books, reading

Discussion: When Do Series Need To Stop?

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So, after having stated that I’m not doing any top 10 Tuesdays — because I’m truly not, I really don’t have the time right now — I’m still seeing other people’s pop up on their blogs (after all, it is — shocker, in case you weren’t aware — Tuesday).

Anyway, the theme for this week is “Series I mean to read but haven’t started yet.” As I checked out some of these posts, I saw a lot of series that are still anticipating further sequels — and in some instances, they’re already at book 4, 5, or 6. So, I thought it might be a good time to discuss this issue — when is it too much, and time for the author to wrap it up and move onto something else?

As the writer of a series myself, I see many benefits to determining ahead of time that I’m going to create a quartet. In my case, it will be 4 books following the major plot thread/main characters in this setting. (And I think “quartet” has a nice sophisticated sound to it.) I took the whole story and broke it into 4 separate parts, and determined a length limit on each individual novel (between 190 and 200 pages), so that someday they’ll all fit nicely into a limited edition box set, and each installment is not too much at once for the reader.

(Okay, maybe I should’ve switched the listing order of those priorities…)

But it’s the truth for many readers — when a series carries on too long (literally, in terms of years of publishing, and/or the length of each new book), we’re more likely to decide not to finish the series. We just get tired of waiting 2 years for the next sequel, or shelling out money for another 650 pages of continually deteriorating plot and character motivations.

And this is the other major problem — when a publisher insists that a series keep going, even when the story feels that it could have reached a natural conclusion one, two, even three books back, the writing begins to feel stale, trite, unnecessary.

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As a writer, this pains me to witness.

It’s the same as when TV shows keep producing episodes, even though the natural flow of the story died off 3, 4, 5 seasons ago. Or when a movie has just too many sequels. And we the readers/viewers, begin to wonder what the point is anymore, and it makes us sad, and even starts to eat away at the enjoyment we used to have for the whole thing.

Just me? No?

There is a huge benefit to declaring when there will be no more books. JK Rowling could have spent her entire career writing nothing other than Harry Potter (based on the money factor alone). But she established that after book 7, she would be done. Maybe a spinoff here or there (like the screenplay for Fantastic Beasts), but otherwise, no. And she has been apparently happy writing adult murder mysteries since then. So, good for her. I loved Harry Potter, and had a bit of a bookdragon hangover when I finished reading Deathly Hallows, but I also knew that Harry’s story had come to a conclusion, and I did respect the author’s choices, so had to suck it up.

This may be an unpopular opinion, but I’m beginning to think that Americans in general don’t know when to stop.

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Part of the reason I gave up reading certain genres (I’m staring directly at mysteries and romance here) is the tendency for publishers to encourage authors to write for absolutely as long as the series makes money. Regardless of whether the characters still have life in them. It becomes too tedious to wade through.

I honestly don’t mind a favorite series coming to an end if it makes sense to the plot and character arcs. I’m mature about it. And quite frankly, the rest of us should be, too.

The other thing I’m beyond done with is living writers creating new spinoffs for characters written by authors who have been dead for decades. Seriously, folks, let Sherlock Holmes rest in peace, already! What in the seven hells was the point of adding zombies and sea monsters to the works of Jane Austen?! And really, Hollywood, you can’t come up with anything better than yet another remake?

This trend to “just keep going” makes me wonder if we also have an irrational fear of things ending.

Even one of my major favorites, Warriors, which has released new publications continually for the last several years, seems to be reaching its end. But this incredible world-building has certainly been thoroughly explored, and I feel that things would start to get too repetitive if the authors forced out any more 6-book arcs. So I don’t have an issue with it.

Desert

As I see the advertisements for upcoming releases, I notice just how many of them belong to an established series. And I’m late to the party, and the idea of trying to catch up now is honestly draining.

So for the rest of this year, I think I’ll be hunting out more standalones, more indie authors, more set trilogies and duologies.

I’m sticking to my 4-volume completion of my original series, and then there will be spinoffs — but that’s because there’s a ton more in this world that I want to explore, using different characters, different settings, different time periods.

And that’s the whole crux of the biscuit — the entertainment market keeps pushing the same old, same old at the audience, who is clamoring for something different.

Just a few thoughts.

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9 thoughts on “Discussion: When Do Series Need To Stop?”

  1. I clicked on your post for the fluffy orange cat and stayed for the content. What a great post. There have been so many series I have read that I felt should have stopped but then they started beating a dead horse. At some point there is going to be nothing left for characters to do or say that makes sense for who they are. The one that stands out most in my mind at the moment are the Bryant and May mysteries by Christopher Fowler. Don’t misunderstand me, I adore them. Such wonderful characters! But at some point a few books ago they started to feel stale. They had nothing left to say but they still keep going. We all want to ride a money train home but at some point, enough is enough. Rant/ramble complete. Still like the cat.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you!

      Yeah, I’ve started and not finished several series because it just became too much. When the characters are literally sitting around having toast for 56 paragraphs because the author simply can’t think of anything else to do with them, it’s clear they should have started pouring their energy into a different project several publications ago.

      The cat thanks you for your interest in his portrait. 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  2. ooh really good topic! And oh my goodness yes!!! I agree with this so much!! Personally, my feelings usually go along the lines of “anything’s fine as long as the author plans it ahead of time”- so the fact that you decided at the very start to make a quartet is excellent!! I know there are authors who decided before they wrote a series that they wanted 7 books (even George R R Martin who I’ll probably have more to say about in a minute)- and like you I really respected Rowling for making it 7 books- that was perfect. But man I hate it when a series goes on past the point when the author originally intended it- cos they usually either recycled stories or just make terrible plot choices. And yes there is a problem when an author just can’t keep up with the workload they’ve created (hello George R R Martin- I said he’d come up again 😉 ) And oh my goodness I am so *done* with spinoffs and remakes (I’ve never been a fan of “lost in Austen” type things anyway- they just become fanfic and I’m not into that) Love this post so much!!

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    1. Thank you! Yeah, I’m about done with seeing yet another “inspired by” title. I’m aware that these characters/authors have been very influential on modern writers/readers, and that of course doesn’t bother me — but the idea that apparently we can’t think up anything new because we’re just that besotted with these now-traditional stories really does me in. For example, what the heck is up with the CONSTANT fairytale re-tellings? Can’t we have a new version of Swan Lake or Puss in Boots or something instead of Cinderella for the MILLIONTH time?

      I’ve pretty much given up on mysteries simply because they just go on too long. One U.S. author decided to write a “private eye” series based on the alphabet — A is for… B is for… etc. She started writing it somewhere around 1990, and just a couple of years ago, she’d finally made it to X. GAG!!! I am SO glad I didn’t bother trying to keep up after about H. I think if she’d decided to write a collection of short stories on that premise, all based on, say, a year in the character’s life, that could’ve worked and been a lot less repetitive.

      So, anyway, yes, I totally hear you about having limits — and yes, I completely made the conscious and informed choice to determine the end for my series before I even started it.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You’re welcome 😀 Oh gosh that is so so true!!!
        I am the same- I very rarely want to read those if the mystery extends over a series of books. Ahh I get that!!
        Yes- that’s really wise. I can’t understand why so many authors don’t do that. It makes the books seem really bloated!!

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  3. “What in the seven hells was the point of adding zombies and sea monsters to the works of Jane Austen?!” *applauds enthusiastically* THANK YOU FOR SAYING IT.

    There have been so many series where I read the first book, liked it, but just had no desire to continue. I was satisfied with where things ended up, even if there were a few loose ends. Usually, I never read any more of the series. I’m almost always satisfied with a satisfying ending. It doesn’t have to be tidy.

    Every time I tried to force myself to continue reading the series anyway, it never went well. By the second or third book, I was usually so sick of the whole thing that I didn’t even like the first book anymore, although I had previously enjoyed it.

    So I definitely think knowing when to stop would be a great thing for writers. At the same time, it’s also good for me as a reader to remember. Because the author can go ahead and continue the series if it makes them money and pleases other readers. But if I don’t want to continue, I need to accept that. It’s a win-win that way. I got my satisfying ending, and the writer got to have a series.

    It’s also important to note that every single one of my all-time favourite books are stand-alone novels.

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    1. There are several series that if I didn’t finish them, not knowing what happened would drive me batty. But I also feel that authors shouldn’t feel compelled to turn every new publication into a 10-part series. Some of the stand-alones I enjoyed most were ones that could have had a sequel (in terms of the plot), but didn’t, and, as you said, it was still okay.

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  4. I honestly think it depends! Like personally, I for one LOVE when series continue or do spin-offs. It’s homey for me and it’s comfortable and comforting. I get characters I’m used to and I get a style I know I’ll enjoy. (Like Rick Riordan and Cassandra Clare have some of my FAVOURITE fantasy worlds ever!)

    I mean, of course I fall out of love with series or don’t like the way they go sometimes. 😜 But I’ll never say “this series should’ve stopped” or anything because while *I* might not be into it anymore, if it’s selling and the author loves the world and has the luck to have a publisher who wants to continue (this is rare!) then I say good for them. 😊

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    1. Most of the time I don’t begrudge others if they’re more than happy to carry on writing/reading a series that just doesn’t do it for me anymore. But I really think that most writers (and readers) will simply develop burnout, and I’ve stopped reading some authors that can’t seem to come up with anything new and not ridiculous anymore, and I don’t think it’s okay to keep killing trees and wasting ink to create a million copies of something that will be sitting in a warehouse, ready to be pulped within a year (to be blunt). Especially when the publishers could be pushing a great new idea/writer/start of something truly amazing for a lot of people. (Particularly considering that many readers are saying they’re really tired of the same old, same old.)

      And no matter how much I love a series, most of the time I don’t mind it coming to an end, if it’s fitting for the story. Sometimes I get a bit of a book hangover and temporary sense of loss; but the only time I get really upset is if I feel the author didn’t try hard enough to wrap it up in a way that does justice to everything; or when things end too quickly (like when Terry Pratchett died).

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