Thursday, July 14, 2011
Aspiring Advice: Series vs. Standalones
Matt Hayes commented a question after my last post that really got me thinking. Is this 7th book of yours going to be a series, or just a standalone novel?
Short answer? Both.
Both? What do you mean both? You can't have your pastrami on rye and ride a roller coaster at the same time! Well, you can (if the passengers behind you don't mind), but that's not the point. It's fair to say each writer has their own approach when it comes to how they write and what they want to write (duh). There are currently six series in my "want to write" list--three trilogies and three series of five (or more) books each. There's a few standalones I'd like to belt out, too.
Thing is, I'm not published yet. If I write a series of five books and no one picks up the first, all that time I spent writing the other four--well, I'll never get it back. I could spend that time on another story instead, exploring my voice with other settings/characters. My first trilogy is an unreadable 500K paperweight (paperweight made of paper--how about that!). It was a good exercise, but do I want to invest time into a potentially heavy dead end?
Here's my idea. Write the first book as well as you can. Let it stand on its own. Create several interesting side developments that will pique your readers. Give them room to wonder about what could happen with so-and -so without fully (or needing) to resolve it, yet still end the first book satisfactorily. Then outline the rest--every book that follows. Leave room for notes, too. Once that's done, start the first book of another series.
The time it takes to write five books for one series will likely equal the time it takes to write five 1st books for five different series! Not a bad way to sell yourself in this competitive business. If they like it, chances are they'll contract you to write the rest, making the next few years of your life spoken for. If you get rejected? No worries. You can hand them the start of a new series right away! And if it doesn't sell? Again, you'll have conserved a huge chunk of your valuable time.
This is not the rule, just my thoughts on the matter. Look back at some of your favorite series. Does the first stand well on its own? Did it really need a sequel? I'm all about good sequels and a well thought-out series. There's also writers like Shannon Hale who wrote a series that takes place in one world, but each book is about a different character. I'm a big fan of those.
Thanks for reading! By all means, if you'd like some advice, or just want to know my take on an aspect of writing, ask away in the comments. I would love to make these articles more personal.
What's your favorite 1st book in a series? Favorite standalone? Favorite combination of the two?
I'm David, and someone's craving wedding cake!