Author Topic: when do you know if it's a series or a standalone?  (Read 1027 times)

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Offline Lwrites

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when do you know if it's a series or a standalone?
« on: January 22, 2013, 02:05 PM »
I imagine this might vary for different people, so I thought I'd ask - when, in the writing process, do you decide whether your book is going to be a series or standalone?
I guess this also depends on which genre you write (for instance, fantasy/SF would be more likely to have sequels or companion books) but I'm still curious about how early or late in the process you know, or when it changed for you.

I tend to have ideas that are standalones, and lately I've been wishing my ideas were more "series-friendly" - not just for market reasons, but also because I think it would be really fun to write a series, and go more in-depth with the same group of characters and world. But they always end up being very definitely the sorts of stories that were meant for just one book.

Offline Anthony

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Re: when do you know if it's a series or a standalone?
« Reply #1 on: January 22, 2013, 02:24 PM »
It might not be a matter of making your ideas themselves more series friendly, but fleshing out the setting and characters a bit more, and introducing more elements that aren't directly related to the story you're telling right now. More backstory, or more "hooks" that can be used later.

For instance, I'm working on a MG fantasy novel right now. My actual idea for the story I'm telling will only take one book to tell completely. But in building the world that the story is based in, some of the backstory for one of the characters (backstory that's only tangentially related to what's going on in the current story) suggested possibilities for where a second book could go.

Offline mrh

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Re: when do you know if it's a series or a standalone?
« Reply #2 on: January 22, 2013, 04:17 PM »
It does vary. I was asked, "Would you consider making this a series?" before I had a contract. It was clear that the correct answer was "Yes." You can always panic after you hang up the phone. :)

With some, the publishers have to see sales figures from the first book before that's decided.

It seems that most people leave the door open for a series while making sure book one is complete in itself. "Leaving the door open" isn't at all hard. Really, the only thing that CLOSES the door is killing off the MC, aging her to adulthood, or something else irrevocable. (Like, in the last Travelings Pants book, the pants are destroyed.) Even then, you may be able to continue the same world with a switch of MC. Richard Peck did something like this with his Grandma Dowdel and her grandchildren. In the first book, he aged the boy MC to adulthood. Then, when they wanted a second book (which won the Newbery), he had to change the MC to the little sister.

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Offline xiaotien

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Re: when do you know if it's a series or a standalone?
« Reply #3 on: January 22, 2013, 04:47 PM »
i honestly don't know until i've finished
writing the first book. and think: oh, there's another
one. haha!

i don't outline so it seems i naturally write duologies.

trilogies, being more complicated beasts, would take
more planning.

both my duologies are fantasies.
Silver Phoenix (Greenwillow: 4/28/09)
Fury of the Phoenix (Greenwillow: 3/30/11)
Serpentine (Month9Books: 9/1/15)

Offline mghiggins

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Re: when do you know if it's a series or a standalone?
« Reply #4 on: January 23, 2013, 07:06 AM »
My WIP became a series when I wrote the synopsis and realized there was way too much plot to cover effectively in one book.
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KimJo

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Re: when do you know if it's a series or a standalone?
« Reply #5 on: January 23, 2013, 07:52 AM »
Sometimes it's when I look at the concept and think, "Oh, this is going to take more than one book to tell effectively."

Sometimes it's after I finish the first book, when I realize there's more to tell. (Or when a beta reader says, "You have to write a sequel.")

Sometimes it's after the first book has been accepted, or published, and my editor says, "Where's the series proposal and when can I have the next book?" (Though this one has only happened to me with the adult romances I write under a different name.)

Offline amberlough

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Re: when do you know if it's a series or a standalone?
« Reply #6 on: January 23, 2013, 07:56 AM »
I wrote The Fire Wish as a standalone, because I hate it when books in series can't stand on their own. But then when it sold, they asked if the second book (it was a two-book deal) would be a sequel. Of course I said yes. And then panicked. :-) But....I am still revising book one (almost done), and I was able to thread in some things that would carry over to the next book. They're calling it a series...but I'm writing the second book as if it's the end.

I hope I didn't just confuse you.
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Danyelle

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Re: when do you know if it's a series or a standalone?
« Reply #7 on: January 23, 2013, 08:27 AM »
My story brain naturally tells stories through series. (My genre of choice is fantasy.) The story is usually upfront about what it is from the beginning--series or standalone--and I only have 2-3 stories that are standalone and waiting to be written. The others are all series. One set is a duology, one will be an eight part series, but my natural story rhythm is five parts.

So, to answer your question, it never feels like I'm the one consciously making the decision. Each story, for the most part, comes as a complete entity. My job is to simply uncover it from my subconscious. The story's voice, personality, and length are already there when I first begin working on it.

Offline xiaotien

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Re: when do you know if it's a series or a standalone?
« Reply #8 on: January 23, 2013, 08:50 AM »
amber, that's exactly what happened with
Silver Phoenix. i knew there could be a sequel
when i finished the novel--but had written it as
stand alone.
Silver Phoenix (Greenwillow: 4/28/09)
Fury of the Phoenix (Greenwillow: 3/30/11)
Serpentine (Month9Books: 9/1/15)

Offline amberlough

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Re: when do you know if it's a series or a standalone?
« Reply #9 on: January 23, 2013, 09:00 AM »
I know.  ;D I was there. And yours is one of the best stand-alones in a series. (Both are.)
THE FIRE WISH, Random House Children's, 2014
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Offline xiaotien

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Re: when do you know if it's a series or a standalone?
« Reply #10 on: January 23, 2013, 09:17 AM »
aww thanks, amber.

Fury definitely isn's stand alone. i always
cringe when readers read that first. they get confused. ha!

and in this new duology, my first isn't stand alone either.

good luck with your sequel!
Silver Phoenix (Greenwillow: 4/28/09)
Fury of the Phoenix (Greenwillow: 3/30/11)
Serpentine (Month9Books: 9/1/15)