How Much is Too Much?

So.  I somehow managed to snag myself a copy of LKH’s latest: Skin Trade.  There was a time, several years ago, when I’d snatch the latest AB: Vampire Hunter book off the shelves and read it in a matter of hours.  I’ve had this one for at least 3 or 4 days now…and I’m barely into the 7th chapter (about 50 pages).  I literally put it down every few paragraphs.  Admittedly, I’m busy. Kids, writing, job, all of it.  My reading time has gone down the crapper and to be honest, there’s very few books out there that hold my attention that long these days.  (Doesn’t stop the slow pile in just about every corner…I have *TONS* of books and manga, as mr myn can attest to).

Still.  Putting a book down every few paragraphs?  There’s a lot of dialogue in here, which is fine, but thus far it’s been nothing but a pissing match between Anita and Edward, Anita and the Sheriff of Vegas, Anita and everyone with a pair of balls that she runs into. It’s boring conversation, too.  It just pushes and pushes and pushes.  “Look at me!  I’m a big girl! I’m rough! I’m tough! I can fight with the boys! And fuck’em too!” 
So I have to wonder – this is the 17th book in the series.  Why have they gotten so lousy? Admittedly the first few weren’t anything spectacular in terms of writing ability, but I thought LKH was a decent storyteller. The last few books are just piles of ‘meh’.  I don’t care about the oodles of sex. It’s completely unemotional – since book 11? or 12? anyway.  (I don’t care *who* you are….do *NOT* use “wet thud” to describe anything sexual.  Please.) I just can’t wrap my head around the connection she has with a lot of these men.  The relationships between them all are just one big power play.  I bought the original love triangle between her and JC and Richard, but after that?  Not so much.  Her emotions are mechanical and so is the sex.  This equals boring to me.
But again, is this just because the series has gone on too long? LKH is well known to be an organic writer.  I guess I am too – but if you don’t have a planned out story arc, when does it become an issue?  Clearly there are holes (or plot devices) you can’t write yourself out of.
There are other series that I’m not so sure of either.  The latest Sookie Stackhouse book, for example.  It felt very phoned in to me.  Some characters showed up for no reason I could tell and others weren’t very in character at all.  The all out faery war? I just couldn’t quite buy it and everything wrapped up a little too neatly. Sookie used to be spunky, but in Dead and Gone she just seemed tired.
It seems to me that things are probably done best in chunks – either trilogies or something with a discerning end.  GRRM’s Game of Thrones does this very well, as does Robin Hobb’s Assassin/Live Ship Traders/Fool series.  The story is planned and executed and then possibly moves on to the next group of characters in the same world. Others in that same vein would be Kate Elliot’s Crown of Stars.  Jacqueline Carey’s Kushiel’s Dart series. Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander. Just about anything by Tanya Huff or Guy Gavriel Kay or Lynn Flewelling. Sarah Monette’s excellent Melusine series (Mildmay is probably one of the most brilliantly written characters out there). 
I could probably list so many more and I’ve obviously missed some. But my point is that there are so many fabulous authors out there that do write multiple-book story lines.  What’s the secret?  
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3 Responses to How Much is Too Much?

  1. Jeffe Kennedy says:

    I suspect it has something to do with writing what you believe and care about as opposed to operating a franchise? Nora has done the same thing.

  2. mynfel says:

    Done which same thing? Cared? or phoned it in? (Sorry, except for what you sent me, I honestly haven't read her…)

  3. ~Sia McKye~ says:

    Hey there! Loved the article and I agree with your opinion some long running series.

    I think there is a challenge in continuing a series and keeping it fresh. For example, I love and read all of Christine Feehan's books. The thing that amazes me, is she writes THREE different series. That's alot. How do you manage to do that without losing the spark that drew the reader to the series to begin with? Yes, there have been a few stories of hers that have been more mechanical, write to a formula. I can tell. The story is still good but parts are sort of ho-hum. Now, she wrote another recently and it had all the old spark.

    So I'm thinking for the reader to feel that spark, you, as the writer must feel excitement and love for your characters, a fascination for the world you've created, and looking for new fascinations within that world to explore.

    I also think you can not churn them out rapidly to deadlines. You need to have some space between them. Three books a year is reasonable for some writers, but others, perhaps limiting yourself to two is best. Otherwise your weariness and rush will show through in the story.

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