Sequels and Success

Yesterday I started reading another sequel by an author that I used to love. And by the second chapter I was ready to claw my eyes out. The writing was wretched, but more than that, there just seemed to be this attitude of…smugness, I guess. A self-serving sort of feel to it that just grated on my nerves.

Now, this particular author has a lot of books out, and a blog that I read sometimes. And she is on Twitter and Facebook too. And I’d be inclined to think that may be part of the source of my disdain for the book – maybe she’s revealed a little too much of herself, and I’ve come to dislike what I’ve seen. (Although I’m hardly one to talk, given the cupping post from yesterday. Not like I *had* to take a picture of my back, now is it?) On the other hand, I really started hating the way the current series was going years ago, before all the internet stuff, so who knows.

But that got me thinking about my own writing. I’ve only written one book so far, and I’d like to think I could  keep the voice and storyline fresh over the next two, but where will I be down the road? At what point does a series start getting overworked, so that it seems as though the author is just phoning it in? Or is it less a matter of how many books and more the success level of the author? Does a writer just hit a point where they feel as though they’ve “made it” and stop caring?

Or is scheduling to blame? In today’s world of instant gratification, consumers tend to forget that a book is months or years of work. The reader doesn’t want to wait for the next installment of the story, so perhaps that leads to publishers requesting that authors write faster, or write more than one series at a time. Maybe it’s less the author being jaded than just accidental sloppiness to produce what’s requested.

I think for our favorite authors, we’re more willing to overlook a clunker of a book in a series, especially if the one before it was good, or the one after it makes up for it.  I know I’ve got series I still read, simply because I adore the characters so much, although that can have repercussions as well, when readers take “ownership” of those characters. It can feel like a betrayal when a character suddenly does something to ruin his/her image of who the reader feels they are.

The question is, how long do we, as readers, keep buying those books in the hopes that somehow the author with return things to the way they were? Does the author have a responsibility to the readers? Or do they follow the vision for their story and tell it the way they want to tell it?

(And yes, this is a rhetorical sort of question – I see both sides of it, so I’m not really expecting a purely qualified answer.)

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5 Responses to Sequels and Success

  1. Danica says:

    This topic is something I've read about several times. I think the problem with long standing series, is that if the characters don't evolve, they grow stagnant. I've found that my enthusiasm for a series lessens the more the character falls back on problems they had in the first two or three books of the series. There has to be something new, not just new powers, or new characters, but a definite change in the main character.

    Now, there is one author who I feel did a very clever series switch. She started with one character, wrote 4 books in it, then switched to a different angle by writing about a completely different character who was linked to the original. You still see the first character, but it's from a different POV and their problems have changed. It only endeared her books to me more that she allowed me to peek into that character's life while reading about someone new.

    If any of this makes sense, then I did a better job than I thought! lol

  2. Simon says:

    Well, all I'll say is: Terry Pratchett. He's still bringing it how many books into his Discworld series?

    Things don't have to go south.

  3. mynfel says:

    Well, yeah. But Terry Pratchett is a genius. Like Neil Gaiman. But it just seem that far too often the books start to fall into a great big pit of suck.

  4. Danielle says:

    I 100% agree with Danica. Characters need to constantly evolve, and it he/she has stopped growing and arcing, it's time to move on to a new character, if the world is strong and interesting enough, or to try something completely different if the world can't be sustained without the original cast. So when it is that a series needs to wrap up is variable. It all depends on the series and what stories are left to tell. 🙂

  5. mynfel says:

    And I totally agree with this. I guess I'm just a bit disgruntled, because the series I was reading is up to about 18 or 19 books now and it just seems like the author/publisher is milking it based on the name and the fact that it's a best selling series. Given the shortness of the latest one (just over 150 pages and the fact they're charging $25 for hardcover), it really burns me up. The writing just seems so phoned in and without direction. 

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