Friday, October 26, 2012
How Many Books?
Next Thursday I will be starting my 7th WriMo. But I will be doing something for the first time... starting a series that is intended to be read in order... a Septology? Anyway... it occurred to me that I've written stand-alones, a trilogy, a series in which each book CAN stand alone, but they also go together... And in each case there are different challenges. I thought maybe I'd talk about that...
In most genres, this is what most books are. Each book is its own enclosed unit, telling you everything you need to know (or at least enough you can satisfactorily imagine the rest). There is some tolerance of some loose ends, but the big thing has to be wrapped up. I think the vast majority of authors write mostly these, though there are genre exceptions. But I know of my 13 books I've written, seven fall here (YA and cozy mystery fall into exception categories.)
Series of Stand-alones
I most often see these as mysteries. Same sleuth, detective, or cop. New crime. Though I think there is some YA and a fair bit of middle grade that falls here, too—same characters, new hi-jinx. My Cozy Gardening series fits this and they are tricky—at least the first one was (and by first, I mean second--the first that came after the first *shifty*). The problem is the reader might start anywhere, so you have to give the important details for characters, but you need to do it lightly enough that someone who has read OTHER ones doesn't want to throw the book.
See, this is the category I've never done... I think some stories earn an after story and that is fabulous. And other authors fall in love with their characters and sort of fall in a trap. I think it is important to make sure it is the former you are writing. Even great books can have stupid sequels. I was not, for instance, impressed with the sequel to Pillars of the Earth (which was a favorite book until the sequel annoyed me... I'm serious). But if the end of one book is headed off to a new part of life, then sometimes THAT makes a great book, too.
I really love the trilogy, probably because I love a good, long story. The TRICK to trilogies is to, in addition to the long story, have a compelling story within each individual book that completes. I've written one of these. Badly. It may or may not ever see the light of day, but would need a full rewrite. I think these are easiest when the writer knows the whole story at the start (I mean not all of it, but has a plan for where it is going to go). And even then, it can muck up. (Eragon was meant to be 3... I think it will end up 5)
Favorites: Hunger Games, Lord of the Rings
This is the longer set that all go in order... and this is my fear. It is BIG. They do less repeat than those stand-alone series, but the big plot moves forward for a big, underlying thing. Each book still needs it's own plot that completes, but the bigger thing needs to move forward. I've seen few TV series do this really well. Veronica Mars comes to mind. I have to admit, the idea of writing this is intimidating. I could spend YEARS on ONE series... But I think the story deserves it.
Favorite EVER: Harry Potter. Song of Fire and Ice is doing really well as entertainment, but I don't think it does as well on the 'each book has its own plot' piece. Sword of Truth did it well, though I honestly suspect he wrote the first, did well, THEN came up with the rest of the series—the first book isn't connected to the big overarching thing.
So how many of these have you tried?