So here we are at the end of 2018. For me, it’s been a year of some really great moments. Of course, like the roller coasters at Six Flags once taught me, what goes up must come down. Fortunately, it seems that 2018 was filled with more ups than down.
Side note, I’d like to apologize to the people in the row behind me for that incident I had during the ride. Turns out roller coasters and chili dogs when you’re a ten-year old kid don’t quite mix.
The good thing about the end of the year is that there’s another one immediately as soon as the prior year ends. You also don’t have to wait for it to come out. The same can’t be said for books.
I have this friend (despite the rumors, I do have friends) that buys books as presents. We were walking through Barnes and Nobles before Christmas and he was looking for a book for his father. He ended up getting two or three from the same series. When I asked if his father liked the series, my friend said he’d never read the series. He went on to say that when he buys books, he often purchases the whole series or a few books from the series because if they like the book then they can immediately continue on with the next.
I’ve come across another issue with series. Specifically my own book series. Sometimes when I’m trying to get people to buy my book, they ask if they’re part of a series. When I reply that they are, they often say the following: “Well, I might read them when the entire series is published. That way I don’t have to wait for next one to come out.”
So, for this last Mastering the Craft of 2018, it’s Dec. 27 when I’m writing this, I’d like to discuss some advantages/disadvantages of writing a book series.
• The story you write can be much longer than if it was a single book. By stretching your plot out between six or seven books you can develop characters and include more detailed side plots for characters. Book series like The Dark Tower comes into mind. If Stephen King had written one single book about Roland’s quest for the Dark Tower, King might not have been able to really develop the characters Eddie, Jake, and Susannah. Which would have been a shame because those characters really are intriguing and only help to enrich the overall story.
• You really shouldn’t be in the writing business for the money. Strictly speaking, being an author isn’t that profitable unless you’re a King, Patterson, Rowling, etc… Writing should be about loving what you do and not loving the money you may gain from it. However, if you’re able to profit from your books, then writing a longer series may be worth it. Look at J.K. Rowling. She’s published seven books in her series. Mathematically, she earns more money from seven books than she would if she’d written one to three novels.
• Publishers tend to look more for series than single books. The reasoning I said above applies here as well.
• You could die before the series is completed. Sure, I could have built up to this disadvantage, but I thought I’d begin with the absolute worst. So fans of Game of Thrones are waiting for George R.R. Martin to keel over at any moment and leave his series incomplete. I’m sure if you search on the internet there are many articles that have been written on the subject. Shoot, Weird Al Yankovic even involved this in a parody of his. Stephen King almost died in 1999 when he was struck by a vehicle. If he had died that day, his Dark Tower series would’ve been incomplete leaving fans with only questions.
• You could have your series completed by another author. I know some of you might think this is worse, but the first one involves death. Of course, if the author that takes over your series is awful, then that would mean the death of your series. So… maybe that’s worse. An author’s books are his/her legacy. Having another author taint your legacy with their writing style is equal to dying and not completing it yourself. Tom Clancy is a great example. You’ll notice that even though Clancy is long since dead, his series goes on with “Tom Clancy’s” in front of every book. Disclaimer: I’m not stating that all those books are rubbish. I’m only questioning whether or not Clancy would want this happening. You’ll notice I didn’t include a James Patterson joke. I’ve grown up a bit.
• So you’ve decided to write a book series. Awesome! Except, you don’t really need to write a series. Your plot could easily fit into one or two books, but you’re determined to stretch it out into five or six books and call it “The (fill in the blank) Chronicles” or the “(fill in the blank) Series).” The outcome is that all your books are pretty short in length and even shorter in character/plot substance. If you ever do get the books accepted by a publisher it’ll be a miracle. But then again, James Patterson gets his books published so publishing miracles must be a dime a dozen.
Hmm…. Guess I didn’t grow up that much.
Remember folks, when you’re writing a book and decide to make it a series you need to do two things. The first is to consider where your characters want to go, do, and how they’ll grow as characters. If your characters are the same as when they began then it might prove as a boring book series. The second thing you have to ask yourself is: Is my story meant to be a series? Ask yourself if you have the mental fortitude to lock yourself in for a few years as you write all the books in your series. If you don’t know the answers to these questions then maybe a book series isn’t right for your story. Try writing just one book and if you have plots incomplete then go forth with another book.
Have a Happy New Year and I’ll see you all in 2019! Unless, of course, assassins from Patterson and/or Michigan don’t get to me first. I tend to make enemies whenever I write these rants.
Categories: Mastering the Craft