How Long Should A Series Be?

All my full-length novels are part of a series. I’ve never written a ‘stand alone’ book (at least not one I’ve published) and I don’t know if I will in the future, either. In the genres I write in–romance and urban fantasy–book series are staples. Authors and readers tend to enjoy ongoing worlds and stories that stretch across multiple books.

The question is, how long should a series be? So far, most of my work is in trilogy form, though that may change. I’ve planned for trilogies and found myself at the end of the third book wanting to answer more questions and continue the story thread. Some very popular series are trilogies, and some very popular series are much longer and even still being expanded upon. I think there’s two important questions you should answer when asking yourself how long your series should be: what do the readers want, and how long can you write in this universe without running out of ideas or getting bored?

If readers love your series, of course they’re going to encourage–and even demand–more. Being caught up in the heady thrill of readers turning ravenous over your work is great, but it can also be dangerous. Make sure you don’t do your readers a disservice at the same time you’re trying to please them. It’s easy to drag things out or wander into the realms of the absurd when you’re trying to pump out ideas to satisfy others. Put the story and what it needs first, always. Know when it’s time to stop, or when you’re overdoing it for the sake of having material.

You need to pay attention to your own brain, too. If you want to move on to writing new things, if you’re no longer ‘feeling’ this world, and writing feels more like a task than a pleasure, that sentiment will bleed into the work and the prose will fall flat. If it’s time to wrap it up and you can no longer stand the sight of these characters anymore, it’s important to acknowledge that. Don’t stay in a dead relationship with your universe if you can’t bring a spark back to it.

So, how long should a series be? As long as it needs to be. You may have a general idea of how much you want to produce and end up finding it actually needs less or much more. The important part is that you should enjoy the writing, and the story is still doing a service to your readers.

Have you ever written a series? How did you know when to stop, or are you still going?

6 comments

  1. I think the trilogy structure is easy to work with: a minor success, a major setback, and then victory in the end. Usually, all three books fit together like pieces of a larger story (but I am guilty of writing longer; my current, still-in-the-tweaking-stage series is five books and counting). 🙂

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  2. I haven’t written a series yet, but I do have ideas for a trilogy that I entertain myself with from time to time. Few authors I’ve read can keep a series going past three, Harry Potter and The Dark Tower are two exceptions that come to mind. And Game of Thrones, of course.

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