How long should a Series be? by Paty Jager

paty shadow (1)When I came up with the idea for a mystery series, the second thing I thought about after bringing Shandra Higheagle to life was: Can I write enough stories to make this a long running series?

So I sat down and thought about where she lives- a ski resort; what she does- a potter; and then the people she is closest to. Her family history and heritage also can play into several story linesBookmark Front. All of these things figured into stories I could write to expand the series.

I’m also finding that as I write a story, something will pop up that sends me to my list of story ideas and adding another one. Also, things I hear and see on the news starts and idea for a premise of a story.

I figured if Sue Grafton could write 26 books with the same sleuth, Janet Evanovich went for Tricky Twenty-Two, and Tony HIllerman put out 19, I should be able to come up with that many mysteries for Shandra to solve without her or the stories getting stale.

Right now I’m researching for Book 5. I know who will be killed and who will be suspected, but I still need to write up my suspect chart, which will happen after I know more about the murder venue. Usually by this stage I have a title for the book. This one isn’t coming to me as easily. But I’m sure by the time I get to the middle of the book, I’ll know my title.

If you read series, has there come a time when you’ve found the series going stale? Why do you think that happened?

Writing into the Sunset


12 thoughts on “How long should a Series be? by Paty Jager

    1. Hi Marilyn, I think that is any series writer’s biggest fear. I’m sure you are doing find. I think those who are most conscious of the fear of going stale are the ones who aren’t.


  1. I think the way writers can keep a series is by plotting multi-book story arcs; it’s pretty clear that JD Robb is fairly tired of Eve Dallas, and the writing has changed somewhat (Eve has picked up some verbal tics she never had in earlier volumes, though I loved one she came up with in DEVOTED IN DEATH–‘all that and a bag of rice chips’). And we shall not speak of Anita-who-must-not-be-named. and say we did.

    Planning is the real key, I think.


  2. I don’t see a limit on series length. For me Stephanie Plum got stale so fast I’ll never read twenty-two. I barely made it through two and a half. Other people loved the whole series, though. I can re-read Hillerman, and I enjoy Anne Hillerman’s continuation of her father’s series and characters. It’s the style, the setting, the characters–what’s too many books for one reader may not be for another.

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    1. Amber, I hung on longer than you did. I stopped reading Stephanie Plum at 9. There are other series that I am still reading. It’s all the things you commented on that keeps a series going strong. Thanks for commenting!


      1. I read the first book of the series and that was it; I live forty minutes from Trenton, and it is a rough city; I thought she was trying too hard to be like Sue Grafton and Lisa Scottoline.


  3. Patyjager, sadly, all of my favorite series have either written themselves into redundancy or simply lost my attention; however, the good news is that many of them have lasted for a very long time before they ran out of steam. As long as you are ambitiously inspired, your series can continue as long as you like. I think drkatecollier makes some valid points, as well; certain characters disappear, or the series went off in an unpredictable and less likeable direction; sometimes, point of view changes ( and sometimes I think ghost writers take over and I can detect, on a certain level the original writer did not write a certain book). Great post.

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    1. Skye, I agree, there are some series that linger on too long. I think if the writer stays interested in the series it helps keeps the series fresh.


      1. This is true, but sometimes I wonder if they have been given advances to keep writing; one person who never seems to run out of ideas is Mary Higgins-Clarke. The others do, and some of these have been my long time friends ( the books).


  4. There are a few long-running series that have made me lose interest. It may be the books are the same old antics in pursuit of a different query. It may be lack of growth in central characters. It may be that the love interest was killed off in some horrible way. It may be the series took a turn into some deep issue or cause that did not interest me. Bottom line: it made me think the series I write will be 6 or fewer books each. Trilogy and Quad are reasonable vehicles for developing an overarching theme and story arc as well as multiple character arcs. I think 3- to 6-book series can also engage a new reader and keep them on the hook to give the next series a try and to get feedback about what they like and don’t like. Just my thoughts. Thanks for the question!

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    1. Kate, Thank you for your thoughts! I figure once I run out of ideas the series will end. I don’t have a set number but I also know it won’t go on indefinitely. Thank you for commenting!


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