A Fresh Look
Cedar here: I’ve been a bit overwhelmed with school and work this week, so when Sanford emailed me this I was delighted. Not just because it meant less work for me, but because we talk all the time, and this has been a topic recently. When is it time to stop? Do you leave them wanting more? I mean, personally I love series and following characters as they grow and age, even when it leads to tears as it did with the Vorkosigan series. Sanford has been reading both the Monster Hunter series by Larry Correia and Butcher’s Dresden series in parallel, recently, which led to lively discussions about series. But he has a good point about the Big Bad in the series getting too big, and the Hero becoming invincible, and the series jumps the shark… Although I want to see this scene: Franks fighting the creatures in the picture, standing knee-deep in the surf! The MHI series could literally jump sharks and it would work.
Hi, Cedar is a bit busy with school, etc. this week, so I’m pinch hitting today. I’m Sanford and you’ve probably seen me around here on occasion. 🙂
I’m not a writer but I am a reader so I can discuss things pretty well. What I want to talk about this week is keeping a series fresh.
I’m old enough to remember the Destroyer series about Remo Williams, government hit man. There were about 3 decent novels in that series, after that it got ridiculous. I think most of the rest (around 150) were written for… well I’m not sure why anyone would read them. You have seen series jump the shark, most of you know the Xanth series which even the author admitted he was phoning in after a while.
So, how do you keep your stuff from getting that bad? OK first things first, if you can sell books that bad go ahead, cry all the way to the bank and write good stuff in your spare time. That’s exactly what Anthony did. I’d do it too. Problem is that most of us have no chance of developing such a cult following. So we need to figure out how to balance our fans requests for more against the dreck we will eventually be churning out. Better yet, let’s avoid getting to the dreck stage.
Again the question is how? Well there are several ways to do this that I’ve seen. The simplest and best in my opinion was the way Heinlein did it. He didn’t write a series so much as use a loose universe that he could write almost anything in. The major drawback to this is that it pretty much ignores doing a run of novels about the same character(s). Cedar has three Pixie For Hire novels planned starring the same characters Lom and Bella. She doesn’t plan to write any more Bela and Lom stories after the third comes out. We are looking at doing more stories set in the same world/time frame but focusing on other characters (Cedar: well, he really wants me to write Alger’s story, for instance… LOL). This is more or less the Heinlein model but, those wanting more Lom and Bella will be terribly disappointed. Note, we have discussed a series of x short stories filling in all of Lom’s background, selling them as collections as we get enough.
The next way is to do stand alone books or duologies or trilogies and introducing the stars of the next book/duology/trilogy in the book/last book. This way the reader doesn’t realize you having been doing the old bait and switch because the old favorites are still there, just faded into the background. This is somewhat unsatisfying because it is the old bait and switch. It can be very successful though, I would love to see John Ringo do a series based around Portena the armorer from his March series.
I saved the hard one for last because it is hard. Jim Butcher is writing the Dresden Files series. There are 20-25 books planned in the series and he has outlined the entire series from the beginning. This way he can pace the characters and not have his mage become all powerful too soon. Larry Correia has apparently done something similar with the Monster Hunter series, which is why he can foreshadow 4 books in advance. Most of us are going to have trouble looking that far forward. I admire them but would hesitate to attempt emulating them.
Those are the ways I see to do it. Any of you have any decent ideas how to keep series fresh? One of the neatest things about this blog is that the bloggers can learn as much from the commenters as the readers get from the blogs.