Thursday, May 31, 2018

I need your input, please


More specifically, I need the input of those who've read some or all of the books in my "Maxwell Saga" military science fiction series.  I've been pondering the future of this series, and I've come up with some ideas:  but they may not satisfy my readers, so I'm giving you the chance to weigh in.

When I began the Maxwell Saga, I was a novice fiction writer.  It was my first series of books, and I had a lot of learning to do.  I still think it's a pretty good series overall, and obviously many of you do too, as your reviews indicate.  However, because it was my first effort, there are areas where it lacks the finer touches of later series.  If you compare it to, for example, my current "Cochrane's Company" trilogy, the latter is obviously better written, flows more evenly, and shows greater character development, plot progression, etc.

I pre-plotted the Maxwell Saga to include about a dozen books.  So far, I've written five, with a sixth in preparation.  However, I could just as easily take the plots of the last six books in the series and use them in one or more new series - perhaps shorter ones such as a trilogy, which means people don't have to drag on year after year waiting for more, and perhaps getting tired of it.  I've heard several negative comments along those lines from readers I like and respect concerning other lengthy series of novels (which I won't name here, out of respect for their authors).  I don't want to fall into the trap of writing "formula" fiction, where a series becomes boring and/or each new book becomes predictable.  I'd rather keep my readers interested, entertained, and guessing!

I'm therefore considering ending the Maxwell Saga on a high note with the sixth book.  My protagonist, Steve Maxwell, would triumph over an old enemy, and be faced with a life-changing decision as to his future.  His choice will allow the series to close positively, rather than negatively, which I prefer (and I think my readers do, too).  I would then move on to more books, probably using elements of the plots I'd worked out for the seventh through the twelfth Maxwell books.  However, if my readers want the Maxwell Saga to continue, I can go on writing them, striving to make each new book (hopefully) better than the last, and avoid the "series burnout" trap.

Therefore, I'd like your input, please, readers.  Which option would you prefer?  End the Maxwell Saga on a high, positive note, and clear the decks for more and different series:  or continue it, probably at a slower pace, so that I can produce other new, shorter series alongside it?  Please let me know in Comments.

Thanks!

Peter

42 comments:

FotoTomas said...

I am good either way but lean to closing out at #6. I have purchased all of your books and admit I wished another Maxwell book was faster in the que. Closing it out simply opens up more options.

jamie said...

I love the Maxwell saga, along with the newer books. I'm a fan of trilogys personally (I feel they just work for length most of the time.) I wouldn't mind seeing Steve show up on occasion in the other books in that universe but, to me at least the last book felt like it closed the series well.

Suz said...

I am someone who reads just about anything not red-hot or running away from me, but, having said that, one of my most favorite series has been ongoing since 1991 and each book is about 3-4 inches thick.
So they take a while to write. And I wait, eagerly, for each one to come out.
But that author also has written several "offshoots" I guess is the best way to describe them, other stories about some of the minor characters to help flesh out the entire overall story line or world.

If folks are impatiently waiting for your next book, I would look at it from the perspective that you write so well, even when just starting out, you make the characters so real, the reader doesn't want to wait for the "next chapter" or the rest of the story.

So, those of us that say "we can't wait" for more are just channeling our inner 5 year old, bouncing up and down on the couch begging for "just one more chapter" instead of going off to bed. We can wait, we just don't like doing it.

They are your stories and your characters. Do whatever feels the best and makes the most sense to you. And yes, I like up-beat, positive endings. I will buy whichever stories you write.

PS Will there be more in the Ames Archives?

Peter said...

@Suz: Yes, there will. Watch this space!

stencil said...

Close out the Maxwell series with that upbeat coda. and leave yourself unencumbered by whatever it is you - or whoever - think drogues them.

Poodlehorde said...

I vote to keep going! As someone who has been reading science fiction and fantasy go better than sixty years (I gulped a little when I came up with that number, but it was definitely the late fifties). I'm used to waiting for the next installment, and I like the characters.

Tom said...

Close out Maxwell and move on. "The Wheel of Time" bogged down and got repetitive. Pretty much every other long chain did too. About the only one that didn't was the Vorkosigan Saga, and that's because she just kept moving on to new primary characters.

World Explorer said...

I vote for finishing the series on a high note. I've gotten very tired of authors pushing more books on fans and then never finishing them. The Dresden Files being the main one doing this since I started reading it years ago. So use the plots you have in other stories and like jamie said above, have Steve showed up every now and then.

Steffen said...

Your plan sounds good to me. Another Maxwell with a splashy finish will suit me fine..

I'm waiting for another trilogy set in the same universe to get its third book...

CDH said...

You answered your own question. If you are getting formula fiction, close it out, if you can keep it fresh, keep it going. What can YOU do with it?

Personally I like it, but see the lack of detail you mention and the repetitiveness. There is no reason the later books can't get better, and even focus on other characters as much as Maxwell in places. You have done that well with his marine buddy, for example, just keep new and fresh characters in the mix. Really your other books in the same universe are doing exactly that, keeping it fresh but still using some of the same characters in cameo appearances. Does it really have to be an either/or situation? Can his wife be more of a star in a book? Can we get a prequel on his family and the loss of his parents, as they seem interesting enough by way of their preparations for their son?

If Harry Potter can fill a bookshelf, so can the Maxwell saga.

MrGarabaldi said...

Hey Peter;

I have enjoyed your maxwell series and await the next one. You have to decide how you want to do this, if you end it with book 6, that is your decision...they are your characters. I am not dodging the issue, if you want to run to 12 books and you believe that you have the material together for 12 books, then go for 12. You also had talked about mixing the Maxwell and the "Larado" series a bit. Whatever you decide to do will be fine with your legions of fans.

hightecrebel said...

Having only read the Maxwell saga recently (while patiently awaiting the second Ames Archives novel...looking forward to the third), I lean towards not closing out the saga itself, but if you choose to, I hope you at least leave it open to related story lines in the same universe/timeline. Whether that's a short story collection or stand-alone novels about events outside the saga.

lpdbw said...

Vorkosigan Saga

Tom gave me hope there, for a minute, that there was more to the saga than Miles. I read the first 2 books and like them just fine, then I met Miles. I didn't finish but maybe 1/3 of the first Miles book, and that unbelievably superior entitled childish "adult" repulsed me so much that I not only gave up on the saga, but I doubt I'll ever read another word of Bujold. If it hadn't been on my kindle, I would have walled the book.

Even with it's new-author weaknesses and the unbelievable good fortune Maxwell has as a character, I found that series more interesting and more appealing than the brat Miles.

Miles's grandpa should have drowned him.

Peter, close out Maxwell. You've outgrown him.

Richard said...

I suggest closing on a high note. If there is more to mine in the Maxwell universe how about more stand alones or trilogies?

I also am for more Ames. Love them!

TheAxe said...

It looks like I'm in the minority, but I really enjoy all the maxwell books and fly through them, I've been re-reading all 5 this past week actually. I'd love to get a dozen of them I really enjoy Steve's stories :)

Ben Yalow said...

Is there story left in the Maxwell set that is sitting there in your brain insisting on being told? If so, tell it.

If not, find the next story that's insisting on being told, and tell that one.

Unless original story is really a single story in lots of volumes (such as Lord of the Rings, which is only a trilogy because binding technology wasn't really that good), then a series should stop when it runs out of story to tell. And most of them run long past that.

I'm not counting series that are really standalone novels with a main set of characters that repeat -- often space opera/adventure like Perry Rhodan or Captain Future or Doc Savage. Those can keep going indefinitely, simply by leaving the characters essentially unchanged, ready to be confronted by the next book's Big Bad. But, if the characters are growing, they run out of things to grow into, and the series hits a natural stopping point.

So, if you think you're there, stop. Tell us a different story.

Walter said...

I would say close it out. I read a ton of sci-fi stuff in that genre, and whilst I am always looking for more, it would be better to start a new premise I think. This particular franchise is getting a little long in the tooth, so unless you can figure a way to revitalise it, leave it alone - otherwise it is starting to get the feel of "make work". I do enjoy your stuff though - maybe close it out on a moral/ethical dilemma and leave it at that.

In any case I have pretty much all your stuff, and you remain one of my auto-buy writers.

John said...

6 would be a good ending point. That way if you get picked up by HBO, they won;t be waiting a decade for you to finish.

Unknown said...

Love, love, love the Maxwell series. Can't wait for the next one. Or ones.

You are an artist, and my opinion is to try to avoid soliciting focus group "consensus". Give it as much time as do wish, then when you are well-rested, listen you your own characters. They may speak to your subconscience, or they may be surprisingly direct. Do what brings peace of mind. Then keep to that path. All will be well.

Seriously, we understand you are doing a kind of marathon work now. Breaks are necessary as refreshment. Schedules are guides only, not masters.

C. G. R. said...

Finish in 6 volumes and go on with trilogies! You don't want to go Weber's way, with increasingly incoherent and inconsistent stories...

Chip Anderson said...

End it and move on to other works. I like the books but I have read enough unending tales where the author seems to be desperate enough to offend even the kindest suspension of disbelief.

Atlas said...

Finish with the sixth book, BUT bring him back here and there in the other books/series that are in the same universe. That is a huge treat for me when I am reading and I look forward to meeting an old friend.

I am sure that Shelby would not mind stopping by either.

Atlas

Tom said...

ipdpw Wow, such an opposite reaction to Vorkosigan! One of my greatest series, not one of yours.
Thankfully Peter writes stuff we both like!

D.J. said...

I've been noticing a repetitiveness to be honest. Struggle seems to be glossed over, with things almost always breaking in the good guys' favor. I don't see it nearly as much in with Ames (he takes solid hits with lasting repercussions that he has to come back from), but with Maxwell it looks like almost every hit he takes is temporary. It gets better as time goes on, though.

I would personally be fine with ending Maxwell on a high note and having him make cameo appearances later on as a secondary/supporting character.

As for the Vorkosigan Saga, I think it should have ended with Diplomatic Immunity. First book(s) ended with Aral and Cordelia becoming parents, which sets up the story arc end of Miles Ekatarin becoming parents. Of the ones beyond that, I've only really liked Captain Vorpatril's Alliance, and really really disliked Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen. (What I really want is more history: initial colonization, Time of Isolation, re-introduction to the Nexus, Cetagandan Occupation, Mad Yuri's War, Komarran Occupation, etc..)

Write what your muse tells you, but listen for the end of the story, and bring it to an end at that point. A series can easily become a zombie.

Jeffrey Woods said...

I think, close the story out with 6 books. Move onto other stories in the same universe. I would like more the of backstory on how human expansion in your universe happened. Can't wait for the ending of the Laredo saga, and I like your idea of writing the Cochrane stories for faster release. Maxwell is moving up and will soon be at the point for making the decisions, but not the one at the sharp end.

Ray said...

What has a better ROI for your time to pay your bills? My business side speaking...

Personal 2 cents / emotional:

I liked your middle aged sword and sorcery hero a lot. It was wonderful to have a hero wake up with aches and pains! I hope the book did well.

Your new series Stones is aimed at a different audience. Maxwell felt more YA. And there is the danger of becoming too paint by the numbers.

What energizes you to write?

Mogrith said...

I like the idea of end on book 6 then doing plots 7-12 with different people but set in same universe. Like the Laredo and your newest series.

Rick T said...

I'd say wrap it up. Steve has taken some hits over the series but is a but of a Marty Stu.. Going back to the beginning I can't think of a life goal he hasn't hit: Escaped Earth system, got rid of the McGuffin by turning it into a life debt, is extremely wealthy, has an independent ship command, gotten revenge on his mentor's killer, and is now a husband and father..

I'm not sure where you can take him next.

Locke said...

I like the Maxwell saga and would enjoy reading more books about Steve.

McChuck said...

My preference: Close out Maxwell on a high note with book 6. Keep the universe alive with other stories. Have Maxwell show up occasionally in the background, or in walk-on cameos.

Maybe tie the separate threads back together in book 12?

DaveS said...

I'm (rather unusually I find) in the majority in voting to close out the Maxwell series on a happy note and looking forward to new stories. I'm not alone in wanting to ask for more westerns - Ames or otherwise.

Will said...

I think that if you have to ask for input, instead of KNOWING that you HAVE to write this story, it's time to draw the curtain.

Stan_qaz said...

Thinking about the marketing angle, folks get 10 KU slots, having room to load an entire series to read at one shot is not a bad thing for a new reader.

Seeing an interesting book but being told it is #14 in a series leaves me a bit cold.

Do I go back and read book #1 first, and find I don't like it because, as you mentioned you have gotten better since then, and skip the series?

Do I try to dive into book # 14 and hope I don't miss too much because I don't have the context from the earlier books?

Or worse do I find out there are enough spoilers in # 14 that I take the first 13 off my list?

Normally trilogies or even six book series are a lot more approachable to me. I'll catch up my KU downloads, clear them out and grab the whole series.

Some of the rapid-release series where there is a book every few months have a different feel to me. I think the first I saw was Anniversary Day by Kathryn Rusch, The Dark Landing series is more current but has the same feel. Not like you are waiting forever for the next Niven or Bujuold book, but are reading what pretty much is a serial. Bringing back memories of Analog and the like, waiting for each new tidbit to hit the street.

So I'd close it out at six and either do more series in the same universe or move the stories left untold to a new setting.

MadMcAl said...

It has been mentioned before, most series become stale when the main character has no more room to realistically grow. Especially military scifi is bad for this.
At some point the MC leaves the direct command of relatively small unit and enters the reaches of flag rank, with the complimentary (and most often utterly boring) politics.

I personally think you should write the series up until just before Steve reaches that rank.
Make the last chapter of the last book about him getting the promotion. After that make him a recurring side character, but focus on somebody else.

Jon said...

Finish it out, create a new universe. Make it more interesting than the Maxwell saga, unencumbered by any continuity issues.

Minion Beta said...

If there's more story, then by all means tell it. If the story is becoming scattered (side plots, different main characters etc) then by all means close it out on a high note, and just have Steve Maxwell show up in cameo's or as plot drivers in other books.

Your call, you're the one writing :)

Quartz said...

I'm not a reader but the prospect of a 12-volume series would put me off.

AeroPundit said...

Having read all five I would suggest you have already ended it nicely. Bring on the new series. Plus you have tied in the Dragon Tong & Lancaster in the Cochrane series you have already set the new series in a world familiar to your readers.

BadFrog said...

I'd agree with AeroPundit on every point. I prefer the grittier world view of the Laredo and Cochrane series to the 'everything will turn out all right in the end' of the Maxwell arc. Wrap up the storylines for Steve, Brooks et. al. in one glorious finale and start new series in the same universe - for fun what about a Monster Hunter spin-off?

Mark Jewell said...

Definitely close it out with number 6, especially if you feel the series has reached a plateau.
Tom Clancy's Net Force series started out well, but by about the seventh book the books began to get shallow and weak on their plots. They did end the series with 11 or 12 books, but they should have wrapped it up sooner. It's always refreshing to see an author recognize this and reach out to the readers to obtain their opinions on how best to proceed further with the series.
I really enjoyed the Maxwell series, they reminded me a lot of Heinlein's juveniles albeit with a little more coarser language in spots, but still something I'd recommend to 8th graders and up. I hope to check out your other series here soon as well as Miss D's as well.

tom said...

If you have characters shouting write me instead of Maxwell do it. If not I would like to read 7-12 in the series. I enjoy seeing characters evolve! Don't push them out let them happen when your muse says to. I't be a waste to stop using Maxwell.

Gordon Scott said...

I listen to the Maxwell books on audio. I should really read the latest on paper, just to see if my impressions are accurate, as the choice of narrator can greatly affect a listener's appreciation. With that in mind:

I have found all of the books to be entertaining and never once thought of giving up early.

Steve is a very earnest dude. So is just about everyone that matters to Steve. There isn't really a dark, James Clapper evil dude in any of them. I mean the kind of guy who has climbed to the top of the heap by standing on those he knifed in the back.

Part of this could be the narrator.

I will buy another Maxwell book. I might not buy more, if the next one disappoints. But yeah, I kind of like Steve having a more ordinary life for a while. Then, like Matthew Ridgeway, he gets dragged back in, saves the day, only to piss off the Lancastrian president, so he's off to pasture again....