New Writers: Writing a Series vs The Stand-alone.

When it comes to indie publishing, there are a lot of ‘experts’ out there giving advice, which makes it rather difficult for new writers. It reminds me of that old Far Side cartoon, where the kid in class raises his hand and says ‘Excuse me sir, my brain is full’. Yep, that’s exactly how it feels.

One piece of advice usually touted is to write a series to help build your readership. This is good advice, more suitably aimed for established authors, but what if you are just starting out as a writer or don’t have a series created just yet? I have mentioned before that what works for one writer doesn’t necessarily work for another; as writing is a creative endeavour, we learn through trial and error. Experimenting with different writing styles, including short stories can be a good place to begin for indie authors.

I had heard the advice of writing a series for so long I decided to give it a go and wondered if I could turn one of my WIPs into a series. The more I thought about it, I realised that the possibilities were there, however my subplot tended to work far better than any main plot. Stretching a story out to become a series when it was not really necessary was not going to cut it. When it comes to writing a series, it involves a lot of planning to carry it out.

I was fortunate enough to come across an article recently that suggests it’s okay for new writers to write stand-alone novels. As beginners, we are still learning how to craft and write a novel in its entirety, let alone undertake the daunting task of writing a series. As new writers, our goal should be to practice, learn from the experience and get better with everything we write.

These ‘experts’ tout the series over the stand-alone from a marketing perspective, which I understand because as writers we would like to make money from our words. However, what really gets me is when I hear them say that the stand-alone is not profitable.

These past few months I have been fortunate to have a story idea that could possibly become a trilogy, but we may not always have a series to write. For writers and readers alike, a series represents familiarity and we may like a particular character or characters, but I’d like to think that our readers would be happy to read anything we write. 😉

I currently have a couple of stand-alone novels that I’ve written, novels that I may come back to and try to salvage. Some may even remain my ‘practice’ novels and that’s okay. This is how we learn and not everything we write needs to get published. In the meantime, I’ve worked on other ideas, other possibilities; working on improving my craft. It is irrelevant to me right now if they are a stand-alone or not, my main objective is to get them written.

My husband likes to remind me that a story is as long as it needs to be. Whether that is a short story, novella, stand-alone or a series is beside the point. The more we write and the more we put out there, the better.

Do you think it’s a good idea for new writers to write a stand-alone before writing a series? Do you prefer a series or a stand-alone? With so much information out there for writers these days, are you prone to just go with whatever feels right for you? What are you writing at the moment?

Main image courtesy of Pixabay

4 thoughts on “New Writers: Writing a Series vs The Stand-alone.

  1. I think the best plan is to write a novel that can stand alone, but that has potential for a sequel or series. That’s what I did. I’ve published the first, and am writing the second of three. But if I have to quit the second or third book for whatever reason, the first one can stand on its own with no desperate need for the others. (I didn’t leave the first book on a cliffhanger, for one thing. It provides satisfying closure.)

    1. Debbie Johansson 13/09/2018 — 7:29 am

      Hi UndercoverJW. You raise a good point. I tried making my first novel stretch into a series, but it didn’t quite work even though I think the potential is there. Perhaps I was trying too hard! The same can be said for another WIP as a possible trilogy. I’m currently re-writing my first novel as a stand alone – maybe more ideas will come to me when I least expect it. Thanks for your comment. 🙂

  2. I agree with UndercoverJW. I like series and stand alone novels, but what I don’t like are series where the first book lacks a strong and satisfying conclusion of its own.
    The few times I’ve heard published authors speak on the topic they’ve said that in their experience most agents and publishers don’t want to release a story that only exists to sell the sequel. And they often find it a detractor if a less established writer pitches their story that way.
    One in particular made the remark that “if someone can’t tell a satisfying story in 1 book, or 1 chapter, why would audiences expect them to do any better with more.”
    Any story can have a sequel, I think. Granted, some are written with a clear “it’s not over” ending, but others establish a “happy ending”, only to crack it open during the first pages of the sequel, introducing new problems, or re-engaging old ones that didn’t quite stay resolved.

    1. Debbie Johansson 14/09/2018 — 4:04 am

      Hi Adam. Thanks for that insight regarding agents and publishers, that’s something worth thinking about. I agree that the first book in a series should stand on its own, which I guess is why it’s so important to practice writing stand alone novels. 🙂

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