepid bunch, the Guardians, and especially G1!  So it continued, and still does.

I like standalone stories as much as anybody.  As an author, they’re a lot less troublesome to write!  That doesn’t, however, stop the need for some stories to go far beyond a single volume.

I probably haven’t persuaded those who bemoan the plethora of series that there are often good reasons for them, but I thought it worth trying!

~ Steve

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About Steve

An author since the age of 13 years, writing again dominates my activities. My "Imagineer-ing" blog is my primary site. Also: Beginner knitter since November 2010. Favourite knitting techniques: cable and lace. Beginner cross stitcher. Beginner jewellery maker. With the promotion of self publication and all the other work that has been going on here, Dad decided around 2am this morning (22/11/2013) that it was time to begin his next adventure. He was seen off earlier the previous evening by myself, my brother, my sister in law, and my sister, as well as his wife (our mum), and an enigmatic being known only as A Lorraine. After this time of story telling, laughing, crying, joking and mickey taking, we saw how tired both mum and dad were, and we decided to leave them under the (sometimes) gentle care of The Lorraine. When Dad found the timetable for his travels, he let Mum know gently, which woke her from her drowsing, then, with the same gentleness he showed in this universe, he boarded his favourite mode of transport, the Interdimensional Steam Train, and set off with a smile and a wave. For those of us closest, that smile was a reminder that his pain has ended, and the wave, an indicator that he will pop in to all those that knew him, from time to time. Usually at the most inconvenient and in opportune moments he can. While we are sad that he is no longer here, we are happy he now has no pain, and is experiencing more extraordinary things that his writers mind will be frantically weaving into a new story. Posted by Son Damien

6 thoughts on ““Not Another Series!”

  1. I, for one, am perfectly happy with books in series, provided the author keeps their eye on the ball and doesn’t let the story or characters drift away out of sight – I’m afraid there is one best selling (now deceased) author who did this and I lost complete interest after the 10th book and didn’t bother getting any more :(

    • Thanks, Chris :) Yes, keeping in focus is important! If a side branch MUST be explored, it should be either a standalone set in the same world OR a wholly different series. It’s always a shame when the author gets lost in just churning out more when they’ve lost interest themselves – and that’s possibly what happened with your unnamed author. :(

  2. Personally, I wrote a sequel to my novel because I had spent so much time and effort creating the world and the characters that I found that I couldn’t say everything I wanted to say about them in one book. Will I write a third? I’m not sure–right now I am sick of the whole thing. But I might come up with more to talk about later.

    • Definitely an ‘accidental’ series then, Misha ;) I wonder if folk complain about one-off movies/TV dramas are expanded into series so much? Especially if the expansion occurs before the original story is screened? An maybe that’s another reason we have so many series – they’re a fundamental part of our viewing culture! I applaud you for recognising the need to not undersell your efforts :) That said, any further development must be driven by your own desire to pursue it, and not by what you think readers want or even pressure from those readers. And positively the WORST reason to do more is because an agent or publisher demands it!

  3. At the request of several readers, the majority unknown to me, I wrote a sequel to my first novel. Now I am being asked to turn another novel into a family saga, as more emails drop into my box. When the reader starts the idea, do I ignore? I think I would be silly not to write a series if that is what is keeping them reading! :)

    • Yes, Glynis, it’s important to listen to your readers, but you also have to be fair to yourself. Apart from anything else, you can’t possibly please them all ;)

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