Sorry I'm late in posting this today. I had to run five miles in the training schedule for my half marathon (race is next Saturday!) and with the end of school looming (Tuesday) my kids were just completely wild this morning. Getting up early to post this blog just didn't work. Summer on deadline is going to seriously kill me...
So let's talk series. Specifically...when does a series out stay its welcome?
I've been thinking about this a lot lately, and we're going to be discussing plotting a series at our next meeting. Basically, in romantic fiction there are three kinds of series:
1. Books connected by an overarching plot which starts in book one but isn't resolved until the end of X number of books - a war, a hidden secret, the search for a serial killer. Generally, to understand what's happening with the overarching plot, you need to read these books in order. Each book has its own unique plot under the umbrella, which is resolved at the end of that book, and generally the romance between the H/h is resolved as well. But that overarching plot is what draws the reader from one book to the next. There are a lot of these series out there - JR Ward's BDB series, Any of Nora Roberts' trilogies (newest is the Sign of Seven trilogy), Lara Adrian's vampire series.
2. Books connected by characters. No overarching plot. Each book is stand alone. Can be read in any order and still understood. There are also lots of these as well - Cindy Gerard's bodyguard series, any of Allison Brennan's trilogies, Susan Elizabeth Phillips' Stars football books.
And finally, the third option which is really a combination of the first two:
3. Books connected by characters that hint at an overarching plot which may or may not be completely obvious. Books can generally be read in any order, though readers can get lost sometimes with multiple connections, esp. to books they haven't read. Kresley Cole's Immortals After Dark series is like this. There is something bigger going on that the reader feels is going to happen down the road, but it's not entirely clear. Sherrilyn Kenyon's Dream Hunter series is like this as well.
Like I said, this whole series concept has been on my mind a lot lately, especially because this past week my agent and I were discussing my option book in my contract. I have several choices before me:
1. Write another book that could be linked to the first three. This is entirely possible. I have at least two characters/plots that could work here. Benefits: I love these characters, love this series. Writing this/these book(s) would be fun. Drawbacks: Keeping it fresh would be a challenge. I'm already finding I have to be careful with what I do in book three so it isn't too much like the first two.
2. Start a single book that's completely different, keeping it within the adventure brand my first three books put me in.
3. Start a new series, again, keeping it within the adventure brand.
While I like the idea of going forward and writing more connected books, I fear the whole, when is enough, enough? question. I've read several series - in all three series styles above - that seemed to lose steam after about 4-5 books. My enthusiasm as a reader definitely dropped off then. I think for writers, it's very difficult to keep the series fresh after that many books. In an interview I read with Susan Elizabeth Phillips, she was asked if she was going to write any other football books. She said no, because she'd pretty much done everything she could think to do with a group of football players. This was an aha! moment for me relating to series. I've loved all her football books (connected by characters, not an overarching plot), and to me they've all been fresh. But this goes to show how difficult it is to come up with those unique ideas once you've been writing a series for so long.
I'm sort of leaning toward starting something new. I originally intended these books to be a connected trilogy, not more than that. And while I know I could write one or two more, there is something invigorating about starting something new.
But I'm curious...how do you feel about series books? What authors can continually pump out fresh material in series that run longer than five books? Do you buy series that run that long? And do you have plans to write a series yourself? If so (or if you're doing so at the moment), how many books do you envision writing? How will you keep each book fresh and unique to keep your readers chomping for more?