Sunday, April 13, 2014

Writing (or Reading) a Series

Right now I'm reading a series called Unicorn Western by Johnny B. Truant and Sean Platt. It's an interesting series and not my usual reading fare at all, but fun. I originally ordered only the free first book in the series just to see what it was about, because the authors seem to know a lot about series writing and I was interested in seeing their take on a series. Also, I chose it can you pass up a book that's both a western and has unicorns in it? But after reading the first book, I was the authors intended.

I've written several series over the years and taken part in even more multi-author series. Writing on my own, there was The Wedding Auction series (6 books) and the Brides of Red Rose (3 books below)

Brides of Red Rose

All of those books are linked in that they share common characters and a common setup and setting, but there's no major thread that carries over from one book to the next (nothing that is unresolved at the end of each book).

Then there were two series some of my author friends and I created and wrote together. Those have some elements that carry over from one book to the next (in addition to continuing characters and settings). There was The Wedding Planners series and Girls' Weekend in Las Vegas.
The Wedding Planners

Girls' Weekend in Las Vegas

Lastly, there were numerous continuity series written with other authors with a continuing thread, often a mystery, an impending doom element or other ticking clock factor that wasn't resolved until the series was over. These included Montana Mavericks: Wed in Whitehorn, Lone Star Country Club, Family Secrets, The Fortunes of Texas--Reunion, Maitland Maternity, In a Fairy Tale World..., and The Larkville Legacy.

Now I'm working on a solo series I'll publish in an ebook-only format (although I haven't totally ruled out eventually offering print versions) and which I'm temporarily calling Angel Central. It involves a group of heroes and heroines whose guardian angels are having a bit of trouble carrying out their duties, those angels having unresolved issues of their own that make them not quite ready yet for the big time. I started the first book years ago during a time when angel books were a bit of a fad, then set it aside. Now I'm having fun with it but am admittedly working a bit more slowly than I would like.

Part of that is because I'm conflicted over how inter-related these books are going to be. I keep changing my mind. On the one hand, I like to give readers a satisfying ending when a book is complete. On the other, I think of books like The Hunger Games which just wouldn't have been the same had things been tied up in a tidy knot at the end of the first book. But I do feel that, for me, the main gist of a book has to have a payoff for the reader at the end of that book (think Harry Potter where evil still looms at the end of each book but the immediate crisis is resolved). I once was asked to put a cliffhanger at the end of one of my books. It didn't deal with my hero and heroine, but it still left me with a bad feeling. Surprisingly enough, not one reader ever said anything negative about that ending, and the book, now more than a dozen years old, continues to sell. I'm still not sure how I feel about that cliffhanger.

So how do you feel about series and what are some of your favorites? (As noted above, I like Harry Potter and The Hunger Games, but I also like some of the big family series such as ones written by Mary Balogh and Loretta Chase. And now, of course, Unicorn Western).


Anonymous said...

I love series and am in the process of writing one now. I love your take on all the different kinds of series. PS. This is Bernadette. I'm not sure how to do the comment as section so I selected Anonymous, but we know I'm not.

Mary Preston said...

I must say I am not a fan of cliffhangers. If they exist I like to have the complete series in hand.

Myrna Mackenzie said...

Bernadette, no problem on being anonymous. It's sometimes confusing commenting on a Google blog (there are so many choices on how to comment). I'm thrilled to hear that you're working on a series!

Myrna Mackenzie said...

Mary, isn't it irritating when you get to the end of a book and it's not really the end? I'll give a pass to those authors who make it clear beforehand that this is just the first in a line of books, but that isn't always the case. I need to have my eyes wide open if I'm going to begin something that might take years to finish.

I certainly agree on having the complete series before I read books that don't really end at the end of each book. I made the mistake of beginning A Song of Fire and Ice (I just couldn't resist trying to see what all the fuss was about), and now I'm as antsy as everyone else waiting for the last two books. (I do feel a bit sorry for George R. R. Martin, though. The pressure to produce must be very stressful).

Anonymous said...

I'm writing a series (extreeeemely slowly since the first three are OOP and #4 was not picked up by my publisher) and wrote a cliffhanger into #4 #5 is a standalone spinoff, with a different main character, that picks up where #4 left off and carries the adventure to the next setup point--while my main characters are off on vacation.

Because of the publisher thing, #5 got written and published before #4. (Yeah, not doing that again either.) #5 has been out for 2 years and is one of my better sellers.

#4...may get me hate mail but not so far. I figured, if people want the "what happens when they get back from vacation and find the mess made in #5?" story I'll hear about it somewhere, even if only in irate reviews.

Pray for me!

-Anonymous, of course

Myrna Mackenzie said...

I feel for you. Writing a series is stressful enough without the added complications you're experiencing. Also, I don't know how you feel, but I find that when writing a series, the pressure to complete the whole set in a timely fashion is often so stressful that it slows me down. I can write the same number of stand alone books in less time than it takes for a series.