Don't get my wrong. I love series--reading them, that is. When the next Dresden Files or Mercedes Thompson or Toby Daye or Kate Daniels novel is published I am right there in the bookstore on release day, cash in hand. I delight in revisiting beloved characters and breathlessly reading about their latest adventure.
My brain is also quite happy to spawn series. So far I have two completed series: YA paranormals Dreamfire and Dreamline; and fantasy romances Gate to Kandrith and Soul of Kandrith. I also have two ongoing YA series—Violet Eyes, which I am working on book four of, and Otherselves, of which book one will be published by Entangled in Summer 2015 and I’m drafting book three. Among my unpublished works are a mostly-completed alternate history trilogy and a paranormal romance and a fantasy that beg for sequels.
I love series, but writing one is a pain in the butt.
First there is the time investment issue. Authors always hope that book one will be wildly popular and the editor (or fans) will demand a book two. If it is, then you want to be standing there ready with at least a synopsis for book two and three chapters in hand. Being unready is NOT a good feeling. True story: in 1999 I received the wonderful news that Anne Greenberg of Simon & Schuster wanted to publish my novel Violet Eyes and, by the way, could I write a sequel? The correct answer to this question is pretty much always YES, but I hesitated and asked for a little time to think about it because writing a sequel had never crossed my mind. I brainstormed for ideas over the weekend, said yes, and then found myself in the awkward position of writing to a deadline for the first time in my life with a newborn baby in the house. I did it, and I’m glad I did, but yeah. Not ideal.
However, all too often book one isn’t wildly popular. If sales are poor, then you may have wasted not only all the hours spent on book one, but all the hours spent thinking about/writing sequels, too. And once I’ve shaped an idea, it HURTS not write it. To put it on the backburner for some day or lock it up in a trunk forever.
Because if you want a career as a writer, and I do, that means making choices about which stories to invest your time in and which are throwing good money after bad.
The second problem with writing a series is the consistency issue. Everything from birthdays to magical rules must be the same for each book. Timelines need to be created and kept straight. Also, few writers can afford to spend years writing and revising an entire series before shopping it around—we need that paycheque!—which usually means book one is published before the next ones are written. And once book one is published certain facts are frozen. Throwaway lines about your world in book one can come back to haunt you later. (Oh, how I regret when Silver Eyes was published in 2001 giving Angel a futuristic ‘palmtop’ computer—which acts basically as a smartphone. I am now stuck with the term and it grows clunkier with every darn book.)
Do you love to read series? What about writing them?