Sunday, February 24, 2013


I've been thinking a lot about series fiction lately, which isn't surprising, since I'm at work on the third book in a trilogy. 

And I want to say thank you to readers: a huge thank you to readers who embark on the journey at book 1, knowing as they know that there will be ... unrest*. There will be waiting, and possibly the necessity of rereading before the next book comes out because they'll have read dozens of other books in the meantime and don't remember every little thing. It certainly seems like the sensible thing to do would be to just wait until the series is complete before involving oneself ...

But NO! It is not sensible at all! I will talk about why by and by, but really my main thing here is to say thank you for sharing in the adventure as it unfolds, even knowing that it will be interrupted. 

You rule

(I hope he's not saying anything inappropriate.)

So. Series.

It came as a big surprise to me, when Daughter of Smoke & Bone first came out, to see some early reader reviews, on Amazon and Goodreads, that said essentially, "I loved this book and would have given it 5 stars except it's a series so I'm taking away a star, pthwwttt!" (Maybe the pthwwttt wasn't there, but that was the gist.)


This attitude was totally unexpected. I still don't quite understand the meaning of it. I suspect that these readers have YA supernatural romance series fatigue specifically, there really are just so many, it's true. Sometimes you just want to read a standalone! BUT. THERE ARE PLENTY OF STANDALONES IF THAT'S WHAT YOU WANT. What I was hearing these people say, essentially, was: keep it short, authors. Tell your story in one book so I can read it and then read something else! Me me me! Cater to me specifically me!

My response: No. And also: Shut up. (Okay, yeah, but it's a nice shut up.) 

I can only speak for myself, but I want to tell you why I like to read series, and why I like to write them. The reason is the same, and it's very simple and exactly what you would expect: some stories are just too big to be a single book. When I started writing Daughter, I intended to write a standalone. Something simple, you know, just a fun little something. Ha! This just happens to me. I can't tell you how many times I've tried to write a short story only to discover it actually needs to be a novel, nay, an epic series -- at which point I tell it to fight for its life in the novel queue in my head, which is ... loOoOoOong, but where I like to imagine that all the ideas are nice to each other and share food from darling wicker baskets and play cards while they wait, and are not plotting to feed each other to Komodo dragons to improve their own chances of getting written.

But anyway, when I began Daughter, it was in a rush of wild writerly joy such as I had never experienced, it wasn't like I sat down and outlined a series arc across several books, with some idea of a multi-book contract and launching a franchise, rubbing my hands greedily and thinking, ha ha HA! This way I won't have to think of another idea for YEARS, suckers! No. I had these characters, and these questions, and my mind was all on fire and my fingers were all wiggly with wanting to write, and when I started to answer the questions ... and to sense a plot coalescing ... it got big. Really big. And I still tried to cram it into one book for a while. I had series-fear. It's a big undertaking! It's scary! 

But it is what it is. The story assumes a life of its own, and many stories sprawl. As a reader, I am happy about this. I like sprawl. I like to enter a world, peer around, get to know it, explore it, discover its vastness, fall in love with its characters, and ... if I love it, I want it to continue. As a writer, I think particularly a fantasy writer, when you have created a world, you're not going to throw it away in one book. These worlds are not single-use, like disposable contact lenses! These are the work of our lives, many of us, and for big portions of our day are more real to us than the real world! 

I know many of you feel the same way. For some readers, it isn't the issue of a series, per se, but a series that is not yet complete. You don't want the agony of the cliffhanger, so you decide to wait until the series is all wrapped up. I totally get this too. I have felt this pain. 

But ... personally ... it's kind of a good pain. Exquisite agony? Sweet torment? On the one hand, I was so grateful that when I discovered The Golden Compass, or the Dreamquake Duet, they were already complete. There was a day of panicked phone calls to bookstores and driving around trying to trackdown Dreamquake! On tour this fall I read all three of Robin Hobb's Liveship Trader books like a glutton, one after another. I had the instant gratification of reading straight through. 

But ... I gotta say, the reading experience that is more precious in my heart, and more entwined in my life -- not necessarily because I love the books more, though I do love them -- is Harry Potter, because I was there every step of the way. Part of the experience was the wait, the journey, and being in it as it happened, waiting and all. Knowing JK Rowling was locked away in a castle hotel in Scotland finishing a book! That Cheryl Klein flew to pick up the manuscript in person, and cloak-and-daggered it back with her on the airplane, like a secret agent! And the release nights, and people racing home at midnight to read them at once, and all the marvelousness. So that was a special case, of course, but I feel the same way about other series that are underway now. I love the expectation, I find it delicious. It's like falling in love. 

So that's my personal feeling about reading series, but there is another piece, and that's the practical issue:

If everyone waited for a series to be complete before reading it, it would never be completed. Because the publisher would cancel it due to low sales. This happens, unfortunately. 

And, unlike JRR Tolkien, authors do not generally have the luxury of completing an entire series before it begins to see the light of publication. We're trying to make a living. We need to get paid along the way so we can buy Cheerios and new socks. We live book to book, and this is how it goes. We write them as fast as we can, which is not always terribly fast but is hopefully what the book needs to be as good as it can be. Sometimes I read a book 2 that appears quickly on the heels of a successful book 1, and it feels rushed and thrown together, and that disappointment is a million times worse than waiting.

As Pat Rothfuss advised me, quoting Tim Powers as regards deadline pressure: 

"It's late once, but it will suck forever."

And forever is what we want. I mean, now would be nice too, but really, this experience of being part of the journey as a series is first published, it's a fleeting thing that feels long in the process but really isn't (unless we're talking about George RR Martin, and I defy anyone to find fault with the time he takes to write those massive and complex tomes). All too soon, the series will be complete, and there will be nothing left to wait for, and that will be the source of lament. 

So what I'm saying is: thank you to readers for being part of the process. It very much, absolutely literally, would not be possible without you. If you don't read the series, publishers won't publish it. It's that simple. So thank you for the faith, for the waiting, the patience, the rereading, and thank you for spreading the word. I think that the internet has served a great purpose of uniting authors and readers in a sense of community, all in service to the books. We are like an ecosystem, depending on each other for survival, and I love you. I went to the p.o. box yesterday to pick up my mail, and it was like a big pile of warm hugs.

So ... for you ... HUGS:

*Someone brought this to my attention the other day: it's the "Daughter of Smoke & Bone 3" page on Goodreads, and if you scroll down, there is a hilarious slew of agony gifs. It's perversely gratifying, OF COURSE, that readers are so invested in the books and eager for the next one!

Oh, and another link, to a Neil Gaiman post regarding GRRM and the wait between his books. I am not linking to this in any way to say "get out of my face about book 3." Honestly I am thrilled readers are eager for book 3 and I'm doing my best to write it -- both for me and for you. But I like what Gaiman says here, especially about how different writers work differently, etc etc. That part. Not so much the "not your bitch" part. But, you know, that particular guy did need to hear that :-)


Jordan said...

Of course it's sad that I have to tear through Daughter of Smoke and Bone, wait, tear through Days of Blood and Starlight, wait...

But it would be SO MUCH WORSE if there wasn't another book to wait for.

Seriously, finishing 3 is going to be both glorious and heartbreaking. I'll miss the waiting.

Katharine said...

It seems so many readers don't reliase how nasty/hurtful they're coming across when they demand the next book now. They may be trying to joke about it, but the constant slew of demands like 'WHY ARE YOU AT A CAFE WITH YOUR PARTNER YOU NEED TO BE WRITING' and so on are just... gah.

It could be seen as a compliment - they adore your writing, and they need more now, and so on. If anyone tries to say anything about it, it's 'you don't know how much of a fan I am and I NEED this book now', and so on. Perhaps it's a mark of the society we live in - getting everything instantly these days.

I have a friend who utterly hates any book that's not self-contained. She doesn't mind a series, but by god, those books better be self contained within it.

Personally I mostly read series. Overall, you're getting way more story in the end. Yes, it could be good if the books were all released at once, but even if authors DID have all books done at the same time, publishers wouldn't release them all together - they make more money by spreading them out a bit. Besides, authors sometimes? Usually? Get better over the years. So the later books in the series can be/will be even better than the first.

Anyhow. Fairly random collection of my thoughts on the matter since it's something I'm often thinking about, as I watch readers basically abuse (but it's because they love them!) authors such as Rothfuss and Lynch who we've been waiting on for years. The wait is worth it, as is your writing.

And heck, they should try being a reviewer of ARCs :p Sometimes we may get one book months ahead of anyone else, then the wait feels even longer if we don't manage to get an ARC of the next book! hehe

Laura Marcella said...

Have any trilogies or sagas been completely written before publication? Tolkien was an unusual case because he actually wrote his famous "trilogy" as one large book titled The Lord of the Rings. It wasn't meant to be a trilogy, but his publishers insisted it be separated into three novels. Tolkien wasn't happy with that choice, but it worked out well for him!

I agree with you that I love the anticipation of waiting for the next book in a series. It's always sad when a great series is over!

Good luck in writing book 3, Laini!!

tone almhjell said...

Yes, I was going to point out what Laura said, that Tolkien wrote one book which the publisher then split up.

I love series. I really do. The massiveness of a thoroughly explored and thought-out secondry world. The feeling of almost-real, where lives and people take time to develop, where I can change with them.

I will never harass an author over taking time to write the best possible next book. For me, too, the waiting is delicious, and I like re-reading to make sure I'm ready for the next one. And I never ever wait for the set to be complete before buying. Sometimes before reading, but never before buying.

And yes, good luck on number three. I love it already, like a child.

Martina at Adventures in YA Publishing said...

I love series, both as a reader and a writer. As a reader, I love the moment when I discover that I get to live in the world of the story a little longer. If I can get that gratification immediately? Great. If not, and if it's a series I really love, then I get the chance to reread the earlier books before starting the next installment. As a writer, I love that I get to learn from that process by spending more time peeling back the curtain instead of just frantically turning pages.

(And in the case of a Laini Taylor book, it's just another opportunity to wallow in the silken prose like a cat on catnip.)

But as a writer, I've just discovered that when a book is really working, I (and my CPs and Beta Readers) are reluctant to put the world behind me. I'm finding that it's almost a mark of how deeply I've created the world and the characters. My WIP is a self-contained novel, but I've come up with related books just to stay in that world a little longer.

illustratorclaire said...

Unnngh, Liveships. Have you read the preceding and succeeding trilogies? DO. And then read Liveships again, trust me.

I wasn't expecting Smoke & Bone to have a sequel, but I was delighted when it did AND it was already out. I can;t say as I (ideologically..) mind the wait though, as you say.

Sara said...

Haha, when I first read Daughter of Smoke and Bone, I did not know it was book 1 in a series. I was in college. I skipped class to finish it, and when I reached the end, I think I may have screamed.

But you’re right. The pain of waiting is kind of the best part. Because you do reread (I surely did), and the world becomes more real with each book, and you love the characters so much it hurts when the series finally ends. They live in your head as you grew older and change, and for that, they become part of you.

Stand-alone novels don’t often do this, unless they are epically long.

I’m never happier when I encounter a good series. It gives me something to look forward for the next several years.

And personally, I think Karou’s is one of the best series young adult has going for it right now. I’m not upset that I have to wait to 2014. I know you’ll make book 3 better than I could have dreamed (your imagination, Laini!), and in the meantime, I have an excuse to read the first two again.

Kristan Hoffman said...

1. You said it, sistah!

2. ROFL that you included The Most Awkward Hug Ever, aka the one between Voldemort and Draco.

Connie Onnie said...

It makes me want to make a post with gifs about waiting forever. Like it could have Julia Ormond from Legends of the fall saying "I'll Wait for you forever" and Kiera Knightly mailing her letter in Atonement and saying "I'll wait for you come. Come back." Ok that is all I could come up but I am sure there are more.

grumpyapple said...

I can't bear to say goodbye to characters i love. I will be sad when this series ends. sniff.

Miss Tiff said...

Oh, I am one of those readers that hates the phrase "a new series from (fill-in-the-blank)". Part of it is because I am a sucker for a mediocre series (The Luxe by Anna Godbersen-seriously). And those are the series that I wish would be one book. I don't need to read every word, because every word is not worth reading, rather the whole story, the whole plot, is what I'm there for.

Now, Daughter of Smoke and Bone is another case. I fell in love! And while I would love to have volume 3 in my hands right now, I can wait. I know I can. But I was counting down the days to Book 2 like crazy.

I think there is a difference between reading for curiosity and reading for the love of it. I read The Luxe, and others like it, for curiosity-I just wanted to know how it ended already. But Daughter of Smoke and Bone, or my other favorite, The Diviner's by Libba Bray, I read for the pure pleasure of it. I read for the characters and setting and plot and all of it.

So, I am ashamed to say that I am an impatient reader, but please take your time. You've created something that really means a lot to me and that's not to be rushed.

Thank you!!

afunhouse said...

Yea for books in a series! There is nothing better than the assurance that I do not have to leave the characters I have come to adore behind when I turn that last page. Thank you, so much, for taking the time to write this fabulous series for us! It is a treasure.


I'm guilty of waiting to start a series until the whole thing is out, but that's only because I have so many other series started that I can only keep up with so many story lines in my head. Yours is not one I can wait on. I'd gladly and probably will read all of them over and over again and again. They are just that type of book, so rich and full of color and life. I could't even review Daughter of Smoke and Bone, I didn't have the words to describe how I felt after reading it, what it was like to read it. I haven't gotten a chance to read Blood and Starlight, only because I want some deadline free time to savor it when I read it.

I'd never downgrade a novel because it was part of a series, that's ridiculous. If a book is worth five stars, that's what it should get and I'd be glad another is coming.
I love that novels are queued up in your mind. I'm hoping to read whatever from you for years to come!


Reina said...

HAHAH the incredibly awkward Draco/Voldemort hug. Always a laugh when I watch the movie.

Anyways, I AGREE completely!!!! I love series and being apart of the anticipation for waiting for the next one and the joy when it arrives. My only complaint, is that I wish there weren't so many trilogies because these days it seems like that's all writers (especially in the YA genre) come up with these days (I don't blame anyone and I'm not bitter about it though), I just want a good old series with 3+ books.

Though there ARE benefits to reading a series when they're all out. I jumped on the Harry Potter bandwagon very late in the game (strictly speaking, the fall of 2010), and binge read them all faster than I'd read any other books. Waiting for those masterpieces, a year in-between would have been agonizing torture.

My only exception to this "i love series' ", is The Diviners by Libba Bray. I went into it thinking it was a standalone and then got the end and realized it was not and was frankly quite pissed off because I think it would have been much better as a stand alone.

Kim Trotter said...

I love series and I love your series so much! Like you said, the wait is agonizing but it's a good pain. Like the burn after a workout, you know it'll just be all the more rewarding when it's over. When the next book comes out. Oh, the joy, that OMG I CAN'T BELIEVE IT'S FINALLY HERE moment makes that pain a distant thing of the past.

I love long complicated stories with an array of characters, which is usually why I love series so much. There are enough stand alone YA books out there that when I need one, I can find one. Plus, if you love the story, isn't it amazing that there will be another?

I know there are plenty of times when I read a standalone and it ends and I'm like ... Nooooo why is there not more? Can there be a second? Please? Can this go on just for another 300 pages or so ... please?

Thank you for the hugs and thank you for writing such an amazing series!

Charley Robson said...

Ehehehe, I agree with you Laini! I'll curl up in corners and whine and snarl for days waiting for the next boook in the series, but I'll love it. It's reassuring when it's already published - or like how I only had to wait a month to get my hands on Days of Blood and Starlight because of the time of year I picked up Daughter - but there's something really enticing about the wait.

Take your time, and enjoy yourself. You know we'll all be here to cry and make a horrific mess of the world's collective tissues when book three is ready.

elliespen said...

Arwen, obviously.

Books Glorious Books said...

I feel the same way about series. If you really love a book, you'll want to read more of the characters and the world the book is set in. It is hard waiting for the next book but you're right - it's part of a journey and at the end of the day, when you get the next book in your hands, it's all the sweeter.
And thank you for including the hug between Voldemort and Draco, I remember it made me laugh hysterically when I saw that in the cinema...

Emma Adams said...

I can completely identify with the feeling that an idea's simply too big to be contained within one book - it happens every time I think of a new book idea! If the story and the characters are strong enough to sustain across three or more books (and Daughter of Smoke and Bone certainly is!) then I'm definitely in favour of series. That said, some books do work better as standalones, and I have read some series which feel like they were stretched out for the sake of it. There seems to be a trend for trilogies, which might by why I'm writing a duology! (a word I might have made up...)

Shannon said...

Love this & couldn’t agree more: "I like sprawl. I like to enter a world, peer around, get to know it, explore it, discover its vastness, fall in love with its characters, and ... if I love it, I want it to continue."

I love reading your books and your blogs (especially the blog about "a novel is like a box of holes"). I’ve shoved your books into hands of many friends and ordered them to read your works as well. I don't know if a lot of your fans have read your Dreamdark novels - but they should! I found myself just as quickly immersed in that world as in Karou's world(s). I admit that I did write you after finishing the 2nd Dreamdark novel to inquire about the 3rd, and now I feel ashamed (where’s an embarrassed emoticon when you need one!). My apologies.

Good luck to you on the 3rd Daughter. For something truly great, time matters not!

jillytacy said...

I loved Daughter and just finished Blood & Starlight.I can't wait for book three! Of course, I'll wait as patiently as I can but I'm already thonking about what's coming next. Thanks for writing this great series! I do love a series, even though it means waiting for the next book. Happy writing! May Karou & Akiva talk to you loudly. I can't wait to hear what they had to say!

openid said...

It's definitely a good kind of pain waiting for the next book of a series you love. With the last book of a series I love I will also buy it straight away and then not read it for a few days. I like savouring having it, the gorgeous anticipation of what's inside. Then I try to read slowly and make it last, but usually I gobble it straight up. I read Days in 2 sittings, staying up far too late.

I'm sure the last book in the trilogy will be well worth the agonising wait.

Bridget said...

Series are something I have a love/hate relationship with.

I love getting lost in a good series, love coming back and seeing characters I've met in earlier books and knowing who thy are.

It's when they get to be too long, seem to be stretched out for no reason other than to make it a seires or when the author breaks their own rules...that's when I don't like them.

Mindy said...

Seriously though. While everyone is waiting for the third Daughter book everyone should go read your Dreamdark books and Lips Touch! Because as much as I LOVE Daughter, the Dreamdark series remains my favorite books of all times (excluding Harry Potter...). I'm sure everyone else will love Magpie's world as well! I'm sorry that every time comment it's about Dreamdark by the way. I just don't want you to ever, Ever, EVER forget how much I love them! :) Thanks for writing such amazing stories!

Anonymous said...

My friend gave me Daughter of Smoke and Bone for my birthday last year; I hadn't heard anything about it and neither had she, so I dove into the book completely unaware that it was the first of a trilogy, and that I was setting myself up for years of anguish and agony, haha! When I reached the end I was extremely distraught, but also excited. A second book meant more time I would get to spend with these amazing characters! I typically don't like to start reading a series until it is at least near completion because I'm impatient. Waiting is definitely painful, but in the case of Smoke and Bone it's worth it :)

Also, I love your GIFs.

Anonymous said...

I thought readers complaining about how long George RR Martin takes to write A Song of Ice and Fire were very unreasonable. Then I read them. And I wish he would hurry up with the next one. It's a compliment! Honest ...

Anonymous said...

Dear Ms. Taylor

Secretly, they love series. It means that many more hours to enjoy your writing. Complaining is just a coping mechanism.

Jill Bradbury said...

I LOVE your books. The pain of having to wait for the next one is compensated for by the pleasure of rereading the previous ones. Looking forward to book 3 in Akiva and Karou's saga.

girlinthelens said...

Love this post Laini! I pre-ordered Days of Blood but I'm still in that delicious waiting phase as I re-read Daughter of Smoke to remind myself of all the glorious details. I love series fiction!

My first novel is a standalone, and so is my second as I have a two-book contract and it would be silly to start off a series then. But I'm currently working on a series that was a trilogy but has expanded into four books. You're right - we don't do it for money or because we're dreaming of a franchise. It's just that some stories come larger than others. I am love love LOVING the feeling of writing a series though. There's so much more space for character and relationship developments and of course a little YA will they, won't they? thrown in.

Massive fan! Tasha x

Carrie Chester said...

Thank you so much for this blog! In the last few months I've experienced very much what you have - people rating the first of my series lower than they might because they didn't like having to wait a few months for Book 2. And the more this happens, the more likely it becomes that there will BE no Book 2.

You've stated everything more eloquently than I could (and I've been trying, lol) and to be very honest with you you might have just made the difference between me continuing with the series and calling it a day. I haven't read your series as yet . . . but I will now.

Thank you.

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