I do love reading series, and only wish the authors could somehow churn out one a month or so. =) But alas, writing a series is HARD WORK, but Laurie Schnebly Campbell is here to break it down for us in her post on Seriously, Series. Take it away Laurie!
Would you ever consider writing a series?
Seriously, it’s hard enough to write the first book — why on earth would you want to write two more? Or <gasp> five more? Or <clutch your chest and stagger> an open-ended series that lasts for 10, 25 or even 50 books?
Well, there are people who do it and love it. Which is lucky for readers who love series…and that includes a lot of us!
THE BEST OF SERIES
Because, really, most of us have our own favorite series. More likely, we have our favorite six or eight series — of which some may be relatively obscure while others are followed by millions of readers. Even though the less celebrated ones can be fabulous, those ranked as favorites tend to become bestsellers simply from word-of-mouth.
After all, who HASN’T heard of Stephanie Plum? Katniss Everdeen? James Bond? Harry Potter? Eve Dallas & Roarke? Whether or not you’ve read their series, you very likely know something about ‘em…whether it’s just “yeah, I’ve seen those books” or “the next title is due out in __ weeks.”
What makes those series so popular?
There aren’t QUITE as many opinions as there are readers for each series, but most fans agree on at least some of what they especially like. The characters. The plots. The setting. The suspense. The humor. The drama. The voice.
Yet those are the same things readers love about stand-alone books, as well. So why do the series books tend to rank higher on the bestseller lists?
It’s because there’s strength in numbers. If a reader can choose one fabulous stand-alone title or one fabulous series of books, they’re more likely to choose what’ll offer them more hours of enjoyment. Same as choosing an exquisite piece of sushi or an exquisite five-course dinner: when the quality is wonderful either way, most people tend to opt for quantity.
But does that mean you want to write a series?
Well, there are some advantages. And some disadvantages. Which speak more loudly to you?
WHY TO WRITE A SERIES
- If you have a story that’s just too big to contain in a single book, a series gives you the freedom to provide all the fascinating details and plot twists and character development that you’d have to leave out if the story were confined to a shorter number of pages.
- We already know, readers love series. They’ll happily grab Book Three or Book Twelve as soon as it comes out, whereas before buying a stand-alone they might need more persuasion that this IS a book they’ll enjoy. Once they’ve committed to a series, they’re likely to stay on board.
- Setting and character development are easier when your series features the same characters in the same place. Sure, it’s the same amount of work up front establishing who & when & where these people are, but once you’ve figured that out you don’t need to repeat the entire amount of work for subsequent titles.
WHY TO AVOID A SERIES
- A series may take more time than you have (or want) to invest. If your schedule doesn’t allow many hours for writing, you might rather use those few you DO have to create a book that can stand alone and be enjoyed as is — without needing additional books to support the overall story arc.
- If you love the adventure of creating new people and new worlds and new situations with every book, you might feel too constrained by a series. Why commit to something that’ll leave you bored and frustrated while readers are demanding more of the same?
- Readers have higher expectations of a series. If the shop’s sign has changed color or the character’s motivation has suddenly shifted between Book Two and Book Three, they’ll complain about it. They want things to stay the same, but they don’t want TOO much repetition…which can be a tricky balance.
So, weighing the pros and cons, suppose you’re thinking about a series. That leads us right into:
WHAT TO CONSIDER
Before you embark on a series of two to 200 books, there are several issues to address — besides the fundamental one of “do I really want to do this?”
* TYPE: What kind of series will this be? Is it suited for the genre you write?
* CHARACTER/S: If there’s a main character, will this person be static or dynamic? What about the secondaries?
* ARC: Along with the individual story arc for each book, what will your series arc be?
* EXPOSITION: How will you bring newcomers up to speed without boring your long-term readers? How will you keep them engaged?
* TIME: What kind of time can you commit to a series?
* STYLE: Will this be first or third-person? What will the books have in common? What will make each story different?
* EVOLUTION: How long should this series last? How can you keep each new book familiar but fresh for you AND your readers?
Those are just a few of the things to consider, and they lead into:
THE PRIZE QUESTION
What makes you think you DO or DON’T want to write a series? Or if you’re not a writer, what makes you decide you do or don’t want to READ a series?
Someone who answers will win free registration to my class on “Writing A Series,” which will be held from February 12-23 at https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/WritingSeries/info and offer insights on all the issues above.
I can’t wait to see what you say!
Join us next week Monday for more RU fun fun fun!!
Laurie’s Bio: Laurie Schnebly Campbell combines work for a Phoenix ad agency with teaching other novelists about the craft of writing. She’s also published half a dozen romances (including one that won “Best Special Edition of the Year” over Nora Roberts) and a how-to for fiction writers on creating believable characters. Check out her August workshop on blurbs — and more — at www.BookLaurie.com.