Authors should know when to call it quits

Charlaine HarrisI unfortunately read the entire Sookie Stackhouse series by Charlaine Harris.

I read the books even though I stopped enjoying them. The first several books in the 13-book series were fun. There was this vast world full of crazy characters that had layers and room for growth. It was enticing to read about a woman whose world got turned on its head and all for the better despite her abilities.

But toward the end of the series, the writing got lazy and the characters were predictable and repeated themselves.

I saw this article over the weekend from the Associated Press talking about Harris’s upcoming new series. However, she also talked about the Sookie Stackhouse series  — that inspired the HBO series True Blood — and the backlash from its ending. For the record, I really disliked the ending as well, but didn’t get angry. I just stopped buying the books and picked them up from the library.

Harris said she knew it was time to end the Sookie books, which inspired the hit HBO series “True Blood,” when she wasn’t approaching each new addition with excitement.

“And I thought, ‘You know, this is the time to end it, when I still have something to say.'”
The AP story paraphrased her, and I wish I could have seen the full quote. I could tell from Harris’s writing that she no longer had the excitement and fervor she once did when writing the books.

The plot lines were basic, books felt shorter and felt more like filler-episodes from television than a feature presentation.

With authors under contracts, they are obligated to write a certain amount of books. However, I wished Harris would have ended the story about five books earlier. And the bad experience I had from this last series actually doesn’t lend itself well for next one for me.

I’m not interested in reading it all.

Will she get bored again? Will she just mail it in like she did with the end of the Stackhouse series?

I certainly appreciate her writing the first several books in the series, but I wish there was a better way out for authors when something isn’t working anymore.

For those of you into series that follow characters, have there been stories that you know that have gone too long? Tell us about them in the comments.

9 Comments on Authors should know when to call it quits

  1. I agree with you about Charlaine Harris. Many are complaining that the coda should have been a free download on her website and not a $9.99 ‘book.’ I read the whole thing in about 15 minutes, standing in the bookstore. Harris will not get another dime from me.

    Another one who overstayed her welcome was Patricia Cornwell. Around the time she shifted from intimate first-person to impersonal third person and brought back a character who died several books earlier, I lost interest.

  2. Any book over 400 pages means the series is over. Any Sci-Fi series that is a trilogy is 95% guaranteed not to be worth even starting (seems to be most of them now, why?).

  3. Writers will learn when to quit when their readers learn when to quit. I’ll never understand why people complain about a series getting worse, yet continue to follow it.

  4. I don’t enjoy episodic character series. I find that even good authors, like George McDonald Fraser, start phoning it in around book four or five.

    But isn’t that a major appeal of series? You know what your going to get like you know what’s on the menu at a chain restaurant. It’s comfort reading.

    I’ve personally sworn off series. I’ll go a trilogy or quartet, but anything much longer can be ignored.

  5. @Joanna, which Cornwell book is that? I read some of her books *cough* years ago, and I’ve been meaning to go back and re-read them and continue the series. Knowing when I should stop would be welcome.

    I do like series, but I agree that some authors take them too far. It’s a challenge I’ll be facing as well. I love the characters in my urban fantasy series, and I have tons of ideas to keep them going, but I don’t want to overstay my welcome. I either hope I’ll recognize that point or that some of my readers will give me a clue.

  6. Susan Lulgjuraj // November 4, 2013 at 3:35 pm //

    I have to finish things. It’s a problem I have, but I’ve always been that way.

    If I start watching a movie and it’s awful, I will stick it out to the end. If I start reading a book and I hate it even 10 percent in, I finish it prove how awful it really was. I can think of one time in the last five years where I did not finish a book.

    In this case, part of me hoped it would return to enjoyable levels of the early part of the series. That’s why I read them, but got the books from the library. If I did end up liking the book, I fully intended to buy a copy in support, but it never got there.

    I have the same problem with Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series. The first six or so books were enjoyable. Now, we’re on 20 … and, well, the series is long past its expiration point. I actually haven’t even looked into how I am going to get the 20th book. So, I may actually stop reading the series here.

    If I read reviews and find out it’s worth picking up, then I might hit the library again.

    But I really do enjoy series of books. I love following characters through their lives.

  7. Shrug. There are always going to be series that the author gets tired of writing by the end. Hell, there will be single books the authors get tired of writing by the end. There will also be extremely long series that are worth following all the way through. I’m greatly enjoying the Liaden books, and there have been almost 20 of them so far. There have been 40 Discworld novels and they’re still pretty good even though their author is developing Alzheimers. The one doesn’t preclude the existence of the other.

  8. Ah, yes, I have one. Stephen White’s Alan Gregory series. It started out wonderfully and then somewhere along the line, it jumped the track and the plots became ridiculous. I cannot tell you exactly where it went off the rails, but I felt sad about losing the characters whom I had liked. I did stop buying them but would then get them from the library and skim. And by the way, I long ago abandoned Patricia Cornwell entirely, probably at about the same place Joanna did.

  9. I need to add to my post above since I just finished the most recent book in Julia Spencer-Fleming’s series about a woman Episcopal priest and a police chief. Sadly, this is another series past its sell-by date. I was beginning to get uncomfortable with the book before this but did not get the full message. I am so finished with these books. It’s almost a relief when you recognize it.

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