To Sequel or Not To Sequel

That is the question, isn’t it?

It seems to be the thing to do at this moment in the entertainment industry, particularly the film industry. In fact, the film industry does it so well that it takes sequels and breaks them into parts so as to make one sequel into three or four in a sequel-ception frenzy. Don’t get me wrong, I just saw Mockingjay Part 1 and I think it was pretty well done as with the rest of the film adaptations for the Hunger Games Trilogy, but this whole Part 1 / Part 2 nonsense is getting a little out of control. What next? Are they gonna release book adaptations in episodes and make full 24-installment seasons out of them?

Wait…

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The film industry aside, the desire for sequels has penetrated deep into the book industry too. Every book nowadays has some sequel or prequel or companion book or series or *gasp* trilogy attached to it. Do we really need three snail-paced, mediocre books when one perfectly-paced, awesome book will do? It seems to me that trilogies and sequels work well in some cases, but sometimes I’m reading book two or book five and all I’m doing is questioning why the content wasn’t just condensed and put into book one. What if writers just cut out some of the filler and whining and got to the point? Writers are supposed to be concise, aren’t they? If we answer yes to that question, why are some of our bestselling books full of such hot air?

And then it occurs to me: sequels sell. Trilogies sell. Trilogies make fantastic movie franchises. It’s easier to market a series of books than just a single book. And if a publisher gets a good momentum going, they can even have people buying more than one book at a time. Sure, there is some artistic choice on behalf of the author because they’re the ones doing majority of the writing after all, but how much of that inspiration is conflated to conform to this quantity over quality phenomenon?

So, the real question: Should I write a series or a trilogy because it has the potential to sell better than a stand-alone book or should I focus on the need for something more? To be honest, I have ideas and characters that can stretch three or more novels but when is enough enough? How do I know when I’ve struck writerly gold and when am I just grovelling? Maybe it’s just me, but sometimes I feel an odd pressure to write more than one book about a particular character or plot, but I’m not really sure if that pressure is coming from a story that’s not yet done being told. How do I know if that impulse is a genuine expression of inspiration and creative need or if I’m just eager to jump on the bandwagon of stories that would have been better told in a single installment?

The answer is quite ironic, really: I guess I’m just going to have to write and find out. I guess if I’m still invested in a character or an idea, I should strike the iron while it’s hot, right? And besides, what’s writing another two or three books? Some writers make it seem like child’s play. I even recall writers who churn out a couple of manuscripts every year. Not all of them can be alien robots.

What do you think? Do all stories have sequel potential or is it just the entrepreneur inside the writer that wants us to believe that this is the case?

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5 responses to “To Sequel or Not To Sequel

  1. Great post! I’m quite sick of realising every book I pick up is part of a trilogy or series when most could easily have been just a single good novel. I think an author should write what feels right to them; art is not a democracy.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I guess it’s possible that all stories have sequel potential. The thing is to give the sequel an actual point. It seems like some writers go out of their way to write a trilogy, and sometimes, it’s obvious with scenes being dragged out for length.

    I, personally, love reading and writing series. My problem is that I plan just one book, and while writing it, two books are required to hold everything. Next thing I know, I have a bigger story than what I planned.

    I’ve read on several sites that people self publishing should think about writing a series if their goal is money.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Contrary to what seems true, agents say they prefer standalone novels. Having “series potential” is a plus, but having your first novel end in a huge cliffhanger? That’s not marketable. Harry Potter And The Sorcerer’s Stone can stand alone. The Hunger Games can stand alone. Both have bigger worlds than what we see in the first book, but most loose ends are wrapped up in a neat bow by the final page. From what I’ve read of agents, they seem to say, “write one good book and we’ll worry about the sequel later.”

    Personally, my WIP will be a trilogy, but I can’t stretch it out more than that. It works in three acts, and more would feel like a weird tack-on. And while my first book has an “after the credits stinger” which suggests more to come, it ultimately ends with the heroes saving the day and going home.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Pingback: The 8 WORST Cliches in Young Adult Fiction | Michael Cristiano

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