“I don’t know how long my book should be.”
“How many books should my series last?”
“When is a good time to end a series?”
Questions like these pop up all the time from other writers. I don’t understand the thinking behind any of it.
The length of any book should be determined by how long it takes you to tell the story. You, as a writer, should never sit down with your story and think to yourself this story should be a hundred thousand words, or this is going to be a short story. These are silly, ridiculous limitations to put onto your story.
As a writer, you should know your characters well enough to be able to judge what they will do in particular situations, and how long it will take to rectify the situations that come up. You shouldn’t decide beforehand that a story will be such a length that you have to “fluff” to fill words. Tell your story, tell it well, and, when it’s done, stop. Simple.
The next two questions, concerning how long a series should last, also strike me as ridiculous. Why do you want your series to end? Look at all the stories that detective novelists wrote starring their characters: Nero Wolfe, Hercule Poirot, Miss Marple….none of these had limitations. None of these fictional detectives’ series were ended within the lives of the authors.
If you have a series, you love the characters, and you enjoy writing about them, why would you want to end a series?
Of course, there are those authors that did get tired of their creations…Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was one. He killed off his most famous character, Sherlock Holmes. However, due to the clamor from fans, he was forced to revive the character.
I can’t imagine ending my Justice Security series. I love the characters, even after ten stories. One thing that I did from the beginning, however, was to create a series with a large cast of main characters. I did that so that each story, while all of the cast of characters may make an appearance, focuses mainly on one or two of them. That gives me a variety of characters to work with. Also, with Justice Security, I can put them in all sorts of situations. It stays fresh, at least for me.
The same with my series “Tales Of Sardis County”. The first story was a warm-up, and only one character from the first story, Don’t Come Around Here No More, carries over to the second story, Junior’s Farm. Again, the series is about a place, and not necessarily the same characters in each story. Some characters will show up in later stories, but the focus is always on Sardis County.
Now, you don’t know this yet, but I’ve written a second story featuring Colonel Quentin James Abernathy. I haven’t released it yet, but it follows The Lion Sleeps Tonight. I can see another two or three Colonel Abernathy stories, but they’ll only be short stories. I don’t think I can stretch one of those into novel length.
You don’t know this one yet, either, but I’m working on a sequel of sorts to Empty Eyes. It’s called…well, never mind. I’ll tell you later.
A series can be any length at all, of course. Many authors see them as trilogies, and that’s fine. But, if you’re still having fun with a series, why end it at all? I have notes for over thirty more Justice Security stories, and I only pray that I have time to finish them all.
The biggest advice that I can give any writer is to get busy! You can’t be a writer without writing, so get at it! What’s the holdup?
Also, you really, really need to…
T. M. Bilderback (But you can call me Michael)
Visit my website: www.tmbilderback.com
Follow me on Twitter: @mrtmbilderback