Yesterday, I picked up a new book* to read, one that I’ve been waiting to read for quite some time as it is the newest in the series. With growing excitement I examined the cover and then flipped to page one – only to be swept away by my disappointment in the very first sentence.
What is this? I wondered. Why were there so many adverbs and unnecessary descriptors? Each sentence had at least three adverbs! The description was just an info-dump – there was no action, nothing to make me care about the description. And beyond that – each character was described in such depth that I would have expected this to be book one in the series, not eleven.
I thought about this all day. Why is the description so over the top? Well, the books are written by two authors. Maybe they tried to make it as clear as possible the exact details so that they would each see the same thing. Unfortunately, they made things less clear for anyone reading their books. That kind of description is fine for first drafts, but not published works.
This morning I decided to go back to the first book and see if the writing was always that bad. To my surprise, it was not. The first book had clear description and fewer adverbs. It was still written by two authors, so that sort of scrapped my previous theory (though I think it is still valid). So what was the issue? Well, maybe that it is book eleven. I think these authors have lost their focus (which was really proven by the previous book, in which the entire contents of the book could have been condensed to one or two chapters). The first books in the series were great, they had definite endings and a plot that, while it could be connected to the next book, was all its own.
Why do fantasy writers write such long series’ if the quality of their writing deteriorates? Why do fantasy writers feel the need to write series at all? In other genres, stand-alone books are the norm.
Here are the reasons I came up with for why fantasy writers write series:
1. Most fantasy writers try to write epic fantasy – which by the word epic has a connotation of great length, something that cannot be contained within a single book. But why not? I don’t have the answer to this. My only suggestion to aspiring writers is to think about it, and write a single story. Don’t split it up.
2. We as writers get invested in a particular character. We know them inside and out. We want to follow their whole life, or as much of it as possible. Readers want it too.
3. Fantasy novels sometimes have a cast that is, honestly, too big. When we try to follow to many characters, we get caught up in all the things that the characters are doing and lose sight of the plot. Then, the plot gets drawn out into more books.
4. The idea that fantasy novels must be in a series. If all fantasy books are part of a series, who is going to step outside that box and write a stand-alone fantasy?
5. And last but not least, money. Sometimes I think published writers let go of the love of writing. It seems that it becomes just another dreary job rather than a creative passion. So they write a fantasy novel. It sells more copies than they ever expected. They continue with the characters and world, making ever more elaborate plots that don’t actually tie back to the original story – because these other books weren’t planned.
I admit, I love trilogies. I love reading them and I love writing them. Maybe it has to do with that there are three – the beginning, middle, and end – or maybe that’s just what I read most of. I don’t know. But I love them. I don’t know if I would write a stand-alone fantasy novel. I can see the benefit of doing it, but I think it takes more skill and practice than I have right now. Maybe you can do it.
What do you think about series in fantasy? Do you find yourself having to stop reading a series if it drags on forever and ever?
Take care, fellow travelers.
*I’m not naming the book because I don’t think it’s right to be negative about something that someone worked so hard on, and besides, that’s not what this post is about.
- Expecting a First Book to Begin a Series (storytreasury.wordpress.com)
- Authors: What happens when you extend a series too long? This is an excellent post over at the Crimson League. It talks about signs that your series has carried on too long.