1. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    What is a series?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Mckk, Jun 4, 2012.

    So, if you have Book 1 where the characters come to terms with their mission and accept it, and then Book 2 they embark on their mission - many people on the forum will say, "Well, Book 1 is just a back story then!"

    But so I'm wondering, what makes a series then? Surely a series is meant to show the build up, as in the above example? It seems to me that anything other than the absolute final book in any "series" should then be considered as mere "back story".

    For example, what about Hunger Games? Surely Books 1 and 2 are just "back stories" seeing as the rebellion is the point of the whole trilogy anyway, so Collins should've just started with Book 3.

    As for LOTR - ok note, I've only watched the films - but as far as the breaks go, there's no "resolution" at the end of each part until Part 3. So that might explain what a "series" (or I guess, trilogy) is - but you're not meant to ever write a book with a cliff-hanger and no resolution.... o_O

    So how can a writer ever write a series? (since the consensus is unless you're mega famous, no publisher will want a series from you)

    And what's the difference between the preceding books within a series before the final climax and a back story?
     
  2. koal4e
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    koal4e Member

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    Its not a back story if they are entwined story lines. If you think about Lord of the Rings it is one continuation of a story with different stories mixed and entwined together.

    If book 1 is simply the characters finding out about the mission and accepting it, then book 2 is the mission one may say its a back story. If book 1 and 2 are both the acceptance and the mission but with different stories and plots entwined so its a continuation in book 2 from book 1 of the mission then its a series...well this is as far as I see it.
     
  3. koal4e
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    koal4e Member

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    Just read what Killbill said in another thread which is an eloquent way of putting it

    "So, we have the beers, the band, and the people are filling up the room.... But wait, the party will happen in the next book. I am sorry, the first book sounds like the back story for the next book."
     
  4. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Lol it was that very same thread that inspired my thread - precisely Killbill's quote.

    But I liked your explanation - so what about The Hunger Games? Now the first book, I could see it was necessary maybe - but it's still just to set a backdrop for WHY there's a rebellion in Book 3 - so why is this not considered a back story? And definitely Book 2 - Book 2 was ALL about Katniss accepting the mission, with little else other than a repetition of the games. Why is that not a back story? (I personally found the 2nd book unnecessary actually)
     
  5. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    A series is a group of novels with a common setting, some character overlap, and usually a sequential relationship.

    Each novel in a series MUST stand by itself. From what you describe, your first novel emphatically does not meet this criterion, and will never sell to a publisher.
     
  6. GillySoose
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    GillySoose Member

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    You'd probably only have the luxury of having cliffhangers at the end when your name and series are already established (even then I personally wouldn't push it too much). Hunger Games the first, at least, could be considered standalone even if it's technically a back story to an overarching plot.
     
  7. Fivvle
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    Fivvle Contributing Member

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    It sounds much easier to just put the entire notion of a series out of your mind.
     
  8. indy5live
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    indy5live Active Member

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    A first novel should always be written as a stand alone novel. If you go to a publisher with a book that requires additional books to be complete then their not going to waste their time with you unless you are already an establish author, in which case I'd assume you wouldn't be asking us :/ A series is essentially a collect of stand alone stories with similar characters and themes and usually work in some linear pattern with one another (progressing along a flat timeline where each new series is the next event). In my opinion, series kind of peek around the 3rd to 5th novel then kind of go down hill. The Bourne series and the Resident Evil series both feel victim to trying to keep a best-selling story alive when it really should have ended as a trilogy imo.
     
  9. Protar
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    Protar Active Member

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    This is simply not true. Now whether or not a first time writer should be tackling a series and trying to get it published is a different question, but if you are writing a series there is nothing wrong with having the novels all interconnect. In fact this is how I prefer series' to be: If I read a book from halfway through a series and it made complete sense to me I would think it was a book designed for children or very casual readers and would put it down. If an author wants to write a novel that stands on its own, they would just write a stand alone novel. I'm sorry but I've seen you saying this a lot and I just don't agree with it. I expect it makes a lot of the newbies feel very constricted and anxious over what they can and can't write which isn't the atmosphere this site should have imo.
     
  10. indy5live
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    indy5live Active Member

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    I think we'd all like to be published at some point. By all means, if you want to write for the personal enjoyment of just writing then go for it. Write a series to satisfy that personal goal. But most of us would like to share our work with the world and to do that there are certain criteria that publishers have. I don't think anyone is trying to discourage writing, just trying to express the reality of the industry. A first novel must stand-alone unless you are wealthy like George Lucas and can publish/produce your own stuff. Hunger Games, Harry Potter, etc. all had first novels that can hold their own. Lord of the Rings was written as one novel but later broken down into three books, so if you have that much of a story to tell then go ahead and write it all out as one story. Once that first story is established, you'll have more creative freedoms as an author with your publisher to write open ended books that require another novel to complete the story (But I'd imagine they'd want to at least see a planned out plot that justifies the additional stories) imo
     
  11. kamikazepilot42
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    kamikazepilot42 Member

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    Interconnecting and having a story arc that stands alone are two different things. Obviously you want a series to interconnect, and it's OK to leave open threads, but the story itself has to have some sort of conclusion. Otherwise, why not just make it one huge book? Why are you breaking it up? The division into different books then is a gimmick, and little else. Sure, there can be a bigger picture in which everything is not resolved, but whatever story you are telling in the first book needs some sort of resolution. Later in the series you can pull from that and revisit characters, themes, etc...

    The whole point of a series would be to tell multiple stories under the same umbrella. The umbrella doesn't need to fold up and be put away after one book, but the story does.
     
  12. Protar
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    Protar Active Member

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    I agree that the first story should be more standalone, to smoothly introduce the reader to the story. But Cog was (unless I'm mistaken.) talking about every novel in a series having to be standalone.

    And I agree that a first time writer shouldn't be trying to get a series published. What I'm doing is writing the first book of a series, then moving onto standalone books for a bit to get myself into the publishing world.

    I think you and I have a different idea of what standalone means. The mere presence of a climax does not make it a standalone book. Most books have several dramatic events that could potentially act as climaxes so looking at the story as a whole the climaxes of each book in the series would simply be one of these.

    Books from a series should end at a logical breaking point, but this doesn't mean it's standalone. Using my favourite example, let's take A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin. ASOIAF is by far the best series of books I've ever read and each novel flows into the next and they most certainly aren't standalone. Now each book leaves off at a logical conclusion point for each character, but if you were to try and read but 2 without first reading book 1, you'd be hopelessly lost.

    And as for why you'd split up the series into books, well perhaps you didn't know this, but books can only be so big.
     
  13. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    If you are an established, successful author, you may be able to bend the rules, but even so, each novel needs to tell a complete story, even if it is part of a larger arc.

    There must be some sort of central story line that is resolved, one way or another, at the end f each novel.

    If you have a multi-book contract with a publisher, you may be allowed to have a "softer" resolution at the ends of books that are not the final installment, but that will be at the expense of being specified in the contract. No publisher in their right minds would accept an incomplete story without some legal remedy if the arc is not completed, unless you are another Stephen King -- a cash cow that can sell even if the author drops dead after the first installment.

    Publishing is a business. Never forget that. And it's a business that often operates on narrow margins, especially when dealing with untried writers who think their status as artistes overrides such petty matters as turning a profit.
     
  14. Protar
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    Protar Active Member

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    I was speaking from purely from an enjoyment purpose though, from a publishing perspective things are obviously different. Sorry for the misunderstanding. But rather than crushing the hopes and dreams of new writers and telling them "never write a series or no publisher will ever pick you up and you will fail." perhaps better advice would be to tell them "try and build up a reputation as an established writer before handing in a series to publishers." I'm am constantly worried and irked by the negative and pessimistic views on success that this forum can give off at times.
     
  15. Show
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    I've written 4 novels in a series. Each book stands alone and essentially is a completely different plot. While later books reference events in the first one, most could be picked up by new readers and enjoyed just fine. It's essentially just the same characters and continuing relationships that tie them all together. And most importantly, the first book in the series is even more standalone, with absolutely no references to any sequels or anything. So I say we shouldn't discourage writing series. As Cog said, just make each standalone.
     
  16. Protar
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    Protar Active Member

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    To me, that defeats the point of having a series. In my experience most series' whiere each book has a completely different plot, each one dealing with a different "monster of the week" (pardon my trope-talk) are designed for younger or more casual audiences. There's nothing wrong with that of course, it's just not what I want to write. And it does annoy me when people (i.e Cog) only look at things from a publishing and marketing perspective. For me this ruins the atmosphere of writing. My preference is for the business side of things to be a necessary annoyance, not something that consumes my work.
     
  17. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    As Indy5live stated, LOTR was originally written as one huge novel. The publisher split it into three books to make it convenient to print. It is NOT a series, it is one novel.

    A series would be something like the James Bond books. Same hero, same supporting cast for the most part (mostly British Secret Service personnel), but a standalone adventure in each book, each with its own beginning, middle and end. You could read any of the books in any order without missing anything.
     
  18. Protar
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    Protar Active Member

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    Some series are like that, but not all. What about Wheel of Time or A Song of Ice and Fire? Even the Harry Potter books past the third one are very interconected. Try picking up A Storm of Swords (from ASOIAF) and reading it without reading the first two books first. It will make no sense.
     
  19. Show
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    Younger? I would hardly think so, looking at the market. More casual? Maybe these series don't have blockbuster movies made out of them but I'd certainly think they can have just as passionate fanbases, if not more. If that's not what you want to write, that's all well and good. Variety is a cornerstone of entertainment. However, I certainly don't think these stories necessarily are for younger or more casual crowds. (If anything, most of the most famous series in literature with largely continuing storylines seem to be favored by the younger audiences.) I feel this kind of series makes my novels more accessible. You don't have to read one to enjoy the other. (Although if you like one, you might like the others.) IMO, this is kind of the point of a series. I've actually implemented light continuing plot devises between books, but unless/until I establish myself, I can't see a point to writing heavily interconnected books.


    And I agree that you cannot look at things purely from a publishing perspective. If you don't want to, that's okay too. :)
     
  20. Protar
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    Protar Active Member

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    Variety is indeed the cornerstone of entertainment. So having all series' be made up of standalone novels goes against that. Obviously both are valid paths, I disagree with the people saying that all series' must be made of standalones.
     
  21. Show
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    Well, the series that continue are likely from those authors who are more established. I'm not for discouraging anything. I just feel that writers need to at least be aware that pitching a single novel and turning it into a series is a lot harder than pitching an entire series. Not to mention, it's a lot harder to sell a series to readers that they have to read in order and in entirety to get a complete story.

    If you can handle it, go for it. But on average, you're better off pitching a single book. (And if you want, one with the potential to be turned into a series. The nice thing about a good "monster of the week" series is that if you get it established, there's no reason why you can't make the novels interconnected later on. ;) )
     
  22. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Wow I wasn't expecting such a response and such an interesting discussion! And sorry if I wasn't clear in my original post, but I wasn't referring to my own novel. My own novel is one book. The example of a "series" I gave was a generic one that I thought of off the top of my head :)

    So every book in a series must/should be standalone - so is the only similarities between the books then supposed to be its characters and premise, and that's it?

    Now what about a trilogy? How would you make that "standalone" when they're supposed to be one big story?

    In fact, what is the purpose of a trilogy or heavily interconnected series if it's one big story, which means surely writing it as one book is better and then at the discretion of the publisher, could be split into more books?
     
  23. Protar
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    Protar Active Member

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    If you want to write a heavily interconnected series, feel free to do so. Just keep in mind that you'll need to establish yourself in the publishing industry with some standalone novels first before you have a chance of getting a deal with it though.
     
  24. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    You can ignore the fact that publihing is a business only if you never expect to publish.

    Let's examine the obsession with creating a series, especially among writers who have never attacked even a single novel.

    In most cases, they start with an idea, and immediately begin planning how to split it into a trilogy. That is absolutely the wrong approach. But why do they do it? Because they want to impress people, and they themselves are impressed by grand sagas delivered that way.

    Well, the series they base that on were written by veteran writers who have already become established. Furthermore, even those are nearly always comprised of three complete stories with a larger arc.

    So take that big stroy of yours, and instead of figuring how to turn it into a trilogy, decide instead what really needs to be told to make it fit into one solid novel. People will be impressed enough by that one novel, and you really aren't ready for a series until you have mastered the stand alone novel.

    Asimov's Foundation trilogy is a major work. But it wasn;t written as a trilogy. It was a collection of short stories and novellas, most of which were published separately in magazines prior to being collected into three novels. Those three novels can be read in any order, although there is most assuredly an added dimension in reading them in their natural chronology.

    And then Asimov wrote additional Foundation novels that fall before and after the events of the trilogy, and they in fact tie the Foundation novels to his other R. Daneel Olivaw series. And those, too, were independent novels.

    Now look at the Harry Potter series. Each is an independent novel, chronicling the events of a single school year. We were told, early on, that there would be seven books. Other than that, each deals with a specific threat against Harry and his friends, and each has a resolution at the end, even where the resolution is not always happy.

    Until you have mastered the ability to juggle a complete story while building a larger arc story, you are not ready to tackle a closed series.

    And now I've introduced a new concept. A closed series is one in which there is a plan covering a predetermined sequence of novels, with a well-defined end event. An open series is a collection of books with the same characters and setting, but no definite endpoint. Foundation is an open series. Harry Potter is a closed series, with the ultimate showdown between Harry and Voldemort being the culminating event. Foundation would have been a closed series if it ended with the creation of the Second Galactic Empire - but could still have later novels added to fill some of the gaps or begin earlier.

    I personally believe many of those seeking to write a series have dollar signs in their eyes. Three books will bring in more money, and better yet, more fame, than a single novel. Before you protest indignantly, examine your motivations honestly. Are you afraid you can only come up with one great story idea?

    No one likes someone to tell them what they can and cannot do. And in your gut, you believe Art should be exempt. But you gotta pay your dues. Acknowledge the realities of publishing. You might as well. They won't go away if you turn your back and squeeze your eyes real tight and cross all your fingers.
     
  25. Protar
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    The reason I want to write a series is most certainly not to make money. I want to write a series because the setting for the story has existed in my head in some form since I was like 8. I therefore do not wish to write a couple hundred pages of it and then abandon it forever. I wish to be a successful author and I wish to have a magnum opus ready to be written. And yes thank you I do take into account the business side of things. As I have already said I'm going to try getting standalone books published first to get established before getting a series' deal. I don't know why you insist on being so pessimistic. Are you saying that people simply shouldn't try being successful authors?

    So I would be very happy if we could all just respect one another's opinions and not state opinions as fact. And please stop trying to crush the hopes and dreams of first time writers. Thank you.
     

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