Something that writers have to consider when an idea comes into his or her head is how many installments that story is going to take to write. Is it an idea that is relatively straightforward and can be told in one shot? Or is it complex, with multiple parts and interdependent plots that is going to take several volumes to right?
There are differing opinions on what constitutes a series: is it just more than 1 book or is there a minimum? Is a trilogy automatically a series? I think there is a difference between a trilogy and a 3 book series. A trilogy, like the Lord Of the Rings, is a single story broke up across 3 books. And I know this is probably heresy, but I would consider the original Star Wars “trilogy” to be more of a series. Yes, there is the same base story the ties all 3 movies together, but each of them are different parts of that story, it’s not necessarily the same contiguous story.
There are both advantages and disadvantages to writing and reading a series.
As a writer, a series affords you room to build your world and show your readers that world. You have the opportunity to expand on smaller story lines and bring characters into the plot that would have to be cut in smaller spaces. You have the flexibility to build more volumes into your story if you find them necessary. This happened to me with my current series. I had originally planned on 5 novels, but then I realized that I needed a 6th. And now, a 7th! But that should be it. I think.
As a reader, you reap the benefits of the author’s careful worldbuilding and plotting. You get the enjoyment of reading about the characters at a depth that you wouldn’t get in a standalone book.
A disadvantage as a writer is that things can get out of hand very quickly. I think a prime example of this is George RR Martin. A Song of Ice and Fire was supposed to be 3 books; it’s supposed to be up 7 total now (5 are out already). You can start to wander down lesser plot paths that aren’t essential to the core story.
As a reader, unless you pick up a series that’s already completed, you end up having to wait for each next installment in the series. Sometimes, unfortunately, an author passes away before a series can be completed. You also run into the authors who go into the smaller plots and stories more than they need to.
So, as readers and writers, what do you think of series? Do you like reading them? Do you like writing them? Why?