Friday, July 29, 2011

Standalone Books vs. Series

When you think of the books you want to write, should you think in terms of a single book or a series? If you listen to the “experts”, series are better sellers which make them the obvious choice. In this entry, I will describe my process for creating a story and how it led to a series.

When I developed my plot, I wasn’t thinking of word counts or book sales. I was thinking of the story. What did I want to tell? How did I want to tell it? Who should tell it for me? I thought of characters that made me laugh, characters that made me scared, and characters I could love. I painted a picture of Central Kentucky by combining the traits I love from the region into the fictional town of Keeneston. But, most importantly, I thought of the beginning, middle, and end of a story.

It was then I realized the story I wanted to tell would be better served through a series. My tale was too long and there were too many different aspects to fit in a single book - it fit better into three. I wanted to develop secondary characters and give them time to shine in their own books. I wanted to give my readers time to fall in love with every aspect of the town. I fell in love with them when I was writing, and have to admit, I didn’t want to give them up after just one book. However, after my third book is released in the fall, I will find myself entering the area between stand alone and series.

After the first three books that will focus on McKenna, Danielle, and Paige, my novels will become stand alone books with their own mystery to solve. Where I enter the gray area is that the books will all be set in the same town, with some of my favorite characters making appearances. The books will be written so that anyone can pick up in any order and read. Each book will have the full story without any lead-in to the next novel. I do read some very good series and I also read some very good standalone books. Most of all, I want to reach a conclusion on the story. Eventually, the story needs to end and I need to feel satisfied. I love J.D. Robb’s Death Series and Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum novels, but I want to know how those stories end. I want to know if Stephanie ends up with Ranger or Morelli!

So, which is better: the series or the standalone?  My answer is: the better overall story. What it comes down to is writing. If you do what you love and tell a story that you love, then people will read it. It does not matter if it is a stand alone book or a series. I just want to be entertained. Books transport you to other times, other countries, and even other worlds. I love every page I read of a good story.

So, the moral of the story - if you have a beginning, middle, and an end to a great story, it doesn’t matter how long it is or how many books it takes to tell it. Just tell your story, your way.

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