Monday, November 8, 2010

Why are series so tempting to read and write? (And NaNo update)

Not that statistics are glamorous or anything, but I enjoy looking at other people's progress, so here, briefly, are my own stats.

NaNoWriMo Day 8

Words: 15,358
Number of words ahead/behind: +3,689
Number of words left until 50k: 34,642
Average words per day: 2,504

This week has been both exhilarating and hard. I'm really eager to keep going though. This story is unlike any I've ever written before, and my writing partner Perrin is a genius. Being the first book either of us has written with another person, I think the process is going incredibly smooth. It helps to have similar taste and artistic vision.

This week when I wasn't writing, I distracted myself by looking at a bunch of formulas and outlines for stories online. I've heard of the 3-Act rule, the 'put your MC in a tree and throw rocks at him' rule, the three disasters plus an ending formula, and the method of grading the tension in each scene from 1-10 hoping that all your 1s will be at the beginning and all your 10s will be at the end.

One thing every single method of writing had in common was that there needs to be a climax and a denouement. (Wow, I can't believe I spelled that right on my first try!) It got me thinking.

Perhaps the reason why its so tempting to turn books into a series, and why it seems more series/trilogies are popping up in bookstores (at least to me) is because we're beginning to realize that life doesn't have a single climax. It's a continuation. The only real climax that comes to an end in our lives is death. And hardly anyone wants to kill off all their characters at the end of a book. (There are exceptions, of course.) The reader, at least, has invested a good amount of time getting to know those characters and may feel cheated at the end if they all die.

If we're trying to make our characters more real and three dimensional in our novels, then it makes sense that their lives would mirror ours in their continuation. If they were real people, of course they would die some day. But no one wants to write about the day they die.

This theory of mine sounded all nice and neat until I thought of "The House of Mirth." In it, the main character begins to rise from the beginning, but suddenly takes a dive and continues her downfall right until the end of the novel where she dies. And it's not a surprise, nor did I feel cheated out of my character.

My point(s)?

1. Perhaps it's ok to turn a book into a series if you plan on doing that from the beginning. Not in a tacked-on-just-to-make-money sort of way, but if the story genuinely takes three or more books to tell, go for it.

2. There is a way to kill off the main character in the end and not make your readers mad at you. Just do it skillfully.

3. Keep in mind it's also ok to write a stand alone book and move on to create new characters. Especially if you're sick of the ones you've been working with since the last NaNoWriMo.

Now I'm off to write more words!
If you're doing NaNoWriMo, how are you doing with your word count? Is it easier or harder than you thought it would be?

(PS I just found out about a giveaway on Through a glass, darkly. Check it out!)


  1. You are doing a bit better than I am. I just passed the 12,000 word point tonight (Monday 11/8). I keep hoping for some boosts to shoot me ahead, but i keep finding distractions.

    Shortly after I started writing my novel I realized that I would work very well as a series, so I may consider that depending how what I am doing now ends up. If I were to go to a second installment, the MC's would have little role in that story due to the nature of what happens--but they would be mentioned. If it went to a third installment I would go back to the MC's of the first book.

    Maybe that doesn't sound right, but it makes sense when I think about it.

    Anyway good luck to your continued progress.

    Tossing It Out

  2. Hi Lee.
    Thanks for stopping by.

    You'll have to let me know if your WIP ends up working as a series.

    May the rest of the month go well for you and your word count!

  3. I have similar thoughts on series. Sometimes I like them and sometimes I don't. I like a book to be able to stand alone and if there are more books after, they'd better tie in well. And the "tacked on" second volume of something for money is never that enjoyable for me either.
    Great post!