Monday, 6 November 2017

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


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

Last week I did a piece about three ways a story is a standalone and three ways it's not. It therefore made sense to me to do one about how to tell a story is a series with the same kind of set up. It may seem like an obvious thing, that when planning you should be able to tell but as someone who's written almost twenty books, and has completed both a series, several standalones and has almost finished a trilogy, I have to say some times the lines get blurred. When starting my trilogy, I had outlined and planned a completely different ending to the one that came about while writing the book. It was only as I got to the fifty percent mark that I realised, this was not a standalone, but instead was a trilogy.

IS - #1 - THERE'S ROOM FOR MORE
If as you plan, or approach the end of writing you realise that there's more story to tell, then it's possible what you have is not a standalone, but a series. Usually this should be something that you work out in planning, but having been in the situation where it happens mid-book I know that it's not always possible to foresee. Especially if, like me, you're a hybrid or more of a pantser. If you're a planner than it really should be something you'll have spotted before putting pen to paper and such.

NOT - #1 - THE STORY IS DONE

On the other side, if as you plan and/or write, you realise that this story can be told properly in one book, then it's likely you have a standalone. Depending on your genre and what is considered the norm as far as word count and novel length goes, you may find that you're able to get it all done by just pushing out those boundaries a little more than you would usually. There's nothing worse than sticking to a "normal" length and then finding the second book in the series is actually better as a novella. It's better to increase the length of the book to encompass it all.

IS - #2 - THERE ARE THINGS LEFT UNSAID
As I spoke about in the piece last week, if you've gotten to the end and you realise that actually there are plot points and parts of the arc that haven't yet been realised, it might be that you have a series. While you may be one of those writers who doesn't tie up everything in a big bow, and that's okay, if there are questions the readers will have that should've been answered by the last page, then it's maybe time to consider writing a sequel.

NOT - #2 - EVERYTHING IS WRAPPED UP
Again, if you get to the end and there are no questions of any kind because everything you plan to tell the reader is written out and you've written the end and all of that, then it's more likely that it's a standalone. I felt this way while writing a few of my standalones, because while I had fallen in love with my characters, they had no more story to tell. Everything that needed to be said had been and to have pushed further would've been pointless and made the second book redundant.

IS - #3 - YOU CAN ENVISION MORE
This is actually a pretty big one. Looking back at the Dying Thoughts series, I always knew that Tara's story would not be just one book. When I got to the planning stages for my next project, I was so sure of that, that I jumped right into book two without even thinking on it further. While planning, if you can see that there's more than one story with these characters there in your mind, then it's probably a series and it would be doing the idea and story an injustice to limit it to the one.

NOT - #3 - IT WOULD NEED TO BE FORCED

However, if the only way you can think up a sequel is to force the issue, then it's just as possible that you have one book, and there's nothing wrong with that. While it is hard to have to say goodbye to characters at the end of writing, there's nothing worse than stringing out stories when you know they're not needed, or it's obvious to the reader that they're not. Sometimes a character's story is just one book, and that's okay.

So there we have it, my three ways to tell if it's a series and three ways to tell if it's not. As always, you mileage may vary, but if you can think of any points to expand on or that I may have missed, feel free to comment and have a discussion, or you can contact me and we'll chat about it. Happy writing!


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