Friday, 11 April 2014
Day 11: Writing a Series Book #BYBin30
When people discuss series books, they very rarely are referring to non-fiction books, but, in the non-fiction context, a series book can be several books on different aspects or subsets of one more general topic. A good example of this is the writing books by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi. Currently, they have three books which all fall within the same topic, but are more specifically targeted. Their series of writing books, "The Emotions Thesaurus," "The Negative Trait Thesaurus" and "The Positive Trait Thesaurus" are all thesauruses written for writers, but they each address a different sub-topic within the writing paradigm.
More commonly, when people reffer to series books, they are referring to fiction books.
A stand-alone novel is one that can be read on its own. It does not continue in a later book and every issue or conflict introduced in the book is successfully resolved by the end of the book. These books can be long or short but must always resolve the conflict within the one book.
A trilogy is, essentially, a much longer stand-alone book that has been divided into three separate books. Trilogies must resolve all of the conflicts and issues that are introduced within all three books by no later than the final book in the trilogy. Some trilogies work like series books in that they have an over-arching conflict that doesn't resolve until the final book, but also have smaller conflicts that are individual to each book that are resolved within that specific book. Other trilogies leave major cliffhangers at the end of each book, waiting for the final book to resolve the cliffhangers from the previous two books.
Series books usually differ from stand-alone books but not always. Occasionally, series books function as stand-alone books but have the same characters dealing with different conflicts in each subsequent book. The Nancy Drew series is a good example of this. Each book is about a different mystery that the main character, Nancy, solves, but each book can also be read as a stand-alone book because each mystery is introduced at the beginning of the same book that it is resolved in by the end. And there is no over-arching conflict or mystery that remains unanswered from book to book.
More often, series books differ from stand-alone books because of an over-arching theme or conflict that carries over from one book to the next, usually not getting resolved until the final book in a series. These books usually have a sub-conflict which each particular book deals with, successfully resolving towards the end, while still keeping the main conflict unresolved. Each book continues with the same characters and, normally, the same setting. They tend to be plot-driven, but, because they can cover a long span of time, they often have characters who grow and change throughout the story.
A good example of series books is The Dresden Files series by Jim Butcher. The books deal with the same characters and they happen in the same world, but each story is self-contained, while at the same time leaving something to be resolved by the next book. The over-arching theme sometimes changes after being resolved in a previous book, but, though it changes, there is always one that carries over to future books.
Series books are usually not overly long books, but there are some series books which have successfully overcome that trend. A good example of a series of books that has very long books for each book in the series is the Game of Thrones series by George R. R. Martin. The first book in the series is over 800 pages long and has won several awards.
One thing to consider when writing a series book is foreshadowing. In foreshadowing, you lay the seeds for future events in the book early on in the storyline. In series books, these seeds can be laid down to sprout within the storyline several books later.
Some series authors choose not to resolve any of the conflicts introduced in the first books, and sometimes not even in the second or third books in the series. They leave major cliffhangers at the end of each book. For some authors, this can work as a device to keep the reader interested and wanting to read more. But there is a significant number of people who do not like reading books with this type of cliffhanger ending within a series book. Writers need to keep that in mind that with a book that doesn't resolve anything; they might be alienating some of their readers.