“The ability to jump into untested waters is exciting for me as an author, and makes me think fast and hard about the stories and how they work for readers.”
Today, Scalzi stops by the NOOK Blog to share his thoughts on book series—both as a writer and a reader. His newest Old Man’s War book—The Human Division—is a series within a series consisting of 13 stories all released as stand-alone NOOK Books. Start the adventure with The Human Division #1: The B Team for just $0.99.
As an author, I am deeply suspicious about book series.
As a reader, you are now wholly entitled to roll your eyes at me, because my latest novel, The Human Division, is the fifth book in the Old Man’s War series. But stick with me a minute, because I do have a point.
For authors, a successful book series can be a blessing, because it means you have a built-in audience for your work -- people eager to pick up the next book to find out what happens in their favorite universes. But it can also be a curse: It’s easy to get lazy when you know that people are planning to get the work no matter what. It can also become a gilded cage: success at the expense of creative risk and growth.
And this is why as an author I am suspicious of book series. There’s so many ways to fall on one’s face while writing them.
So what did I personally do to avoid this creative faceplant?
1. Take time away. Four years passed between Zoe’s Tale, the last book in the OMW series, and The Human Division. This was intentional -- I needed enough time away from the series to decide where it needed to go next. In the meantime I wrote other novels, worked on a TV series and did other projects. When I came back to the series, I had new ideas and directions.
2. Give readers what they want -- and some of what you want. The Human Division goes back into the Old Man’s War universe, but it goes back into it on my terms: With new characters, new situations and new ways to expand what we know about that universe. It walks the line between keeping fans satisfied and keeping me engaged as a writer. I’m not just cranking out the book for the cash, I’m exploring possibilities. That makes me happy -- which ultimately will make readers happy.
3. Take risks.The Human Division is structured as an “episodic novel” -- thirteen individual free-standing episodes that each read as their own complete tale, but when put together show a larger narrative arc. Tor (my publisher) and I are doing that to experiment with what’s possible in today’s book market -- and we’re doing it because shaking up the standard novel form gives us different choices and ways to build the story. The ability to jump into untested waters is exciting for me as an author, and makes me think fast and hard about the stories and how they work for readers.
What makes me happiest about The Human Division is that we didn’t just grind out another book in a series. We used it as an opportunity to expand what’s possible, both in the story and in the publishing area. I hope you like the result.
Tell Me: Do you prefer series or stand-alone novels?
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