How differently constructed can series novels be?

How much does the structure of previous novels in a series cage you when you write later ones?

How much does the structure of previous novels in a series cage you when you write later ones?

As I await beta reader comments and dream of getting “The King’s Sons” ready for publication later this year, one thing has been kind of bugging me. It’s not a major deal, but it has to do with the organization/presentation of the novel.

“The King’s Sons” is my third Herezoth novel, the last one in a trilogy. And what worries me is this: the structure of the text is a bit different than in the first installments.

  • I have a prologue, which I haven’t done before. It’s risky, but beta readers (two so far) have mentioned they really like it, so it’s staying. Generally, I don’t like prologues, but this one works for me. My gut instinct was to add it when I was halfway through a first draft. Since the beta readers don’t have a problem with it, I feel I’m right to keep it as is. I could do it as a flashback or something, but I think that would take away all the power of the scene.
  • The first two novels have a “Book I” and “Book II” in them, a textual division marked by the passage of a few months. I didn’t do that in the last novel. Everything takes place over the course of about a week, and the novel’s shorter than the other two (though it still clocks in at 125,000 words, almost 130,000). It didn’t feel right to force the division just because it made sense for the first two, so I didn’t.

The structure of the novel, on its own, is fine (I think). It just kind of frustrates me that I’m veering from the pattern I established with books one and two, since this one is connected to them in a very real way. But hey: every author has to do what’s right for each novel, series or not. There isn’t any law that states I have to make each novel in my series “parallel” in every way.

Makes me glad I’m my own boss

What this situation has done is make me glad I’m an independent author. I think there’s a chance that if I were at the mercy of a publisher, they might force a parallel structure on me, and I wouldn’t want to do that in this case. It would require me to drag out the timing of events to make the division logical, and I have no clue how I would do that. I think the novel is fine with the way it’s organized as I have it now. If a beta reader tells me otherwise, I’ll reconsider, but until that happens…. I don’t think it’s a crime not to divide this book when the other two have two major sections each.

It does beg the question though: have you read series where novels had different structures? What did you think? Does the idea of that bug you, or does it not matter in your opinion, as long as each novel is well-written and well-structured in and of itself?


15 responses to “How differently constructed can series novels be?

  1. There’s nothing wrong with having a different plot structure for the third novel — I think it keeps the readers guessing in a good way. It’s also not uncommon. In the Hunger Games trilogy, the third book had a dramatically different plot structure than the first two. There are also examples like the Game of Thrones books, where the plot structure is completely different from book to book. Good luck!

    • thanks Christi! and thanks for the examples. I’ve had Hunger Games and the Game of Thrones books on the TBR list for quite some time but haven’t gotten to them yet. Need to move them up it seems!

  2. Victoria, I think you would do a disservice to your readers to not give them the best reading experience you can with each novel. Mangling the third novel just to force it into some mold would have robbed the readers of the great experience they will now enjoy because you stayed true to the needs of the novel.

  3. I think that if I was committed enough to the story and characters to get to the third novel, all I would want is to find out what is going to happen – how the story is going to end. For the sequel to Disappearing in Plain Sight, I find myself inserting dates at the top of Chapters and actually dividing the novel (at least in this draft stage) into Book 1, 2, and 3. Those things didn’t happen in the first novel – but it seems OK so far. I’m glad to reflect on this a bit – thanks for this post.

    • you’re welcome! and you’re so right about just wanting to know how it all ends: that’s exactly how it was with me!

      A 3 part division sounds fun, Francis. And dating is a good way to help readers keep things straight and arrange things out of chronological order if you want 🙂

  4. If a book has my interest, I honestly don’t notice things like divisions, chapter titles, etc. I just move on to the text. Structure is something we authors think about, but I’m not sure readers do. As mentioned, The Hunger Games isn’t uniform. The Lord of the Rings is technically one book, but often sold as 3, except when it isn’t, but who really cares?? When your reader is into the world you’ve built, all that is, and should be, invisible.

    • oh WOW, Jennings, that’s so true! What a wonderful point….. That’s a fabulous point, actually. I might even base a follow up post on it, if you don’t mind? Thanks for the comment. I hadn’t thought of things that way but I certainly don’t notice things like that when I’m reading!

  5. I don’t worry about stuff like that. The way I see it, some could complain if the structure was the same so I do what is best for the novel. Like you said, it makes me glad I’m my own boss.

    • that’s a healthy attitude! and like another commenter said, most people don’t even notice things like chapter divisions, as long as it’s done in a way that makes sense and doesn’t draw attention to itself

  6. I don’t think it’s a big concern, especially not in your example, Victoria. However, I read and loved a book a couple years ago. When I got to the sequel, the entire structure of the book was different and I *could NOT* get into it. The first book was linear; the second interspersed two storylines happening at different times. I don’t mind nonlinear stories in general, but I do think in this case the storylines/narrative structure combination was a major reason I couldn’t get into the book.

    Your differences sound much smaller! I wouldn’t worry about it. But if you’re really concerned, you could always make the prologue Book I and the rest Book II. 😉

    • thanks, Jordan! I appreciate your support 🙂 I think I will keep the novel the way I have it, but that’s a great suggestion about the prologue versus the rest of the book, if I change my mind!!! 🙂

  7. Pingback: SERIAL OFFENDER? Not likely! (The Most Fulfilling Reasons to Write Series Fiction) | Creative Writing with the Crimson League

  8. I think it’s great that you want to switch it up. If the plot structure is too similar, it will eventually get old, and slightly repetitive. I think changing it will be a good shock and something that will keep readers engaged.

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