If there’s one thing I love as an avid reader, it’s a good series. I’m sad when characters I’ve come to love have their stories come to an end. Yes, it must happen at some point, but I want my fill before that happens!
As an author, I tend to not think of my stories as series. Not in the beginning, anyway. Since I’m not much of a plotter, it tends to come to me somewhere in the middle of the story, that there is so much more to tell and it should go into it’s own book rather than be jammed into the current one. Yes, I make sure each book has a satisfactory ending because while some cliffhangers are good and will prompt a reader to want to pick up the next book, there has to be some kind of closure otherwise it’ll just piss the reader off. I’ve been there myself and I wouldn’t want to do it to someone else.
I think when it comes to writing a series, you need to make sure you have enough to say to spill over into other books. There’s not much worse than groping for more plot line that isn’t there. The reader is going to know if you’re just randomly throwing things in there to get to the end. Even worse is if you leave a bunch of unanswered questions and then never complete the next book or the series. Those readers are going to be so annoyed they may never pick up something of yours again.
When it comes to series, some plotting needs to be done, even if minimally. Like I said, I’m a pantser, but once I decide something is worthy of being a series, I do some very rough outlining of what I want to happen in each book and what the ending will be. I think each book needs a good kickass kind of ending. My readers deserve that.
You’re probably thinking, “Umm we haven’t seen any series come out of you.” Just because you haven’t seen them yet doesn’t mean they aren’t half done and/or floating around in my head. Stay tuned for that!
There are different ways to have a series as well. Companion novels make for a good type of series as well. Maybe all your stories take place in the same town and old characters become secondary characters with bit parts. This seems to work really well for a lot of romance novels. The reader gets the satisfaction of still seeing their favorite characters, even if only briefly, while learning about new ones. I think a lot of readers enjoy that “HEY! I know that person!” kind of moment and the same goes for experiences. Maybe your new characters are going to a dance the previous ones attended, so the timelines overlap and the reader is seeing the same occurrence from a different point of view. Always a fun experience and you have the background info from the previous novel that you can work into the current one.
The perks of writing a series is once you get readers hooked, they will be excited and happy to buy the next book, and yay to more sales! You may have to work a little more to help remind old readers that a new book has come out (since there tends to be a year or so between releases) but when people discover one and then realize a second or third book is already out, that will equal a good trend in sales for all your books. Always a nice thing.
I have noticed a downside to having series though. It’s the trend of dragging them on long past their prime. Sadly, take series like the Sookie Stackhouse books and the Anita Blake books for example. Both series started out great. Enjoyable characters, action, romance, etc. I was excited for new books to come out, but now we’re at the ninth and tenth (etc.) books and one is obviously struggling to come up with new and interesting plot lines while the other has turned pretty much into porn (not that there’s anything wrong with that, but it didn’t start that way and it ended up being a turn off…for me anyhow).
So you have to know when to say when. Just like a good TV show needs to stop before they jump the shark, so does a good book series. If you have more to tell, maybe pick one of the more minor characters to flesh out. The Wicked Lovely series does a fantastic job of spreading the story around. It’s a five book series and all the odd numbered books are about the main characters while the even numbered ones are about more minor characters whose stories end up playing into the main plot line in a fairly major way. I think it was an incredibly interesting and creative way to do a series. The Mortal Instrument books have continued by having a prequel series in the Infernal Devices, which I think is another great way to continue a “series”. We even get a familiar character because he doesn’t age like others. I love that.
Whether or not you decide to write a series is something you have to contemplate with each new story idea you come up with. Plot what you can and make sure your idea is strong enough to carry over into two or three or five books. Give yourself a timeline to stick to because if you make your readers wait too long for the next book, they will forget and possibly not continue on. I think the perks outweigh the minuses, but you have to make that decision for yourself.
Do you write series? Do you think it’s helped to sell more books?