The Danger of a Series Delay

Wheel of Time Books by Robert Jordan

Wheel of Time Books by Robert Jordan

Back in my college days, the Wheel of Time series was big and popular.  It still is today, but it was bright and shiny in my circle of friends.  So much that a few of them would only read a new book of the series after rereading the previous books.  Great system for a while until the series got massive and delays were going on.  At some point, it became a matter of pride to make it to the end or a death march for some.  Don’t get me wrong here.  The books were beloved and it was a worthy cause.  It’s that the fans felt like they were being tested as the series progressed in length and there were pauses.  This goes for a long of series, especially in fantasy.  In fact, I hear a lot of friends chanting for the newest Game of Thrones book.  Either impatience runs rampant in the genre or there is a major difficulty in keeping long series on schedule.  That’s all from the reader’s perspective though.  I’m looking at those of us daring enough to tackle to big series.

One has to keep momentum going between books.  If it takes too long for the next book to be released then people may wander away.  Others will get vocal on the internet and start yelling about it being too long.  It has gotten worse as instant gratification becomes more rampant.  Mockery and insults can occur if you wait too long.  After all, it isn’t easy to plan, first draft, edit, beta read, edit, cover art, edit, write blurbs, and do everything else that goes into a book release.  Even at the traditional level it’s a challenge, so imagine the stress for an indie author.

Now, you get some slack for life events getting in the way.  Marriage, new child, death, jailed for bowling naked in the penguin habitat, etc.  Most fans will understand this causing a delay.  I think it’s when they have no idea what you’re doing that they get agitated.  To a fan/reader, the author is always writing and editing.  There’s nothing else that they do beyond this.  So, it baffles them that the next book in a series is in first draft stage by the time its predecessor is released.  I’ve even seen some fans declare that the next book of a series should come out a month after the previous book.  There is a lack of understanding about the workings of writing that make a series a challenging undertaking.

So, how can you minimize the chaos of a series?

  1. Be honest about delays with fans.  Don’t shrug or say ‘it will debut when it debuts’ because that sounds patronizing.  Remember that your fans are investing time and emotions in your work, so be respectful.
  2. Think about the next book in the series when you have the time.  A vague idea of where you’re going will give you an edge when you continue the series.
  3. It doesn’t hurt to take a weekend off from one book and plan out the next.  I have all 15 books of Legends of Windemere done, which is extreme.  Yet, this does give me a tentative path to follow and has helped me create foreshadowing in my earlier books.
  4. Release spoiler free excerpts or new character teasers.  This proves you’re working on the books and keeps the readers engaged.  A person feels special when they receive a sneak peek even if thousands are getting it.  Bizarre mentality, but it creates a rush from seeing something that hasn’t happened yet.  Compare it to being invited to a Hollywood pre-screening event.
  5. Talk about it!  Sounds so simple, but you’d be surprised how often this does not happen.  Discuss your progress on social media or field questions at a Q&A session if you’re at that level.  Much like #4, this action tells your fanbase that you’re working on the next book and not trapped in writer’s block.

A series is a glorious thing because you can extend character development and story.  You don’t feel rushed and more can be added to the overall world.  Yet, there are many pitfalls to be aware of with a series.  So, one has to be prepared and ready to handle it.

About Charles Yallowitz

Charles E. Yallowitz was born, raised, and educated in New York. Then he spent a few years in Florida, realized his fear of alligators, and moved back to the Empire State. When he isn't working hard on his epic fantasy stories, Charles can be found cooking or going on whatever adventure his son has planned for the day. 'Legends of Windemere' is his first series, but it certainly won't be his last.
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51 Responses to The Danger of a Series Delay

  1. We were warned. The title of the series is “The Wheel of Time” and each volume begins by saying that there is no beginning and no end. 🙂

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  2. Olivia Stocum says:

    I have a second series coming out next year, and my first one yet to finish. haven’t decided how to work that one out yet. It will be fun…

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  3. tjtherien says:

    I never read Wheel of Time, I’ll be honest and say I’m not a big fan of the series in literature… this is mostly because I think writers tend to keep a story going beyond the point of redundancy for the sake of producing another book… few authors pull off the series as it should be done… even masters such as Herbert faltered when a series gets too big (long) I also may have some commitment issues when it comes to reading a series… it is a large investment on the part of the reader…

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    • I will agree that many authors push it too far. I’m probably doing that myself, but it isn’t always to simply produce the book. I know for myself, I found extra stories that focus on previously unfleshed out characters, so other books were added. The series also helps give a slow and winding development to multiple characters that you can’t always accomplish in a solitary. That’s a post for next week though because I’m thinking of making ‘Dangers of a Series’ a short series.

      I think the one thing an author has to be aware of in a series is that they aren’t having a character go beyond his or her finale. That’s when the redundancy happens. If the hero accomplished his goal then why is he still wandering. I’m thinking of DBZ where Goku has hit a new level of power, defeats the new villain, and then a stronger one shows up for the next story arc. New level of power and repeat ad nauseum.

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      • tjtherien says:

        it’s tough because as a writer myself I want to produce something that goes beyond the novel… my romance is like that in that it will span many epochs… I will get back to that story after NaNo… my Nano story as it has formed in my head so far really leaves an altered world at the end of the story and a logical leaping off point into a series…but I’m not letting myself think beyond my chapter a day endeavor for NaNo….

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      • There are many ways to produce something beyond the novel. It doesn’t have to be a series. An unforgettable character or an emotional story can work just as well. The way to know if you went beyond the novel is if people talk about it even a day after they reached the end.

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  4. sknicholls says:

    This crime novel is what I am hoping will be the first in a series, but I haven’t decided how many books it should be. I have four planned out roughly in my head, but my detective is aging in the process. I don’t think I can replace him.

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    • Funny that you bring up crime series. Those seem to avoid this danger because each book has its own crime. I’m just assuming the crime will be cleaned up in the first book or at least lead to a conclusion. So, fans of these series don’t seem to be as impatient as fantasy or sci-fi series fans. Maybe it also stems from having to be patient and detail-oriented when reading a crime/mystery book.

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      • sknicholls says:

        There will be a conclusion to the crime in the first book, but there is mystery surrounding it that will follow into books two and three, maybe four, as the children of the victim mature. That is the problem with the detective. He is already fortyish when the crime is committed, he will be sixtyish when the children are grown. Can I do that? Or will he need an apprentice.

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      • You can do it, but you can always add an apprentice later. It brings in a subplot of people thinking the main detective is too old or that he needs help. Maybe he has issues with this person who would be his replacement. He could even become someone who is always thinking he will die and puts a lot of pressure on the apprentice to learn everything. The addition of a young ‘sidekick’ later in a series can bring out an interesting side to the main character. Look at any movie that has the Veteran and the Rookie plotlines. So, I think you can both and it will bring great depth to the guy. Also, the apprentice might create another story in your mind, so you can do a series on him/her. Never know.

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      • sknicholls says:

        He has a sidekick…maybe I should make her younger than I had planned originally. That could be done. She was in the Army as an MP before he became a she, and then became a cop, but I could still work that.

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      • He became a she? Do you mean a character gender switch or the character is transgender?

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      • sknicholls says:

        The character is transgender. The sidekick is a transsexual, so he actually became a she. She used to be a he in the Army, an MP, and was later a cop. Now she is a stripper at The Parliament House.

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      • Interesting. That has to contain some great subplots. You don’t see many strong he to she characters in serious stories.

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      • sknicholls says:

        I wanted to have some of the outsider lifestyles in this book. The detective lives in a nudist resort in a home he inherits from his grandmother, Phoebe, who was quite the swinging single granny and the black sheep of his family. The open lifestyles of that community won’t hamper the seriousness of the crimes that are committed, or the danger involved, but the sublots are interesting. Brandi is very good at intel, the use of and diffusion of explosives, and martial arts, but has an aversion to guns because of something that happened when she was on the police force.

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      • Is the detective a nudist himself? Please tell me Brandi uses shuriken and nunchuks. 😛

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      • sknicholls says:

        The detective enjoys the resort because he can be free from all of the conformity of society’s expectations when he is there. So, yes, he is a nudist, but he doesn’t work nude. It is, for him, it is a place of rest, relaxation and escape. I haven’t got Brandi’s details worked out yet. She is not a wuss by any stretch of the imagination. She is a strong woman.

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      • Not sure how a nude cop would work. Where would he keep his gear?

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      • sknicholls says:

        That’s the one place he doesn’t have to carry it…that is part of its appeal to him.

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      • I kind of meant on duty if he did work nude. Joke fail on my part.

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      • sknicholls says:

        It didn’t fail. I was laughing when I responded…it just didn’t show. I was actually troubled by that in the beginning. A good detective never wants to leave his gun, but my husband and I talked about it, and he likes the uniqueness of the story. We toyed with making the detective live in the city and just visit Leisure Lagoon, primarily because you don’t eat where you shit, but we also found use of some employees at the resort , so I am keeping him a resident there.

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      • I think that does bring a level of uniqueness that will make the story stand out. As for the gun question, would a nudist wear a belt or one of those shoulder holsters?

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      • sknicholls says:

        There was as a guy at The Cove we called Gestapo John, (a security guard), because he wore a wide black belt across his shoulder and chest to hang his radio and gun from. He didn’t wear anything else. It was a funny sight.

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      • If you’re security then you gotta do what you gotta do. I wouldn’t laugh at the style of someone with a gun. Not in front of him anyway.

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      • sknicholls says:

        He is a PI though, not a cop

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  5. Green Embers says:

    Patrick Rothfuss talks about this all the time on his blog. Apparently his fans are very belligerent asking when the next book would be out and he has pretty much said I have a life, lol. Still though I think part of the problem is readers don’t really know how long it took for the first book, for them it just showed up but for the author it could be something he’s worked on for ten years.

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    • Exactly. The fans want the next volume and they don’t realize the effect rushing would have. I read comments about Martin not working quick enough. Heck, I’ve received messages asking when the next book will come out. Repeated messages. It does say something for the author and the series to hook a person like that, but patience is key when being the fan of a series.

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  6. twixie13 says:

    I’ve been working on a series for over a year. It started simply enough…two guys finding a studio that produces snuff films. But then all these “What if?” questions started coming up… stuff like “What if the killer comes back for revenge and the main character becomes obsessed with hunting her down?” and the like. I’d gotten 3 novellas out of the conflict with that serial killer. Or arc 1, if you want to get technical. And then I wanted to explore other major characters’ viewpoints and came up with 3 more story arcs, one of which is pretty much meant to be the endgame. But then ANOTHER idea came up. And a couple of anthologies, one of which has the antagonists telling their origin stories. And a prequel/midquel to the first book (hey…I had to figure out who the rest of my psycho’s victims were!). And, of course, the prequel detailing a few of the main characters’ lives.

    Editing this thing is going to be a bear.

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    • Sounds like a challenge, but also you appear to enjoy it. My own series ran a little like that. Started at 10 and then found 2 more stories. Then several secondary characters proved to be more interesting than I thought, so another was added. Then a funny idea for a mid-book that broke some of the tension and evolved one of the minor villains. Finally, the newest book of the series came about when a character complained that nobody knew him as well as the others. So, I gave him a book that focuses on his past. They get so needy.

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  7. Chelsea Brown19 says:

    Well said and you’ve given us some good ideas if there were to be a debut delay.

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  8. Super helpful. Thanks for the post!

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  9. I liked your advice here. I am very lucky, I have a three part (not exactly a series) where the first two are done and the first has not been published yet.

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  10. Rene says:

    Ok, maybe I missed it, but what was it about nudity and penguins? Yeah, I saw that little blurb.
    I have started a couple of series books, and then the author has left me hanging for at least a year now. I am sure she has her own stuff going on, but I have no idea what it is. I have stopped looking for her last book. The characters are dead to me now, anyway. Another series I love is the Modern Witch series by Debora Geary. Unlike the other author, Mrs. Geary has a FB page and a web site. She gets fans involved in cross-checking characters (some are from Nova Scotia, others from San Francisco area), linking relationships, powers, and other points of interest. It is a Wiki page and is really well worked. She also has had fans set up projects to do for others similar to the way the community works in her books. Many of the characters knit and so there is a craft site open to all people, but there is a special group under the name of her series, and fans can check out other projects which may need help or donations and contribute. There is no cost to the fan for either of these sites, but they are actively involved, and Mrs. Geary has a few friends who help her answer emails and FB responses now. She has always replied to my messages very promptly. For her last book, she offered a free e copy of her next book if we wrote a review for her of her last book. I did it, she thanked me, and then when the new book came out, I received a gift from Amazon for a free copy of the new book. All these things have kept the fans in the loop, especially when she was dealing with delays of her own and then the death of her mother. She was open with us, without giving away her personal life, but she respected us and our patronage. Just a fan’s perspective.
    Peace

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  11. Aldrea Alien says:

    This is why I prefer collecting all of a series before reading the first book. And probably why I’ve got ideas for sequels floating about my mind before I’ve finished the first story.

    And I’ll be re-reading all of the Wheel of Time before getting into the last book, as soon as I can afford the last one, anyhow.

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    • That seems to be the traditional method, but I’ve noticed a flaw in it for today’s world. People post spoilers all over the internet, so waiting to get the whole series before reading has a new risk. I can’t go anywhere without seeing a Game of Thrones spoiler. So, I guess my question is how do you gather a series over the years and not have anything spoiled for you.

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      • Aldrea Alien says:

        I don’t find it too bad and, in most cases, I can avoid the bigger ones.
        On the flip side, I’ve been lured into a series by certain spoilers and I have a terrible habit of skipping to the back of books before beginning (I know, bad me and it’s why I rarely enjoy crime novels), so being aware of certain points in advance is a pretty common occurrence.

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      • I’ve done that. I read more for characters and their growth these days, so it doesn’t hit me as hard as it once did.

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