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Monday, September 6, 2010

Stand alones or series?

Okay, here's my deep dark confession: Series scare the TAR out of me. At least, in terms of writing. I insist that my brain doesn't work that way and as a general rule, the stories that most interest me tend to be stand alone stories, whereas I have many writer friends who come up with ideas in terms of series. Common conversation with some of my friends:

Me: I have a great idea for a story. It's about [insert story idea]

Writer Friends: Wow, you know if you did this and that to it, it would make a great series.



Writer Friends: You know, I just had a great idea for a series.

Me: A series? Another one? You can't just think of one story?

Over and over, I've had these conversations with my friends. They think I'm being a big baby and they may have a point. I do get to frothing at the mouth and snarling like a cornered badger when I think I'm being pushed into a corner and I can't help it—that's exactly how the idea of committing to a series makes me feel. And you know, I understand that it's a feeling that's in all likelihood, akin to shooting myself in the foot. Clearly, publishers love the idea of series. I could probably sell a series idea a lot easier than I could any of my stand alones. Maybe. Possibly.

Thing is, there are no guarantees in this business. And I've seen far too many stories that maybe should have only ever been one book, two at the most, that were stretched into series that went on ad infinitum and it dilutes the power of the original story. Of course, by the same token, some of the most celebrated stories of the last decade were series—especially within the young adult genre. I mean, HUNGER GAMES, much?

I don't know... it's not that I'm totally against the idea of writing series,—after all, I do have an adult story that somehow wound up expanded into three manuscripts (still unsold, but clearly, I can do it). However, it wasn't planned. It just happened. It all flowed, sort of... organically. Maybe I'm just sort of a crunchy granola when it comes to the idea of series—I have to start with a story and write it without stressing out over whether or not it's one that can be sustained over the course of three or more books. I don't want to worry that I'm going to get sick of the characters or the world and feel as if I'm trapped writing about nothing but for the foreseeable future.

I want to continue to stretch my wings as a writer—try different things, explore different worlds, and I worry that committing to a series would be like clipping my wings.

Yet... I've got an idea brewing. Just a stand-alone idea. But even so, in the back of my mind there's a little voice whispering, "You know... this has potential."

When even the voices are saying it...

Who knows? I think I'll take a wait and see attitude and just finish this one story.

What about you guys? Do you think in terms of stand alones or series? As a reader, which do you prefer?


Susanne said...

Great post! And I totally empathize with you. The one time I thought of something as a series, my publisher—not so much :). But stand-alones are good too. And not every series can be The Hunger Games. So I say, keep doing what you do best.

Jan Blazanin said...

Writing one story at a time is all I can handle. I'll never say "never," but I right now I don't see myself writing a series. I've read several series that I've loved, but being the Type A person I am, I also feel pressure to read the whole series once I've started.

Jenny said...

Oh, I so hear you!! I've had so many readers email to ask if one of my books could have a sequel, and I always say "maybe" when what I mean is "no freaking way!!" I have no idea how to keep a story going once it ends. How do you do that? If you had more to say, then wouldn't you have said it with the first book?

Maybe that's why I find the whole emphasis on series in teen books so bothersome. I can't ever imagine doing it!!

Stephanie Kuehnert said...

Obviously so far I have just written stand-alone novels, but recently I thought of one series and one idea with series potential. I've started to write and plot the series, but admittedly I'm scared to death that I won't actually know *how* to do it without diluting the story. But um then again, I do have the problem of writing books that are wayyyyyy too long so....