Monday, 30 October 2017

Series & Standalone: Three Ways It's A Standalone & Three Ways It's Not


SERIES & STANDALONE: 3 WAYS IT'S A STANDALONE & 3 WAYS IT'S NOT

While this may seem like something that's obvious, I thought I would do a piece today about what makes a standalone a standalone, and how to tell if it's a series or not. I'll also do a piece on series along the same vein. I found that when writing my standalones, there has been a few things that tell me the story is no longer than one book, but there have been signs for me that show it isn't just one book. So here we go, my three ways it's a standalone compared to three ways it's now.

IS - #1 - THE STORY ARC IS WRAPPED UP
If you're writing a standalone, then you generally will plan for it to finish within the set length of that book. When I plot, which I do minimally, I always have an ending in mind. Because of the fact that I'm a hybrid it's sometimes the case that I'll start a book with a plan that has a nice neat ending, and realise while writing that it's not going to have that ending. If you're writing a standalone, you'll know because the plot is all tied up once you reach the end of it all. If you're writing a standalone, you'll have had all these sub-plots, and when you reach the end, you're able to put the book down, walk away and not feel like you've missed things out.

NOT - #1 - YOU HAVE MORE THREADS TO TIE UP
By that vein, if you reach the end of the book and realise that you actually have more questions to answer, then it's probably not a standalone. Of course this can happen if your outlining or whatever process you use, has failed, and in that case it could go either way. The one time I've written a book thinking it was a standalone, I knew pretty much at the fifty percent mark that I would have more threads to tie up than at all possible in one book.

IS - #2 - FURTHER PLOT WOULD JUMP THE SHARK
You've all read series that feel like they should've ended a while back. I know I have. In fact I did a piece on that here. If you're writing a standalone then you should be able to see that doing another book with the same characters, and a similar plot line, would only make the second book redundant and it wouldn't further the plot at all. It would be unnecessary and it would show in the way the story was told. When I finished Blackout, I was desperate to continue the story with Tally and Lisa, but it soon became apparent that doing so would be a bad idea.

NOT - #2 - FURTHER PLOT MOVES THE ARC FORWARD
On the other side of things, if it's not a standalone, then you'll soon realise there is more plot to be added. Along a similar vein to needing more story to tie up the loose threads, you'll be able to start a second (and third maybe) that would allow you space to keep telling that story.

IS - #3 - IT ENDS NATURALLY
No matter how much you might want to continue a character's story, if it comes to the end, you'll know it. If all the story is wrapped up, and furthering the plot would jump the shark, then you have to realise that the ending itself come to a stop naturally. When planning, you'll usually be able to tell if the ending is natural, but sometimes it takes actually sitting down and writing the story to be able to see for yourself that the ending really is the end of that cast of characters and story. It's not a bad thing, just some stories end sooner than others and that's okay.

NOT - #3 - IT OPENS UP EASILY
On the flip side, if while planning, or writing, you realise that there is a pretty valid continuation of a story, then you've probably just got yourself the start of a series and how far it goes is up to you. If you find that you can easily project where it needs to go beyond that first book, then you're on the right track to it being more than a standalone.

So those are three ways it's a standalone and three ways it's now. All of this is, of course, subjective and depending on how you plan, write and view your own process you'll either agree or see other ways to tell the difference between the two. I've found along my writing career that I usually have more ideas for a series than I do for a standalone. It's the curse of having too many plot bunnies popping into my head at once, but that's not a bad thing!

Do you have ways to tell the difference that I've not mentioned here? Feel free to comment, or send me an ask letting me know! I'm always open to discussion and to hear other points of view.

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