As you can imagine, being a writer means I am a reader. My fellow Scribes and I share a lot of the same tastes, and often talk about the various series we love and hate. I, myself, am a self-confessed series-aholic. I enjoy a good standalone every now and then, but mostly, if a story is contained in one book but has managed to hook me into that world and made me befriend those characters, I get upset there isn’t another book for me to read.
So I mostly read series. Sometimes a trilogy is enough, but I definitely need more than one book.
But sometimes that can be frustrating too.
Obviously, I love the publishing world and I understand how difficult it is to produce a book, let alone multiple books, but when a publishing house asks me to wait anywhere from 12 months to 24 months, I get a little rage-y.
I get it. The author has to write the book. The book has to go to critique partners (usually). Then the author goes over it again. Then the book goes to the agent, who sends back more notes. Then it goes to the editor, who sends back more notes, then the publisher gets their hands on it. After all the paperwork, they have to do a cover and promote and bind and do ALL THE THINGS! before we ever see the book on shelves.
And all that long time between installments means I’m reading other books, falling in love with new characters, traveling to new cities, lands and times. So by the time the next book in the series comes out, I might’ve forgotten a lot of important information, even if I loved, loved, loved the first and second books.
One author who handled this conundrum beautifully was Ilsa Bick, author of Ashes. In this post-apocalyptic trilogy, Bick uses her military and medical background to really infuse this series with a lot of details. Further, there is a pretty big cast of characters to keep track of. Ashes came out in September 2011, while its sequel came out in September 2012. You can imagine how many books I’d read in between. At any rate, Bick realized this and she actually provided a detailed recap of Ashes on her blog. She helped remind me who each important character is/was, what the major plot points were and where we were left at the end. It was brilliant and so, so helpful.
When Insurgent came out, the sequel to Divergent, I found myself looking for reviews of Divergent labeled with “SPOILERS!” hoping I would find something that would bring me back up to speed in that world that I hadn’t read in over a year because I really did not remember the end of the book at all. And I enjoyed the book!
This is also one of the reasons why, when I’m shopping for a new book to read, I’ll check to see if, at the very least, the second book is already published. I can totally understand why some people refuse to start reading a series unless the whole series is already out. Don’t know if I could hold out that long though.
When I was writing my YA series, The Elemental Series, I considered this. I decided I wouldn’t publish the first book until I had the first drafts of the next two books written so I could maintain a six month release schedule. My series is five books long and I managed to release each book six months after the preceding book. Was it easy? Good grief no. But I managed it, writing, editing, CP notes, more edits, editor, more edits, cover art, formatting and publishing, all while writing the next book in the series. It can be done.
But I don’t expect the major publishing houses to do something like this, even if their writers are writing just as fast as self-pubs are. I am friends with many traditionally published writers, and often, when talking to them about their books, they need a minute to figure out which book you’re talking about, because they’re two books ahead in writing.
So, gentle readers, you’re not alone in your frustrations. Know that writers are writing as fast as their fingers and muses will allow, but there are so many other factors to consider.
I don’t know about you, but I would love it if more writers did what Ilsa Bick took the time to do, and give us even a small synopsis to refresh our memories.