1. BillyxRansom
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    BillyxRansom Active Member

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    Planning a series...

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by BillyxRansom, Oct 1, 2008.

    ...as some of you may know. I'm planning on a 6 or 7 book series.

    My question (that I don't think I've asked, yet) is, would the first volume in the series be too damn winded if it was bordering on (or even surpassing!) 500 pages?

    That's all. thanks. :)
     
  2. lordofhats
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    lordofhats Contributing Member

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    First off, page number is not a good means of measure book length. There are standard page sizes but many books come in different sizes (I have two copies of Without Remorse. One is 300 pages, and the other is 389 pages. I've read both they are exactly the same).

    The proper measure of book length is word count (though maybe as far as conception goes pages may be more effective).

    The only real question here is does it have to be five hundred pages? Is there a reason that justifies such a length? it's a little long, and its risky writing that long as you risk readers losing interest if you can't maintain momentum. If it's already a seven book series would it hurt to cut the page numbers pack and make it an eight book series?

    Planning a series can be tough. I generally use Book 1 merely as an intro, and introduce only the setting characters and themes, and leave the real big stuff for later. The first book helps me ease into the story and the tone so that I can plan the rest of the series from it.

    I suggest write that first book as a stand alone novel (or a novel that can function alone), and depending on how it goes, make your series plans. Planning far ahead in a series can create major issues if you don't keep your plans and goals broad enough. Stories have a mind of their own sometimes, and like a psycopath, tend to derail plans if you don't maintain flexibility in the long term.
     
  3. Speedy
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    Speedy Contributing Member Contributor

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    Pretty much, have to ask the same thing..

    Also, im guessing when your writing a series, many things happen from writing page one, to ending the whole sage (and with polishing/edits). Thing may be completly different, such as pacing and so forth
     
  4. ParanormalWriter
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    ParanormalWriter Contributing Member

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    Billy, I'd go by word count, rather than page number. The word count you'll need really depends on what genre you're writing and what age range you're aiming for, as well as the kind of story you're trying to tell. A general rule I try to keep in mind is 70,000-100,000 words for an adult novel. Also, I recommend making Book 1 a stand alone if possible, with all the other books in the series tying into it, but none of them vital to understanding the others. That way if Book 1 doesn't sell you've got several more books behind it, each capable of standing on their own.

    I'm not saying any of this is the only way of course. There are always a million exceptions and other ways of doing these things. This is simply mine. :)
     
  5. BillyxRansom
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    BillyxRansom Active Member

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    I thought I replied to this before, but I guess not.

    My first question is, why do the two copies of the book you have vary by almost 90 pages, when they have the same content? I figured some of that has to be acknowledgments, copyright, etc. But 89 pages? Is there like a super long Author's note and Conclusion?

    I understand your point about word count, but the problem is, I have not seen a definitive scale of words-to-pages, and I don't usually think about the amount of words a book will have; to me the pages are what make the book so heavy or so light. I just don't want a reader to feel bogged down by holding or carrying it if they don't need to be. I need to find something like a conversion equation for books, haha.

    Which brings me to your first question. I've figured out a couple different reasons for why 500 pages would be best, as well as a couple different reasons for why they should be broken up. In the end, yes, it does depend on how well it's written, but I want people to read it. So I want to be able to make it acceptable enough for a publisher (of course). It does seem risky, and that's why I brought this up. I haven't decided finally that it will be seven books. That's just an average. Five (at the very least) to eight (at very most), I figure it. And I've never seen a series that was eight books long, except for those serial novels, you know the ones that are like 25 books long over about an eight or ten year period.

    The reason I considered 500 pages (however many words that would be--I don't know) is because I feel there is a lot of story to tell that explains the circumstances of the setting of my story, and I think it should be told here, in the beginning. I feel like the reader needs to get a good understanding of my MC, and there's just a lot to talk about. Even if it's just to sketch an overview of the history, it would be a lot, because there's an immense history, much of which I haven't fully developed in my head yet. While some of it may be better suited for a later novel (should the interest for further novels be generated), I want to write the complete history into the first book first, so I can at the very least get a firm understanding of my MC.

    And like someone else said, the first book should be a stand alone novel, so that if it doesn't fare (sp?) well, then it would be a story to have tried reading, then realizing you're just not feeling it. Maybe the rest of them could help to gain the momentum of interest by, yes, making them stand alone, as well. So 500 pages may be best, since there is a lot that goes into sketching and painting my world. I just don't know, though.

    Does this make sense?
     
  6. TheAdlerian
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    TheAdlerian Senior Member

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    Just to cover the intial question: google Steven Erikson.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steven_Erikson

    He's a fantasy guy who seemingly has never suffered writers' block for more than a microsecond. His books are giant, and I think a little rabbling after reading a couple, but people love him.

    If he can do, you can do it.
     
  7. lordofhats
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    lordofhats Contributing Member

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    The copy with fewer pages is written in a smaller font/ Its the first edition, and it was ratty so I bought a newer one and the newer one has more pages because of a larger font size (You can actually compare print copies of books from before the nineties to modern copies and you'll find they usually have fewer pages, small pages, and smaller font making them shorter in appearance, but they are usually the same book unless there has been a rewrite).

    I'll try and answer your other questions but your post was so long I might have lost some of it XD.

    The key for writing a series is keep the plan flexible. Don't box yourself into one place and then get hosed later in the series by something that may have seemed good at the planning stage but in practice has become very weird or strange (it's like hitting a dead end in your maze but because of your planning there's no way around it).

    For the rest, I'll say that you can decide how to write your series and the rest of us are just here throwing in how we do it. I make every individual novel of a series plausible as a stand alone novel, but also leave it open enough at it's beginning or end that more can be written (sequels and prequels). I tend to write in a series as the mood strikes me. I have a sci-fi series that is now 2 books, and seven planned, and a supernatural fantasy series that is 4 books and 4-5 planned. In my planning I'm very lose, only planning a few events ahead and then breaking those big events down into smaller encounters and conflicts. I don't set word or page number goals I just write and whatever comes out is what I get. Honestly, if you plan well, most things for a series just fall into place.
     
  8. BillyxRansom
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    BillyxRansom Active Member

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    Very interesting, did not realize font made such a significant difference.

    First,

    Sorry about the winded post, ahaha.

    Second,

    I think I may need clarification for what you mean here. I'm just not able to grasp it for some reason.

    :/

    I knew this would have to be a series, otherwise this might have been a 2,500 page book. That couldn't happen, and I want to generate gradual interest and, honestly, a rampant fan base that salivate for the next installment. I think I do need to make each a standalone, though. That's looking like the best idea. I'm just trying to figure out how to make it so.

    I just feel like a 200 page novel might be just enough to make people go "AHH! WHAT THE HELL?!?!?!" because it probably would not have tied loose ends. Unless I take out the bulk of the back story, that's the only other way I can fathom this being shorter than like 350 pages BARE MINIMUM.

    The other thing I wanted to point out, I've got major events planned out, and even some sort of vague direction on how to break them down, but I feel like if I break it down too much, with not much elaboration, it'll just feel thin. I don't know.

    There was more I wanted to say, but I can't think of it now.
     
  9. lordofhats
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    lordofhats Contributing Member

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    When I say keep the plan flexible I refer to outlining. Some writers get really into it and go through all the details and how they will do it before they start writing, some don't do any outlining at all, some do a little. I find that in a series, because of their length it takes a lot of outlining to plan it out.

    A series is worse than a single novel, especially if your tying events from one book into another. It takes a lot of planning and working. The trick is not to do too much planning. Because series are long endeavors, there's lots of space from Scene 2 of Book 1 to Scene 9 of Book 5 for something to go astray. There might be something you have to add or remove, and if you've done too much planning this can create consistency problems. If you've bogged yourself down in details, you've got a major problem.

    The only way to avoid it is to keep my goals simple and broad enough that when I get to them there is a great deal of flexibility in how to go about it.

    Say the story is about a war: I can plan out all five major battles and then get screwed when one just doesn't work in writing with the rest. Rather, if I decide I want five major, let me write the first, and then based on it's outcome, write the second, and then the third, so on and so forth. Rather than creating a fixed outcome that is inflexible and not subject to change without major rewrites, leave it open to see how things turn out and which way the story seems to be headed. It's always a good idea to plan ahead (I always have a beginning and ending in mind, and a few in between events to get me there), but keep what can happen broad enough in its scope so that you can tune it to fit what has already happened.
     
  10. BillyxRansom
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    BillyxRansom Active Member

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    Honestly, I think the reason I feel like my novel could be 500 pages, is because there isn't a whole lot of planning going on. I do leave myself room for changes and so forth.
     
  11. Shadow Dragon
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    Shadow Dragon Contributing Member Contributor

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    Honestly, a lot of people wouldn't start a book if they thought it was too long. However, if the story is good, you'll get readers, no matter how long it is.
     
  12. Scarecrow28
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    Scarecrow28 Contributing Member

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    I agree with lordofthehats idea of dividing up the 1st book into two. The way that I view it, if your already going to be writing seven books, than it won't really hurt to just add another to shorten the first book. If you decide you want to publish it, than having such a long first book in the series may make this difficult.
     
  13. BillyxRansom
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    BillyxRansom Active Member

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    I'd have to figure out a way to "resolve" the first half, then, by doing it this way. Which.. might actually not be a bad idea.
     
  14. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    I believe you would write the first book with the following in mind:

    Write it the length that will best enable you to find a publisher. 200,000 words will seriously hinder the prospects. A 100,000 word novel will improve it.

    Write the novel so that it works as a standalone novel. Don't stack it with back story with the primary purpose of setting up the rest of the series. You have to sell the first novel. In fantasy, series and sequel works, but you have to have enough action/character building (the internal type that revolves around the story while it extends toward future works) that it will satisfy the reader. It's a balance...something that works individually while prepares the reader for more.

    Write the first book and begin submitting, then write the second, or at least the first draft. Keep notes and outlines, for future books in the series. The reason I suggest this is that if the first novel doesn't sell, all the others will need modification, especially if they don't stand alone. Spending all that time and effort writing 7 or 8 that that may never go anywhere if the first doesn't go, while not a waste of time and effort (you'd learn and become a better writer just by writing if nothing else), would not serve the goal well. Plus, if changes are made, editorial or otherwise, there will be ripple effects that take a lot of time and effort to iron out...and doing it via 7 other novels could be tricky.

    Get the first one or two written and submit the first...then write something else, totally different. Often getting published (if it happens) takes time. Even once a work is accepted, it can be 18 months before the first novel reaches the shelves. But the submission process can take a year or more, even if the first major publisher accepts your novel right from the slush pile. Plus, if you sell a different book and it sells well, you'd have the original series to offer to the publisher. What would eventually happen is that you'd have two novels out there trying to find a home, in essence doubling your chances (or cutting down on the time) to find a publisher.

    At least that's the way I see it. Some may see it otherwise.

    Terry
     
  15. BillyxRansom
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    BillyxRansom Active Member

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    I've been writing the first one. I have little bits and pieces and ideas here and there for future novels, but I've been writing the first one. But I've been writing the other little bits and pieces so that I know how to resolve the first one. But yes, I suppose focusing on how to end the first novel with a standalone resolution is key.

    Hmm, need to figure that one out.
     
  16. Speedy
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    Speedy Contributing Member Contributor

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    How far exactly are you in thi first novel of yours?

    I personally just spend a bit of time planing the novel out and getting the grids laid (as i've no doubt you have) than planning little sections from the biggers ones. Say from Point A to point B etc and just continue writing until all bases are covered. I guess word count is important, but its only important after you have finished up the actual story... if the story does turn out where you thought then you can just polish it up and tighten it, and who knows by doing so you might easily knock off 50 pages or so (if you seriously go through it and be harsh like you should). And when you have run through it half a odozen times you might have the option of seeing certain things which might help you cut it down even further (or sections which you'll see as maybe being more important to show later.

    For me, i just write, write and write....i dont really care much for page count, word count, because i just know i need to get my story out their (for me and me only). I know the time will come where if i dont polish and tighten it, then its just ganna sound rubbish and i'll know that if i have to cut chapters and 50,000 words out to do so than its more important for me to do then hit a certain word limit. (what im writing is im hoping to be a 3 or 4 book series, but write now i can only finish the the first novels conflict before i even try and plan the second out).

    Get your story out there (the first part, say introduction) than worry about word count and book two ;)
     
  17. BillyxRansom
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    BillyxRansom Active Member

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    I'm over 150 manuscript pages in on the first novel. Several pages written, for five sections.

    I've definitely laid out my story, and written tiny bits and pieces of possible directions to take the story. I've even considered combining them all, and altering them a little here and there so that it works in a flowing manner. You make a good point about word count being important after it's finished and being submitted. I've also thought about cutting sections out and altering them so that they come later and it makes sense.

    I've been writing and writing and writing, not obsessing too much over word count, but I just wanted to know when would be a good indicating point that tells me "you should probably cut from here to here, and put them in the next installment".

    So do you think I should submit the first chapter to a publisher or an editor?
     
  18. Speedy
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    Speedy Contributing Member Contributor

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    I cant answer that, as im really not writing for publication (well not for a market, other than POD) so i'll leave that to someone with experience. I have none what-so-ever.

    If i was, id have my MS (chapter 1 or whatever i need to send) in complete 100% fashion (knowing its absolutly fixed of SPAG errors and plot (that i know of)). I myself wouldnt send off a script that i know may change (if i was only 150 pages in out of what i thought was 500 pages, i personally know it wouldnt be complete, as i change early work with current work (say im in chapter 10, i generally go over and change chapter one to fit better) thats just me. So it would change again and again

    Maybe im a tool, but if i ever was going to send off my work id have had the first book written and pretty much the whole second book (so while im writing the second one, i'll have figured if i coul have had stuff in book one actually in book two, and vice versa) so book ones plot was drilled and tight as hell. Which personally i couldnt feel nor do i with mine right now.

    Example, i started a prolouge (though i knew it was never going to be a prologue, cause...well anyway), turns out my *prologue* turned out to be 22,000 words (yeah, crazy doesnt start to explain it). But until i finish my story (book one anyway) its not changing, if anything i'll most likely going to grow to 30,000 words (which isnt an issue at all for me). Chapter one was i think just as large (so far i've hit 200,000 words and im only in chapter 10 of 18). If i decided to send it to a publisher it would be suicide, not because of its length, but because i know theire a possability that 99% of what i've written will change (tighten up, kill info-dump, change plots to ideal with my other chapters etc). I just would hate to send something off that i know is going to change, and with my project being so large i wouldnt wanna send anything off knowing, they might (well i can dream) like, only to ge another copy that is completly different.

    Now, in terms of an editor, i guess you could, maybe im wrong, but i dont see why you couldnt.

    Sorry for the rant, like i said i've no expierence with the question you asked, just my opinion which might be over the top, crazy.

    Im guessing its like when you read you work sooo many times over and when your editing, there will be passagers that just stand out a wrong/not right....or there should be.... well im guessing this kind of feel will also occur and there will be scenes or information that will come out in your mind as maybe, not the right time to show them to the reader, or not at all.

    If you know your piece well enough (and i guess this is where planning comes in handy), it'll stand out like a sore thumb. If it doesnt then dont panic, write on some more, let the plot continue, let the characters develop more and when you go back over it, waalaa you might spot something.....you might even be writing something (information on character, plot) and realise you might have had it earlier on which can be cut etc

    *shrugs*

    :)
     
  19. BillyxRansom
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    BillyxRansom Active Member

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    A lot of what you're saying seems to be similar to what I've already thought about doing. Glad I'm on (seemingly) the right track here. :)

    I think it will make more sense to send this to an editor first.

    I have an idea as to what might need to happen. It might even have been inevitable.
     
  20. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Most publishers have specific requirements to submit (and agents as well).

    On average, most request a synopsis and first three chapters. Some less, all the way down to a simple query letter. Others request the full manuscript, sometimes with an outline or synopsis.

    That aside, you should have the full manuscript completed and polished when you submit. I'm sure there are writers out there that submit the first three chapters and synopsis with their novel half finished, figuring they'll not change it noticeably from the synopsis, and that if they polish the first three chapters, nothing will be affected and need any changes or tweaks by the time they get to the end of the novel (including editing/polish)...and get it completed fast enough, should a publisher request the full manuscript.

    I wouldn't do it (and haven't done it) that way. Do the extra work, and put in the extra few months writing and editing before submitting. Have readers review the final product of your labor before you send off to publishers. They'll see things that you as the writer will not...including in the first three chapters. You only get one shot with that particular novel with each publisher. You want to present them with the absolute best quality work you can produce.

    There is a lot of competition out there. In the big scheme of things, 4 or so months delay while finishing the mauscript won't make a big difference. Why send out anything but your best?

    Terry
     
  21. BillyxRansom
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    BillyxRansom Active Member

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    Great advice, thank you.
     
  22. Iris Reola
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    Personally, I would find it to be too hefty for a first book in a novel, but the others are right. Page numbers vary with different volumes and productions of the book.

    During English classes we often have difficulties finding poems because there are different volumes of that particular book dispersed amongst us. This is because there are introductions, different book sizes, different font sizes, varying distances between lines, etc.

    If it weren't for how long each and every one of J.K. Rowling's books were, I might have interest in reading them, but ALL of them are ridiculously thick books.
     

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