Human Legion Story Arc and Book Lengths

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Human Legion Story Arc and Book Lengths

Since the Human Legion books were launched a few weeks ago, a few people have commented on book lengths. Some have said the first book is too long, others the second book too short.

Book length is very important to get right, and I am doing something unusual in not setting all books to the same length. So I’m going to spend a few moments to explain why they are the lengths they are and, more importantly, to set expectations to Human Legion readers about what to expect for the remaining books in the series.

Actually, I’ve finished the first draft of this post and realize I’ve spent more than a few moments, so first of all here’s the summary. The first book, Marine Cadet, is 140,000 words long and is a double-length opener to the series. The second and subsequent will be aimed at 75,000 to 85,000 words. From my experience of writing novels, they are likely to err on being longer rather than shorter 🙂

Which brings me to another point. Why are there six books listed on the main page of this website?

When I’m reading a book, I like to keep a feel for how far through the story I’ve got to. I’m not sure why it’s so important to me, but it helps me enjoy the dramatic pacing. It’s the same with a book or TV series. When I know I’m watching episode 22 of 24, then I’m excited because big things are about to happen as we build to the season finale. (Hopefully).

When I’m writing, it’s the same. I like to know the structure. I like to know how my character and plot arcs develop across the series so I can foreshadow and start building those changes early. I like to fit in little nuggets knowing they won’t fully pay off for another few books (for example in the first book, Arun makes a promise to the Night Hummer, Springer admits she’s thinking about children, and we never learn what happens to Hortez. I haven’t finished with any of those ideas yet).

The big story isn’t immutable. I adjust as I develop the characters in more detail, and as new ideas occur to me, but they’re adjustments to a plan, a plan that is getting firmer all the time. Which is why I have in my mind the set of six novels. The Human Legion story will definitely end with Book 6.

The biggest change I’ve made so far is with the first two books.

According to Spring 2013’s outline, the first book ended with the climax to Operation Clubhouse and the second had much more description of the battles on Antilles. I’m not going to say too much here about what happens in books 3-5, but at the same time I was bringing in a lot more ideas about the fleet battles that go on in that part of the series.

I began to feel that the battle descriptions in book 2 were overly long, and that Operation Clubhouse was by far the weakest of the novel-ending climaxes – not a good way to open a series. I did briefly consider expanding to seven novels, but I didn’t want to feel I had one big novel that I had artificially chopped into two smaller books. So I combined the first two novels into the final version you see now of Marine Cadet, and added more space fleet engagements later in the series.

HumanLegionLogo_flat

By the way, I’ve a strict policy of never commenting directly on reader reviews, either here or on Amazon. But I might reply to general points as I have done here.

And now for some website updates due this week.

  • I’ve a post about why leaves on most of my worlds are purple!
  • There will be Infopedia entries to complete the series on shuttles and support craft.
  • And next week there will be original fiction available only on humanlegion.com, and told from the perspective of a Trog character.

Thanks for reading.

5 Comments

  1. Tim says:

    Thanks for the updates on book length. Personally, I am simply greedy. I know longer books tell us more, not keeping us in suspense for later books and the wait on them. Economically, I understand the need for releases.

    Where you will keep the series to six books, the door is open to expressions of new ideas and spin-offs beyond a six book series.

    Simply keep to a good story and we will keep reading. No problem!

    Look forward to Book Three. Feel free to expand it to 1 million words .. lol. Not!

    • timctaylor says:

      My poor wrists wouldn’t cope with that by the spring, that’s for sure! Btw, although the human legion story will play out over six books, I have plenty of ideas of sequels and prequels if the main series is well received. The very first book I tried to write set out the events on earth at the end of the 21st century. I wrote that over a decade ago, but I’ve referred back to it in many stories. I would love to tell that story as a proper standalone novel.

  2. 53bryanm says:

    Well Tim, I had writing this long comment on how much I love the series and how I like how long Book 1 is and Luna (my puppy) jumped up in my lap and I lost it all.

    So I will try again. I liked how we got to know the main characters. About the year and place that the story takes placed in, what the human race has become. We got to see what the battles are like, but not page after page of shoot it up wars.

    I am also glad that you let us know how many books are in the series because I agree with you, I like to know how long it is going to be…how far the story as come…when the end is near.

    I am excited about getting to read this series this winter. I won’t be bundled up in a chair and snowed in because it has been snowing for days…I will be in space on a great adventure…could be the best one I have ever been on!

    Thank you Tim for the adventure.

  3. John says:

    I was very disapointed that the second book of the series was so short. I would have expected a little more meat in it and some kind of end – not the “tune in tomorrow for another exciting episode of …” ending you gave us. Don’t make the mistake of streaching out the other books of the series. Most people will not wait a few months until the next esisode and move on to other authors. Same with you daily episode you just started. You don’t seriously think in today’s hustle und bussle people will be comming back daily to read teh episodes? No time.
    All in all, the first book was very good. stay like that.

    • timctaylor says:

      I appreciate you taking the time to comment, John. At the end of each book I am certainly attempting to resolve most of the story elements raised in that book, and start the next one with a different perspective and new problems. I’m sorry that didn’t work for you in the second book.
      I hear what you say about the serialized fiction, and I would have agreed with you a couple of years ago. But a lot of people do seem to like bite-sized chunks of fiction appearing regularly on their phone or tablet, to read on their commute or break, and I’ve been one of that number. So I thought I’d try it as an experiment. If anyone else is reading this and wants to give the idea a big thumbs down, or up, then please leave a comment.

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