Series Length

So, yesterday I was chatting with my wife, and the subject of the length of various series came up when I was talking about ideas for after the Ancient Dreams trilogy. She was the one who recommended that I put my thoughts up here.

When I come up with stories, I come up with a trilogy or a single story. Oh, the trilogy might have plot hooks that could be used to launch a separate trilogy about the same characters, or relatively minor characters in a book, but each trilogy is intended to close a single firm plot arc. The exception might be for Through the Fire, but even the outline I have solidly closes the opening plot line, but leaves open the possibility for more books. I’ll admit that part of this is personal pushback against the massive series that take decades to complete we’ve commonly seen.

I also don’t like working on more than one set of books at a time. I’m going to publish Spells of Old, finish and publish Halls of Power, and then I’m going to work on the next set of stories. I hate wondering what’s going to happen next in a series, so I intend to finish each in a single set. Sure, I might come back to it with short stories or additional books in the world, but I want each series to be complete in short order.

This is mostly to help people understand how my crazy brain works.

12 thoughts on “Series Length

  1. There’s a genuine “danger” of authors kinda losing themselves in forcing to going for some “epic series that ends all series” type of thing, or even in the sense of “I’m writing this epic 800 pages novel”. I don’t really like short stories, but there’s some quite nice 200 pages reads that are just well-rounded and do everything they need to do and that’s that then. Like Sanderson’s Emperor’s Soul (admittedly, it’s part of a bigger setting, but it would work as stand-alone, too).

    On the other hand I quite like long series that I can really dig into. Like, hypothetically, Weber’s Honorverse, since I think that was brought up in the comments here before. War starts, front goes back and forth, there’s a ceasefire, governments change, new technology appears, characters age, their rank and responsibilities change, and so on. It’s great to follow. Sometimes a bit more fun and sometimes a bit less, but that’s OK. But the longer it goes on the bigger the chances that something happens that as a reader I just won’t like. Which is of course precisely what happened (a lot ^^), so by now I’ve dropped it. What’s the point of getting a long series then? 😉

    Waiting time is no real issue for me, unless books end with cliffhangers, but that’s not something I particularly approve of no matter what. Full-length novels just shouldn’t have to do that (if it’s about serials I’m willing to negotiate ^^).

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    1. I can understand where you’re coming from. With David Weber… I’m on the verge of dropping his Honorverse series, after Shadows of Victory advanced the timeline by all of 12 hours (and on a down note). I used to love long series too. But the various David Weber books, Dresden Files, Terry Goodkind, and Robert Jordan just have worn me down.

      I prefer things like the old R.A. Salvatore novels, where it was a trilogy, a quartet, another trilogy, and similar setups. I’m fine with coming back to them, and with having plot threads woven throughout, but I like having them relatively concise. With Ancient Dreams, as a trilogy, are there going to be plot threads I don’t address? Of course! In spite of everything, Darak, Joseph, Nirath, and Penelope aren’t incredibly important. I could potentially write a book of them dealing with another dungeon entirely. There are interesting characters that I wrote into the plot ages ago, but who have less of a purpose than they once had.

      Now, then. I don’t intend to have cliffhangers, but there’s a degree of that to Ancient Ruins (I mean, nothing /really/ got resolved). Are you talking one of the infamous ones where things are going great and, oh, the main character gets shot in the chest and the book ends? Because if so, we’re not going to have that from me.

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      1. I can’t speak for Pyoro, but my annoying cliff-hanger novels are either like Dungeon Madness recently, where they introduced a “Oh my god, this protagnoist was kidnapped!” right before just ending it, which is an unstated to be continued, and Superheroes Anonymous which literally ended in the middle of an action scene with “TO BE CONTINUED”.

        I’m not too worried about authors pulling the latter once the first novel happens, but I also wasn’t thinking the former would happen with the Dungeon series, so… *shrug*

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      2. …I am /so/ glad I didn’t buy either of them after reading their sample chapters. That would have left me positively /irate/.

        *growls quietly* Anyway, no, you don’t have to worry about me doing that. I hate that.

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  2. On the subject of cliffhangers:

    The ones like Brian P. Mentioned I despise, and there’s been a few books that looked interesting that I ultimately didn’t read because reviews mentioned them doing that.

    On the other hand, there’s the kind of cliffhanger where the immediate plot of the book has reached a satisfactory conclusion, but the larger plot is blatantly unfinished (I only really consider this vaguely cliffhangerish because any book written as part of a series, be it a duology or trilogy or whatever, pretty much requires this to some degree.) They can still be frustrating in terms of ‘but I wanna know what happens next nooooow’ but at least there is some manner of resolution and not just a blatant… stop.

    On a separate note, I can only speak for myself when I say I think the Ancient Ruins world has a shitload of potential for other/more stories or series, just from the small part of it we’ve seen so far.

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    1. Oh good. I’m not planning to do anything like that. One of my series was going to have a slightly… downer ending at the end of the first book, but I realized that such would be depressing and actually lead to people not wanting to read the next one. That isn’t good for a writer.

      The world of Ancient Ruins is an entirely different kettle of fish, though. While I do think it has potential on its own, you have to understand that it was patterned off of my primary setting. I don’t have a name for the /world/ yet, but most of the stories are set on the continent of Kavarn. I’ve been working on the setting on and off for over a decade now, tweaking and tinkering with different aspects to get them how I want them. Think of Ancient Ruins and its world as an… unpolished reflection of it, with an added apocalypse in the presence of the Godsrage.

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  3. Yeah, what the others said: I only meant blatant cliff-hangers, not that every novel needs to be completely self-contained. In fact, for series, that’s something I don’t like.

    To stick with Weber, each book solves a certain battle or a certain theater of war and maybe some additional stuff. They never stop right when Honor is about to execute a trap, which would be the stereotypical cliffhanger for such a series. But at the same time you always know that the war itself isn’t yet over, that there’s other battles fought elsewhere and so on. Basically, that’s kind of what I expect of a series.

    And of course the lines are blurry. I’m for example thinking of a certain dystopian “everybody is doomed and will suffer” series where the heroine gets caught by the bad guys at the end of the second novel. That’s on the surface very cliff-hanger-ish, and it kind of is, but at the same type the “story arc”, fighting over a certain island, was over, so it was acceptable to me, especially since it was kinda obvious what would happen to her anyway (nothing good), and the “gap” between that book and the next one was used to “skip” over it.

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    1. *nods* Entirely understood, and I take your examples. I really don’t see how a trilogy or the like can be done without leaving some questions unanswered from book to book either.

      My primary objection is to cliffhangers like… stopping mid-battle, like you said, or things of that sort. Where to get the full story of what’s going on /right now/ you have to get the next book. It infuriates me.

      Even worse is when the major plot development happens between books. There’s a series of books by Justina Robson, the first book is called Keeping it Real. It’s a warped science fantasy series, and the first book was pretty damned good. But all of the /actual/ plot development happened between books. (Wait, the character got married? To two guys? And is sleeping with them? What the hell?)

      It would have been fine if this was a one-off, but this was how the author did everything. So I abandoned the books in frustration.

      I won’t do that. It just… it just sucks.

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      1. Oh yeah, that kind of stuff is annoying as hell. I’ve also read some urban fantasy series where between the 2nd and 3rd novel loads of stuff happens and afterwards found out it had tied in with another urban fantasy series and everything that left me confused happened there. I mean, I get this kinda “expanded universe” thing but as a reader it’s really annoying. I don’t really want to sit down and research how to read something, if it’s a series 1, 2, 3, 4 … I expect I can read them in that order and get all necessary information, side-stories or not. ^^

        Series can easily be self-contained within books, though. Take a typical mystery series, like Ellen Hart’s Jane Lawless. It almost doesn’t even matter in which order you read them. They don’t really leave anything open or even carry over much into the next book. Sure, over time you learn more about her family, time advances, etc but it’s more “additional information” instead of “answering old questions”. There’s no hints at a bigger story behind the individual mysteries or anything.

        I don’t really like that approach, though. Generally I expect each novel to kinda have its own arc, but a series also to have its own larger arc going over multiple books (or all of them). And it then depends a lot on the genre how that is balanced – with mysteries, the individual book arcs are usually emphasized and the other stuff in the background. With epic fantasy, it’s often the other way around. And so on.

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      2. I was considering a much longer reply, but I think I’ll summarize with that I entirely agree with you.

        As a /complete/ aside, I’m not going to post anything tomorrow because I don’t want anyone to think its an April Fools joke. *grumbles*

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  4. Alternatively put up something everyone is interested in, the April Fool’s joke being that no seriously, it’s true, no joke.

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