Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Writing 101: Should It Be a Series?

You've written a book, and you love how it turned out. You feel a strong connection to the characters, you know the setting like no one else. You've gotten some good reviews. So should you continue with the story? Should that book...become a series? 

Sequels and Whatnot

When it comes to extending a story and adding extra books, my answer is almost always yes. I can't even tell you how many times I've asked myself, and the Heavens, why Margaret Mitchell didn't write a sequel to Gone With the Wind

But I have seen the other side of that coin as well. I love Anne Shirley as much as any girl who saw the movie because the movie was fantastic, but I think we can admit to ourselves that 8 books for that series was too damned many books. No one really wanted to see Anne grow up an have an entire brood of crazy-acting children, and no one really wanted to see her go through real tragedy. It was too much; that series should have ended with a wedding and I'm not afraid to say it. When your heroine has gray hair it's just not a YA book, okay?

And when I'm honest with myself, I know that a Gone With the Wind sequel would never have worked anyway. This has proven itself to be true, because people have tried to do it. Some stories do stand alone, and some heroines can live on only in our imaginations and never on the page.

Besides, that's what fan fiction is for. 

So what if you're still stuck somewhere between an 8-book series that's just too much and a stand-alone story that could have more to say? Should it be a series...and how do you decide?

  • Loose Ends: Unanswered questions. Unresolved plots. Lingering doubts. If there are just too many questions remaining at the end of your book then yes, write a sequel and turn it into a series. I hate loose ends. Most readers hate loose ends. It's okay to leave a little bit up to the readers' imaginations, but don't forget that your main job as a writer is to imagine for them so you can't make them do too much work.
  • Popularity: Let's not pretend that popularity doesn't play a part. If you've written a book that people are crazy about and you're getting a lot of comments asking for a sequel then don't be ridiculous. Supply the fans with the story they are demanding and take your proper place in the flow of book commerce. You may be writing for the love of the written word, but you still need to eat food to survive. 
  • Resiliency: I wrote a book once that just wouldn't go away, even after it was polished and edited all to heck and back. I kept on thinking about it, to the point of distraction. I couldn't get my mind right until I started writing a sequel, even though I swore the story would stand alone. If you can't write anything else, you really haven't got much choice about it have you? Some stories just have to get all the way out of your system first. 

Look at these three factors, and none other. Stick to the right criteria before you answer your own question...should it be a series?

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