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Author Topic: Do long series have to be that long?  (Read 4445 times)

Offline Yora

Do long series have to be that long?
« on: September 03, 2015, 02:45:04 PM »
And I used to think The Lord of the Rings is a really long book.

But today it isn't. Today you can get single books that are as long as the whole Lord of the Rings. And often they come in series of 5 or even 10 books.

Personally, I don't want to read them. At 300,000 words I no longer feel it's worth even giving a story a try. But there's now series with well over 3 million words and if Brandon Sanderson goes through with his plans for Stormlight Archive it probably will be well over 4 million. I could read 20 to 30 good novels with that many words instead. And if I don't like one of them I still have a lot of others that might be great.

I think a book should be as long as it takes to tell the story. But stories of several million words? Do they really have to be anywhere near that long to cover the plot? Or is it milking a lucrative brand name for all it is worth?
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Offline Raptori

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Re: Do long series have to be that long?
« Reply #1 on: September 03, 2015, 02:54:24 PM »
It depends on the series for me. Stormlight, while a bit wordy at times, is riveting all the way through. There's little that he could cut that I wouldn't think the book would be worse off without it. On the other hand, if you cut 2 million words out of Wheel of Time it would actually improve the series immensely.

It's definitely a case of the book should be as long as it takes to tell the story, but finding out which of them stick to that principle is the part that can cost you hours of reading rubbish.
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Online ScarletBea

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Re: Do long series have to be that long?
« Reply #2 on: September 03, 2015, 06:37:18 PM »
I quite enjoy long books, but I think trilogies are my limit, 4 tops.

As you both said, it's "a book should be as long as it takes to tell the story", and some stories we just don't want them to end...
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Offline Ryan Mueller

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Re: Do long series have to be that long?
« Reply #3 on: September 03, 2015, 07:05:09 PM »
It really depends on the quality of the story and if it needs all those pages. I've read standalone books that I thought would never end. I've also read lengthy series that I didn't want to end. Length has nothing to do with it.

Offline ClintACK

Re: Do long series have to be that long?
« Reply #4 on: September 03, 2015, 07:56:05 PM »
The problem with the big-ugly-middle in WoT wasn't that the books were long it's that you'd read a two hundred page PoV which contained neither story arc nor character arc.  In short, nothing happened!




Offline magisensei

Re: Do long series have to be that long?
« Reply #5 on: September 03, 2015, 08:33:09 PM »
For me it really depends on the series and how fresh the story is for each of the books.  For example I am reading a sci-fi/mysteries series that already has 40 books in the series.  For fantasy series I found that WOT was really much too long for me - it really could have been ended earlier; while some series I would love for it too be longer - as you get to follow your favorite characters. 

At times the traditional trilogy just doesn't feel long enough for some series while for some other books a trilogy is just too long. 

As others have said it really depends on whether there is a story worth telling in each of the  novels.  Writing ten or hundred of thousands of words that go for 5,6,7 or more books at times is just a waste of paper (ie WOT) if there is not a story that is worth telling and moves the series along in some positive way. 

Personally I love a long series as long as it comes out on a regular basis.  My biggest pet peeve is waiting for years between books for long series (ie Game of Thrones). 

But how long is too long for a series? No idea, but if the story is getting stale after 3 books perhaps it is time to stop reading and try something new.

Offline Hedin

Re: Do long series have to be that long?
« Reply #6 on: September 03, 2015, 08:38:38 PM »
My answer is similar to Ryan's.  As long as the series is engaging and entertaining me I don't care if its one book, three, or fifteen.  If you can write a long series that keeps me interested go for it, I always want to spend more time with the characters and worlds that I enjoy.

Offline ClintACK

Re: Do long series have to be that long?
« Reply #7 on: September 03, 2015, 08:43:58 PM »
Compare WoT to Discworld -- I believe the two series are about the same total length.  (40ish books at 250ish pages each vs 14 books at 800ish pages each, or something thereabouts)

Discworld doesn't feel long at all -- because every book is fairly short and is a self-contained complete story rather than just a part of a much larger story.

Offline Ryan Mueller

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Re: Do long series have to be that long?
« Reply #8 on: September 03, 2015, 09:08:31 PM »
Or look at The Dresden Files (or any number of urban fantasy series). They rarely go for the trilogy structure. Some of them go on quite long. But you never feel like the story's dragging because each story is mostly contained.

That's a big thing with series, even if you're writing a continuous story. Each book needs to be a satisfying story on its own. That's where a lot of the middle books in WOT failed. That, and being way too wordy.

Offline JMack

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Re: Do long series have to be that long?
« Reply #9 on: September 03, 2015, 09:12:28 PM »
I just don't have time for door-stoppers over about 600 pages. I certainly don;t have time for 10 of them to get to the end of a series.

So I don't begrudge the things, but I'd be thinking long and hard about whether to start such a series.

Which means sometimes I might do it. I do still plan to tackle Malazan.
Someday.

But I've also had Dance with Dragons on the shelf since it came out, and can't bring myself to read it.
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Re: Do long series have to be that long?
« Reply #10 on: September 03, 2015, 09:18:30 PM »
I was thinking some more about this and then went to check something:

This year I've read 2 Robin Hobb trilogies: Liveship Traders had a total of 2689 pages (average of 896 per book) and Tawny Man a total of 2021 pages (average of 674 per book). Did they feel long? Never. I could have read more and more of that story.

So it really depends on the writer, the story, the... everything!
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Offline Hedin

Re: Do long series have to be that long?
« Reply #11 on: September 03, 2015, 11:23:24 PM »
I just don't have time for door-stoppers over about 600 pages. I certainly don;t have time for 10 of them to get to the end of a series.

How much do you read each month?   For me reading a 600 page book is the same as reading two 300 page books, the time investment is the same. 

Offline Arry

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Re: Do long series have to be that long?
« Reply #12 on: September 04, 2015, 12:11:05 AM »
It really depends on the quality of the story and if it needs all those pages. I've read standalone books that I thought would never end. I've also read lengthy series that I didn't want to end. Length has nothing to do with it.

This. Quality is more important than quantity. I do like how Hobb has her books split into different series, so each one has its own story arc that will span 3 or 4 books. But it also leads people to think they can read them out of order, which is a bad idea (speaking from first hand experience, unfortunately).

That said, for a completed series, it can be daunting to start, but my theory is I just take it one book at a time. If the series starts to lose my interest, if I get impatient, then maybe it's not good enough to continue. But, if I love a book or series, and they continue to be well done, then I won't complain if there's more to read.
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Offline JMack

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Re: Do long series have to be that long?
« Reply #13 on: September 04, 2015, 12:46:00 AM »
I just don't have time for door-stoppers over about 600 pages. I certainly don;t have time for 10 of them to get to the end of a series.

How much do you read each month?   For me reading a 600 page book is the same as reading two 300 page books, the time investment is the same.

I have a few minutes a day to read and that's about it.
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Offline cupiscent

Re: Do long series have to be that long?
« Reply #14 on: September 04, 2015, 03:45:07 AM »
See, for me, Stormlight Archive is too long. Or at least, the first book was - I haven't picked up the second one yet, and probably won't until the series is done. Reading such a weighty tome once is fine. Having to re-read later on to remember what was happening so I can read later books is straining the friendship. (A position I'm also in with GRRM at present.)

But back to my initial point: though The Way of Kings introduces an amazing world and some fascinating characters, and is accordingly rich in detail, I found myself considering towards the end of it that not much had really happened. There are really only three major characters, and they had each advanced only one major plot-point, maaaaaybe two, from where they started. My problem isn't so much that they took a thousand pages to do it, more that I didn't really feel I'd had a whole book of plot, just a book of things happening to fill experience-points on the way to the single major plot development.

I admit, I've become a tough audience on pace. Maybe it's because I've been reading a lot more YA fantasy recently, where that sort of malingering just isn't tolerated. And while sometimes YA fantasy moves too fast - which reduces the weight and resonance of major developments - I do feel that Big Fat Fantasy could stand to get a little kick. (I've just set aside another weighty tome because it didn't feel like anything in the first hundred pages was a Big Story Point. Or at least, if it was, then this wasn't a story I was interested in reading.)