The Doyle Effect

Have you ever been reading a series you love and it suddenly ends? Have you ever noticed Sherlock Holmes dies twice within the series of short stories and novellas written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle? If you read Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot series, she suddenly introduces a new character Mrs. Ariadne Oliver a writer who hates the character she’s created the Finish detective? All of these things fall into something writers call the Doyle Effect named after the creator of Sherlock Holmes. It’s when the writer decides they hate a series or a character they’ve created and they have to find a way to deal with it. Doyle killed and resurrected Holmes twice because everyone loved Sherlock except him and Holmes stories were the only thing that made him money. He actually counselled Christie not to kill Poirot and to find a way to deal with her hate of the character – she created Mrs. Oliver a writer who goes through Poirot books complaining about the ridiculous Finnish detective she created, but he’s beloved by the masses and he makes her a lot of money, so she can’t kill him even though she really wants to, which mirrored how Christie felt about Poirot.

Nearly every series author goes through times when they hate the world, characters, or stories they’ve created in a single series. And they handle it in different ways. Some kill off the character they hate and end the series. Others change the series to fit more into what they want to write. While still others cut back on the frequency of books they release in that series.

I had intended to end D&R after Fortified Dreams (book 12 I think), because realistically 12 books in a series is quite a few. I didn’t. And after 17 books in the series, I’ve started to feel the weight of the series and characters. I could respond like Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and kill the members of the SCTU, but if I did that I have no doubt I’d resurrect them at a later date when I needed the money a new D&R book brings in. And I’ve already pulled the Agatha Christie trick, giving Ace a biographer. And so, the only way to continue the series and keep the books of decent quality is to cut back on the frequency of them.

Here’s what I deal with when it comes to D&R: I get excited to start a new book in the series and it goes well for 20,000 words or so and then I stop writing it and don’t want to pick it up again. I have 4 half finished D&R novels saved on my computer at the moment.

As a self-published author, I have the advantage of picking my own publication schedule as well as the number of books I publish a year. Most traditionally published authors don’t have that and are forced to publish one book in a series a year. My best friend is like me, an avid reader, and her and I discussed this ad nauseum: did I want to kill the series entirely or would I prefer to cut back and keep a steady trickle of D&R books coming for several more years?

Thursday, I announced I would be cutting back on the frequency. Most of my dedicated readers were supportive, one even said “Yay! Room for a new series! I’m so excited.” I do usually publish 4 books a year, I write fast enough to release 4 a year and I do love my job even if I am struggling with a series. I don’t know if you’ll get a new series or if I’ll leave that 4th spot open to allow me to write more standalone novels and have some fun with writing.

There is another possibility; sometimes when a writer commits to slowing down on a series as I have done they eventually find their love for it again. A couple of authors I’ve talked to have said they cut back to one book in a series every couple years or one a year and after a handful of years they fell back in love with the series and sped back up. This could happen with D&R, if I don’t get frustrated and kill them off. Or it might not. Part of the issue with D&R is the rigidity of Aislinn Cain’s character and I can’t make major changes to her 17 books in, that just wouldn’t work.

I think slowing down is the best solution for me (the author) and you (the reader). It prevents the SCTU from being blown up by serial killer.

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