Series or One Offs: Choose your poison

I have piles of books on my window sill and virtual piles on my Nook. I am reading as quickly as I can, but get bogged down with series. That one book that kind of looked interesting, well, it turns out there are 19 books. My drive to complete things forces me to finish an entire series. Before I know what happened, my pile of to-read books grows faster than my reading time can conquer.

As the young adult category has grown over the past decade, we’ve seen an increase in series on a grand scale. As a mom, I love the trend. My job of finding books for my children to read has been vastly simplified. If they like one book, we can work our way through the rest. My sixth grader is reading Harry Potter and my ninth grader is reading the Dresden Files.

Yet, sometimes, I find myself longing for a one and done. The “I’ve completed something” satisfaction I need is horribly delayed until I finish the series. I need a great story that meets its conclusion at the end of 300 pages.

I can’t seem to limit myself to one book at a time, but I used to limit myself to one series at a time. With the labeling of books not clearly marked as “Book One” or “Volume 1” or some kind of monicker, I am fooled sometimes into thinking I’m getting a single story. The result? I’m in the midst of three different series, only one of which I chose on purpose.

(BTW, not numbering the order in your series is unconscionable. Please, writers and publishers, quit it! Researching which book I’m supposed to buy next is frustrating and annoying. I have promised my beta readers that I will NUMBER the books in my series to make it clear the order the books should be read, regardless of the “clever” title flow I attempt.)

But what do you do if the series you’re reading teeters off? The beginning might have been mind blowing. Now you’re on book three out of five and you’re trying to read it as quickly as possible to get it over with. You feel as if the author continued to write in this series because the first one did so well, not because they had more to say.

I understand the tendency in the genre world to overarching themes that simply cannot be concluded between the covers of a single book. As a fantasy writer, my tendency leans toward series writing as well. After all, I’ve spent years developing these worlds, building religions, drawing maps, inventing languages, crafting magic systems. It seems such a waste to tell one story, then move on to another build session. Plus, my “one story” will take at least two books to complete. Can you have a two book series? A duet of books?

Which kind of books do you prefer to write: series or one-offs? Which kind of books do you prefer to read?

Speaking of series, I am in the middle of Frank Herbert’s Dune series, God Emperor of Dune. I have to admit I’m not enjoying this one as much as I did the previous incarnations. There is a lot of talk and not a lot of action. But as I mentioned, I am compelled to finish the series. I could really use less political intrigue and more rebellion. I feel like I’m reading a politically-leaning, philosophy textbook, instead of a science fiction, adventure novel. The last half of the book might completely change my mind about how I feel. I wish the plot would get to the good parts quicker.

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