1. Vacuum Eater
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    Vacuum Eater Senior Member

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    Optimum length for a series?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Vacuum Eater, Apr 21, 2010.

    From reading book reviews on Amazon, I noticed that very long book series tax some readers' patience - while some wouldn't mind if a particular literary experience continued indefinitely, others get frustrated and want a resolution. Based on your experiences, what do you think is the best length for a series? Two books? A trilogy? Four-five books? How long is too long?

    On a side note, I'm curious: do you think Harry Potter could have been even better if it had been more concise and less drawn-out? (For example, leaving out sub-plots like Hermione's S.P.E.W. organization.)
     
  2. amariel
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    amariel Member

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    I think people read series because they fall in love with the characters, and so long as the characters stay true and the story is entertaining, most people would be happy to read on. Surely Harry Potter could have sold just as well if half a dozen more books came out, don't you think? And if there were 12 books in The Lord of the Rings, I for one would have been happy to read on. BUT, now that I think of it, a staggering 12-volume series might be less popular from the get-go, because of the time it would take to read it.
     
  3. Phantasmal Reality
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    Phantasmal Reality Contributing Member

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    Any story, whether it be a series or one book, should be no longer than it needs to be. I know that's pretty vague, but every author should know in their heart when their story is over. Continuing beyond that is a bad idea in my opinion. But hey, if it takes twelve books to reach that point, go ahead and write twelve books. :)
     
  4. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    there's no 'best'... any series can be as long as enough people are willing to buy the books...

    it's nonsensical to try to find an answer to this unanswerable question, imo... even if you think you can write a successful series, you'd still have to get the first stand-alone book taken on by a publisher and have it sell well enough for them to justify taking on any more...
     
  5. Carthonn
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    Carthonn Active Member

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    I think the Harry Potter series is a good model. Those books are solid because they can stand alone. With each book there is a separate conflict and each time it's resolved. However, with something like Lord of the Rings you have to plow through all the books to finally see if the ring was destroyed.
     
  6. runaway_lighthouse
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    runaway_lighthouse Member

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    The problem with most long series is that the plot becomes unsustainable after the first few, or that in order to generate interest, characters change. Audiences start to feel like the latter books aren't "as good" as the former (and indeed, sometimes they aren't) because they aren't the way the readers remember the first. Another issue is when certain popular authors just write for money, and a certain number of books were contracted for a series, but the author has run out of fresh ideas.

    Theoretically speaking, though, I think that if all the books are done well, as the Harry Potter ones were, then the length of the series is hardly an issue. People love good characters and good plot, and if there's more of that sort of material to be had, then all the better.
     
  7. Kove
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    Kove Member

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    The Wheel of Time is a great example of a phenomenally entertaining series that is now in its twelfth book, The Gathering Storm. I can say with a fair degree of certainty that it is one of the best series I've ever read. Robert Jordan is amazing.
    Another good series that is quite long is The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant The Unbeliever. Stephen R. Donaldson paints and incredible picture and is one of my favorite authors. This series is now nine books, soon to be ten.

    These are book good examples of really long series that wouldn't be that same or even complete, or even enjoyable if they were any shorter.

    P.S. For anyone who hasn't read it yet, you should pick up all of The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant. I've read thousands of books and these are by far my favorite. Read them, you won't regret it.
     
  8. Nilfiry
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    Nilfiry Contributing Member

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    Well, the more the audience gets attached to the characters, the more they'll be begging for... well, more. XD So how long is too long is different for each person. No one in their right mind would be able to tell a definite number.

    I think the best length for a series is however long it takes to tell the story.
     
  9. Mila
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    Mila Member

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    I have to admit that if I see that a story is longer than three books I tend to not bother. I don't have the money to waste on a story that goes on longer than that and may well run out of steam before I get to the end - the Wheel of Time is a good example, so is the Deverry series. I love both, but I'm getting extremely bored with them now ! I would have liked those stories to have been wrapped up a few books ago tbh.
    I think what annoys me is you can tell when an author is dragging it out, or 'milking it'. Maybe they only have one idea and have to stretch it out over more books than normal to make money. And I couldn't imagine writing such a long series with the same characters and the same story. I've got too many other stories in my head that I want to tell !
     
  10. Banzai
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    Banzai One-time Mod, but on the road to recovery Contributor

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    I haven't read the wheel of time, and I probably won't. I'm put off by the massive length of it, and I'm certain that it would lose my interest after a few books (if it didn't from the word go; I find fantasy incredibly boring).

    Also, everything I've heard about it suggests that it's incredibly long for no good reason. It's the series that just won't die, even when its author has!
     

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