Planning a series is a bad idea.

I’ve noticed that a lot of other amateur fantasy don’t plan to write books, but to write a whole series.

This makes sense given the popularity of Game of Thrones, the Wheel of Time and others.

However, I think it’s a bad idea.

In practice, writers don’t decide whether there’s a sequel. Readers do. And having the original written with a sequel in mind doesn’t make a sequel more likely.

The Hobbit, for example, is obviously not written with The Lord of the Rings in mind. The Hobbit makes no mention of Gondor, Rohan, Mordor, or rangers. The elves and goblins/orcs are very different, and so is the ring: in fact one chapter had to be rewritten to remove a blatant contradiction between the two books.

Star Wars is another prominent example (despite George Lucas’ claims to the contrary). Darth Vader and Anakin Skywalker are obviously different characters in the first film (Ben Kenobi specifically says so). Equally obviously, Princess Leia and Luke Skywalker aren’t related.

I’ve sometimes heard people justify particular elements because “this has to be there for the next book”. If you have enough of these, there probably won’t be a next book- and if the book is good enough people will be OK with some inconsistencies.

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4 thoughts on “Planning a series is a bad idea.

  1. I think particularly if you’re just starting with creating stories, it would be even better to consider an episodic short-story format. You don’t neccessarily have to stretch a story out to 400 pages. Telling a story in maybe 50 to 80 pages or even much less, with a somewhat self-contained plot, and then starting new stories with some or all of the same characters is a lot easier.
    You also get some useful results quicker, which helps with motivation. If you already published 3 stories and got feedback on them, I feel it’s going to be a lot easier to also write a fourth and fifth, as compared to having put 200 pages to paper with still no end anywhere near in sight. And if the reception doesn’t turn out to be that great, it’s probably easier to get over and try another one as well.

    • A lot of novels were originally published as serials, and they do tend to feel like a series of linked short stories.

  2. Speaking of planning series, I’ll go ahead and toss out there that I’m still interested in how the Case of the Syphilitic Sister ends…

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