1. Fullmetal Xeno
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    Fullmetal Xeno Protector of Literature Contributor

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    How long should a Book series be?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Fullmetal Xeno, Aug 8, 2011.

    I was working on my story when i thought of the plot possibilities, characters etc.etc, when i thought of how many books a book series should have. I wanted to write 9 books whever i took off with Blue Phoenix and stop my procrastination while using certain skills, and they help quite alot. But im still deciding, i might just go with 6 or something. It all depends i guess, i just don't want the reader to get bored of it. I want too keep the reader hooked, so they can come back wanting after finishing one of them. But, on average, how many books should a decent book series have when it comes to not getting old and stale? I ask alot of questions, but since you guys know about stuff like this alittle more then me. I know the Cirque Du Freak books have 12 installments to it and currently reading the series myself. It's pretty good pacing, Darren Shan is a terrific Author.
     
  2. Quezacotl
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    Quezacotl Contributing Member

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    It takes however many books it takes. As long as you still feel like exploring it and are you interested in it, then go ahead and keep writing the series.
     
  3. Mr Mr
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    Mr Mr Active Member

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    As many as you want or need, look at the wheel of time series, 13 books going on 14 (I think).
     
  4. WriterDude
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    WriterDude Contributing Member Contributor

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    Look at "Legend of the Ice-People". That's 47 (!) books right there. Plus, she (the author) wrote another series about some witchmaster, but kept using characters from Ice-People. When she finished the witchmaster series, she started a crossover-series based on both Ice-People and Witchmaster. So yeah, the important part is having something to say. ;)
     
  5. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Start with one book. Make it a complete story. If you can get that published, you can start thinking about a sequel.

    I know it's a lot of fun to get lost in your own creativity and plan out huge sagas that span nine, ten, eleven books or more, but you need to start with the first, and make it good, and sell it. There are thousands of would-be writers out there planning big long series (many of them seem to be on these forums!), and I bet agents and publishers get confronted with these ideas constantly, and their eyes just glaze over when they hear some unpublished, unproven kid say "I've got a whole ten-book series planned and it's great!"

    Write one good novel. That'll get you started. Don't lose your focus.
     
  6. theweatherman
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    theweatherman Member

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    If you think about writing another book before you have completed one, you are too far ahead of yourself. Make the book you are working on now the best thing you've ever written. Then, if you think it will work, write a sequel and so on. Don't think too far into the future. Good luck on your writing!
     
  7. proserpine
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    proserpine Member

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    I agree with minstrel and theweatherman. It's best to take it one book at a time. If you have a pre-planned series, you may be tempted to save something for the next book. Give each book your all, and take the story as far as it logically goes.
     
  8. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    If you are yet to publish, the series should be ONE book long.
     
  9. WriterDude
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    WriterDude Contributing Member Contributor

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    Actually Frank Herbert spent six years writing Dune, and he wrote parts of Dune Messiah and Children of Dune in the process even though he didn't even know if Dune would be published. When it was, it ended up as one of the best sci-fi stories ever. ;)
     
  10. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Dune was not Frank Herbert's first published novel.
     
  11. WriterDude
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    WriterDude Contributing Member Contributor

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    No, but he didn't know if it would be published. He still wrote parts of the two next, just so he was sure they would stay true to the first one (continuity and all that). And that's the point. If you have never published anything, you should of course focus on the first book. But there's nothing wrong with fleshing out the story by writing short stories based on the setting, or even write parts of a sequel you know you might never even finish. The more work you put in the book, the better.
     
  12. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    The difference is that an unpublished author needs to focus on that first book as a stand alone. An experienced writer has the luxury of working on more open-ended projects.

    A new writer who "holds something back" or leaves bread crumbs only relevant to potential sequels is setting himself or herself up for failure.
     
  13. Gigi_GNR
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    Gigi_GNR Guys, come on. WAFFLE-O. Contributor

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    However many books it takes to write the story.
     
  14. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Not for a new author. A new author must complete the story in 80k-100k words.
     
  15. joanna
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    joanna Active Member

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    It's a good idea to focus on writing your first novel before determining sequels.

    But you don't have to discount the possibility either. I'm working on a sequel to the first novel I wrote. I even have an idea for a third: I'll be writing the story of a minor character who appears in both books. Nothing wrong with the concept of sequels, as long as you're focused on your current work.
     
  16. The-Joker
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    The-Joker Contributing Member Contributor

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    If you're an unpublished writer, you should write your first book with a self-confined plot and a definite conclusion. It's okay for you as the writer to think of the book as the first part of a series and it's not entirely forbidden to leave a few loose ends that could be explored in future books.

    What is forbidden, is for you as an unpublished writer to pitch your manuscript as the first part of a series. Never mention a trilogy or series to an agent until they've read your entire manuscript. At which point they themselves might suggest to you that the book would work better as a series.

    Now I'm not talking about a cliffhanger ending like LOTR or A Game of Thrones. I'm talking more like Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone, where there is a tangible resolution, but the obvious potential for more.

    As for how much you should invest in the rest of the series before your first book is published. I would suggest a synopsis and the first fifty pages for each other book you have planned. Anything more could be a wasted effort if book one doesn't take off. However, editors sometimes ask for the above before they commit to a trilogy/series offer. Some have even offered a trilogy contract with nothing more than a blurb written on the other books.

    And yes editors can take on a series from an unpublished author. It's happened before, and is still happening now. But remember point number one. Never pitch your manuscript as part of a series until the agent has read the ENTIRE manuscript.
     
  17. Gigi_GNR
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    Gigi_GNR Guys, come on. WAFFLE-O. Contributor

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    I agree with this. When you're a new author, I don't think starting out with a series is the best idea.

    But with series of books, there's variance. Lord of the Rings has 3, Harry Potter has 7, A Series of Unfortunate Events has 13... however many books you think it takes, that's how many you write. And there are series with more than that, probably.
     
  18. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    I don't think the advice in this thread applies well to Fantasy. Maybe to other genres. All you have to do is go back and look at the first novels by fantasy writers over the past couple of decades and see how many of them are parts of a series. A lot. Most of the first novels I've read in fantasy in the past 5 or 6 years have clearly been written as volume 1 of a series from the start.

    In addition, advice I've seen from editors and known authors in the fantasy genre say the same thing, and I've seen one explicitly state that it is the opposite of what is true for other genres (which highlights the point that most of what is said in this thread holds true outside of Fantasy).

    I recently read something by Kate Elliott, a respected author of fantasy, answering a fan question about how to pitch a multi-volume fantasy series as an unpublished authors. She says explicitly that the publishers like series and want them. She makes the point that you need a strong first volume, and it needs to be complete before you pitch, but based on what I've seen in the fantasy genre as a reader, as well as on what I've read from people like Elliott, I think that it is not only acceptable to pitch a series in Fantasy, it looks like it may even give you an advantage with those particular publishers.

    Fantasy writer Mindy Klasky, on recounting her first sale, notes that Roc (the publisher) asked her before buying her first book whether she had more in the series. She did. They bought the first two together, and then gave her a contract for the next three.

    I read an article from a fantasy writer some years ago that said having a series put you in a better position with respect to the publisher, but unfortunately I can't remember who it was.

    With respect to the other genres, it looks like pitching a series as an unpublished author is frowned on (though Elizabeth Bear, a science fiction writer, sold her first book as part of a three-book series as well. The publisher bought them all at once :) ).
     
  19. KP Williams
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    KP Williams Contributing Member

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    I'd amend this to say that the story's primary conflict must (appear to) be resolved in a first time novel, but there's nothing at all wrong with leaving a door open for future sequels. If those sequels are warranted, then great--it'll seem like you planned it that way all along, which you did. If you get no such luck, then at least anyone who reads it will be free to invent his or her own possible explanations

    I myself am planning a thirteen-book series because that's precisely the right length to convey everything I've come up with in a tasteful manner. That is, without infodumps and rushed scenes. Any more would be filler, any less would leave something out; either would disgrace the story. Obviously, I'll have no objection if this series becomes the next phenomenon like Harry Potter, but that's not a requirement for me. It doesn't even matter if I never get published. I'm writing it all, beginning to end, whether anyone else reads it or not.
     
  20. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    A new writer should not even attempt that kind of balance. It's hard enough to get that first publishing contract, and leaving open ended threads in your first novel is most unwise.

    Forget about series. Get that first novel published first.

    Your first book will probably look like crap to you by the time you get your second or third book ready for submission. You won't want it to be the anchor for your series.
     
  21. AceTachyon
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    AceTachyon New Member

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    Echoing Cogito.

    Don't worry about a series at this point.

    Write a novel. Somewhere in the ballpark of 80 - 90,000 words. A complete story. Beginning, middle, and end.
     
  22. The-Joker
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    The-Joker Contributing Member Contributor

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    I can't really agree. If your first book looks that terrible to you at any stage of your life, it will most likely never get published. Like Steerpike has said, Fantasy runs by a different set of rules, and I think most people who start a series do so in that particular genre.

    A few loose ends is not as great an obstacle as it may seem. Most fantasy books released today, be it from a seasoned or debut author, are in a series. However pitching your book as ther first part of a series opens up a whole new line of doubts in the mind of an agent ie. Is there an adequate resolution? Did the writer create a clear character arc? Does this book tell a lesser story to accomodate the better one later on?

    An agent could reject a query based only on these doubts as she has a hundred other submissions that are standalones. But once she's read the manuscript and those doubts are quelled then the potential for a series shouldn't hurt your chances. It might even help, as fantasy sells better in series.
     
  23. Islander
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    Islander Contributing Member Contributor

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    If we're talking about a series in the strict sense - books that are part of the same overarching storyline - I'm reluctant to start reading a series that has more than three books. More than that, and I'll doubt there will ever be an end to the storyline. There are far too many authors who drag out their series as long as people keep buying them, and I don't want to read ten boring books to get to the ending I could have got after three. Plus, the author may die before they finish the storyline. If the story can be done in one book, even better.

    If we're talking about stand-alone books that just use some of the same characters or fictional world, I don't think there's any limit. Keep writing as long as you can come up with interesting stories, or the readers enjoy it. Example: Anne McCaffrey's Dragonriders of Pern books.
     
  24. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Joker: By the time you get your first novel publisheed, you almost certainly have a lot to learn, and are still improving rapidly.

    I can certainly spot a first novel by most published authors. Can't you?
     
  25. Melzaar the Almighty
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    Melzaar the Almighty Contributing Member Contributor

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    It's true some first novels are awful, or even first of a series just because they develop so much over time. I'm a devoted Terry Pratchett fan but I dislike the first two or three discworld books a great deal and I'm more likely to have read middle and later books a lot more.

    However, there's no reason for starting writers not to write a series if A: they don't aim for publication... I wrote a series about some kids at a magical boarding school that's dragged on 7 or 8 books already, and I will never publish it. It's lousy. But it was awesome writing practice and work on dedication, long-term plotting etc. And threw up some awesome character development like you can only get in series. Great lessons.

    or B: if you write a series but also have some stand alone novels to put out there too. I mean, I'm unpublished and on 4/12 (or possibly indefinite) books in a series, but I also have finished novels which need no sequel and I know will never get one, and they're what I'd market first. I'm just sitting on them for the time being because I'm working on the series, and I reckon if I can get to 5 of the series then I can throw that in as an aside to prove I'm a worthy investment :p It takes me a couple of months to write one of the series and a lot longer than that for a book to be published, so as long as I stay on task they should be a good money machine :p
     

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