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Stand alones & series

As I've been putting together ideas for potential POSSESSING LUCY books two and three, and playing with ideas for my next project (I have about half a dozen juicy premises throwing pivotal scenes at me, but none's allowed itself to be fully outlined yet), I've been thinking a lot about writing stand alone books vs. writing series (or sequels or trilogies or whathaveyou).

GIVING UP THE GHOST is and always was a stand alone. It is the most important story I could have told about those characters, and nothing else I could imagine happening to them comes close.

POSSESSING LUCY was always intended to be the first in a trilogy/series/something involving more than one book. Lucy's got a lot of stuff to work through, and I don't think I could have done it all in one book if I'd wanted to.

THE HALFWAY HERO started out as a stand alone, but as I was writing I realized there was a lot more that could be done with the world and the characters, and their story doesn't really feel over yet to me.

Funny thing is, as much as I love the idea of writing a series, of getting to stay with and develop characters and plotlines over multiple books... I don't actually read series very often these days. Not because I don't like staying with characters over several books--mostly because I've found that the majority of the time I'm disappointed by second books. There are many many first-in-a-series/trilogy books that I read and loved, or at least liked a lot, only to have the next book leave me with little more than a 'meh'. So I've kind of stopped reading next books unless I either feel the first book was so good I can trust that the author will deliver something close in the second (which is not always the case, but I've had pretty good luck), or the first book wasn't amazing but I can see the potential for it growing into more as the series continues. Most of the time, I'd rather just enjoy that first book, and not tarnish it in my mind with less-worthy continuations. ;)

On the other hand, I loved series when I was a kid. I cannot tell you how many BABYSITTER'S CLUB or SADDLE CLUB or SWEET VALLEY books I read, because, well, there were an awful lot. And that's just the continuing series--I also devoured the Ramona books and the Indian In The Cupboard sequels, the Narnia series and the Time Quartet. When I was a preteen I moved on to Anne McCaffrey's books and THE DEATH GATE CYCLE and the like. If I liked a book, I immediately went looking for sequels. If there were none (or none more), I wished there was. Never enjoyed parting with characters.

I want to do both. I want to write those wonderful stand alone novel that do everything and say everything you could possibly want in one book, and I want to write the sort of series I was always searching for as a kid. Unfortunately, as far as I can tell, it is impossible to do both at the same time. But I'm sure I'll figure something out. :)

How about you? What's your stance on stand alone vs. series--as a reader? As a writer (if you are one)?


( 14 comments — Leave a comment )
Jun. 23rd, 2008 03:24 pm (UTC)
I loved series as a kid but like you, I often don't read them in YA. Probably because most series in YA seem to be fantasy trilogies with the plot centering around some big quest, fight, whatever the kids are doing these days in fantasy. ^_^ The characters often seem secondary.

Usually when I write a book I think of a sequel, though. No one's story ever really feels over to me. Often the sequel idea is more about other characters, though, who were peripheral or absent in the first book.
Jun. 24th, 2008 03:46 pm (UTC)
Yeah, that whole 'let's spend three books gradually saving the world' thing doesn't work real well for me. But I understand why it happens because it is hard trying to think of an overarching story that's big enough for three books, without it being something like saving the world! Still working on that one myself. ;)
Jun. 23rd, 2008 04:16 pm (UTC)
I actually read quite a few series -- but the thought of writing one (that's longer than two or three books) is more than a little overwhelming. I like books with the same characters or with secondary characters in one becomeing the MC in another...that seems less frightening to me, as a writer :)
Jun. 24th, 2008 03:46 pm (UTC)
I don't know if I could write more than three or four... I think I'd find it really hard to write a continuing series with no definite end point. I need my arcs! :)
Jun. 23rd, 2008 05:46 pm (UTC)
I like series. Both in YA and in adult fiction. But I have noticed that in a lot of them the story quality tapers off after a while. I think it's just something you have to safeguard against.
Jun. 24th, 2008 03:48 pm (UTC)
Yeah, that story quality thing, that's the main reason I don't read series (or even trilogies) that often these days. I mean, I have so many books I want to read anyway, it often doesn't seem worth taking the chance. But when a series really works, I love it! It's nice to be proven wrong. :)
Jun. 23rd, 2008 06:36 pm (UTC)
If I like a book I will always look to see if there are more in a series. But if there aren't, I'm usually just as happy to read another book by the same author. This works great unless I end up really liking an author who is deceased, in which case I read everything they ever wrote ever, and sob that they can't offer more from the grave... Damn Jane Austen and F. Scott Fitzgerald for dying. ;)
Jun. 24th, 2008 03:49 pm (UTC)
Heh. Yeah, it's always sad to discover a wonderful author and then realize what you've got is all you're going to get. Sometimes I wonder about those authors who are still around but just... don't seem to write anything any more. They don't have the excuse of being dead, even! ;)
Jun. 23rd, 2008 07:51 pm (UTC)
Most of the books on my shelves belong to various series. I love series. As a writer, I do have one series planned, but all the rest of the ideas for other books so far seem to be stand alones.
Jun. 24th, 2008 03:50 pm (UTC)
It's interesting that you mostly read series, but mostly have writing ideas for stand alones. Why do you think that is? :)
Jun. 24th, 2008 05:47 pm (UTC)
Well, with one of them, there's just no more story after I get to the end. With the others, they're currently stand alones, but they're also not well formed in my head yet. So who knows how they'll turn out? And really, to be fair, out of all the books currently in my head, there's all the ones for my series and then 3 beyond that which are the stand alones.
Jun. 24th, 2008 02:34 am (UTC)
I remember HALFWAY HERO and was wondering what happened to it. I liked it!
Jun. 24th, 2008 03:52 pm (UTC)
I think you're thinking of BAD LUCK BOY (which is still here, and I still play around with the idea of doing something with it, because I like it too! But agent feedback when I was submitting it suggested it needed a lot of fleshing out... I still want to write a superhero book of some sort, though). :) THE HALFWAY HERO is a YA fantasy I wrote late last year.
Jun. 24th, 2008 04:10 pm (UTC)
Oh, you are correct... that's the one I was thinking of. I thought you'd changed the title to Halfway Hero... and now that you mention it, I think I remember seeing some of something else by you that was set in Toronto that was urban fantasy and had a fight on a rooftop?
( 14 comments — Leave a comment )

My Books

Earth & Sky
(Earth & Sky #1, science fiction YA)
Skyscape/Razorbill Canada, 2014

The Clouded Sky
(Earth & Sky #2, science fiction YA)
Skyscape/Razorbill Canada, 2015

A Sky Unbroken
(Earth & Sky #3, science fiction YA)
Skyscape/Razorbill Canada, 2015

The Way We Fall
(Fallen World #1, apocalyptic YA)
Disney-Hyperion, 2012

The Lives We Lost
(Fallen World #2, apocalyptic YA)
Disney-Hyperion, 2013

The Worlds We Make
(Fallen World #3, apocalyptic YA)
Disney-Hyperion, 2014

Those Who Lived: Fallen World Stories
(Fallen World #3.5, apocalyptic YA)
self pubbed, 2014

Give Up the Ghost
(paranormal YA)
Henry Holt, 2009

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