Monday, 2 October 2017
Series & Standalone: When Your Standalone Becomes A Series
SERIES & STANDALONE: WHEN YOUR STANDALONE BECOMES A SERIES
I covered this a little in last week's post, but now with only a few days until Darker, I thought I would carry on with this mini series and talk about what to do when you realise your standalone has series potential, or possibly, is already a series and you're the last one to be clued into it. For the purpose of this series, I'm going to assume that like me, you're either a hybrid or someone who is a complete pantser. If you're a planner and you ended up in this situation, you're probably a hybrid, just sayin'!
Back when I first started planning the plot for Lights Out, I was ninety-nine percent sure it was a standalone. To the point where I had the ending all picked out and everything. I started writing and all was going to plan until I got about fifty percent of the way through it and then I realised a few things. One, the main character, Lock, would never, ever do what I'd planned for the ending. It didn't fit with her personality, with the way she was written and it just didn't work for her as a character. Two, the story itself had a bigger plot than I'd first realised and if I wanted to tell it to the best of my ability, it would need a sequel. And finally three, that sequel was going to need a sequel too.
So boom, I went from finishing off the Dying Thoughts series, to landing myself right into the midst of a trilogy and no idea for the series I'd write alongside it. I'll come to that in another piece. I decided that rather than rewrite the whole book and try and make a character fit the plot that I had already realised was wrong, I'd go off plan and set the scene for this idea becoming a trilogy. It was both a nerve-wracking time and also an exciting time because Lights Out fell very much into the dystopian genre and I had, for a long time, wanted to write a dystopian and now I had both that AND it was going to be a trilogy? Talk about jackpot ideas!
I realised pretty quickly that I was going to have to change a lot of the minimal outline I already had. I had two ways I could've done that, printed off a second one and worked from that, or trust myself and the story and keep going, having the bare minimum of an outline. Something I had never done before. It scared the hell out of me, but as I learned to trust myself, trust the world I'd built and trust in the characters I'd created, I was able to focus on getting this first book done. If you ever find yourself in that same situation, then here's a few pieces of advice.
#1. THERE'S NO SHAME IN NEEDING TO PLAN
I chose not to, but I knew that if needed, I could at any point, go back to the planning stages and do it that way. There is zero shame in needing to stop writing to focus on the plan. Sometimes the plan can be what brings it all together in a place where the story can continue on.
#2. REMEMBER IT'S JUST THE FIRST DRAFT
One thing that helped me stay focused was that it didn't matter if that later on I needed to edit, this was just the first draft and therefore it didn't matter if later I realised that there was something that needed changing. No one but me was ever going to see that first draft.
#3. STAY TRUE TO YOUR CHARACTERS AND PLOT
The big thing for me was realising that both my characters, and the plot of the original idea just wouldn't work. By changing the book from a standalone to a trilogy, that made a big change in the outcome of the decisions both I made, and were written into the book itself. Just because I'd started with one thing did not mean that I couldn't change it to something else.
#4. LISTEN TO YOURSELF. TRUST YOURSELF
If I'd forced myself to keep Lights Out as a standalone, I do not think it would ever be published because it went against everything I believed was true in the world I'd created. In doing that, I would've turned the book from something I was passionate about to something that didn't work. Trust yourself and your judgement because it's your story and you know where it needs to go. If you're thinking that there's something not right, then listen to that feeling and see what can be done to make it right.
So those are my tips for what to do if you go from writing a standalone to writing a series. I hope they're useful to you and remember that just because it happened to me, and I'm a hybrid and you're not, doesn't mean it can't happen to you. Your mileage as always, may vary.
*THERE WILL NOT BE A BLOG POST ON MONDAY 9TH AS JOEY IS AT DARKER. YOU CAN STILL GET TICKETS HERE*
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