Authors Answer 71 – Standalone or Series?

Stories come in all sizes, but the biggest debate is over using a single novel to finish a story or a whole series of novels. Reading and writing are very different things, so while one person may like reading a series, they may prefer writing a standalone. Or vice versa. It also depends on genre. What do we think?

320px-Modern-ftn-pen-cursiveQuestion 71 – As an author, which do you prefer writing, standalone stories or series?

Paul B. Spence

I prefer writing series. That said, there is nothing wrong with standalone stories.

Gregory S. Close

I love exploring the intricacies of a world and its history, cultures, and characters.  A series really allows the time to develop these things fully, so I enjoy writing in that context.

Allen Tiffany

Series, in the spirit of long. I’m close to inept at short stories. I think this is both cause and effect. I don’t enjoy short stories; I don’t feel like they give me enough to get emotionally engaged. I feel the same about writing them.

Linda G. Hill

I prefer writing standalone, but some books beg to be continued. And there’s nothing I can do to control that.

D. T. Nova

Series. I can get attached to characters I create and want to do more with them.

I also very much like the idea of stories that can stand on their own but are connected to one another. If the same concept works equally well as either standalone or connected to another story, I’ll go with the more connected option.

Jean Davis

I’m going to sit on the fence and go with both. Most of what I write is standalone. I enjoy that for the fact that I can get lost in it and then it’s done and I can move on to something new. However I do have one series that I also enjoy working on because I get to play in the same universe with the same characters that I’ve come to know very well.

Tracey Lynn Tobin

Being that my first novel was a standalone and I’m currently in the process of writing a series, I think I can pretty confidently say that I prefer standalone stories. There’s definitely a chance that I might change my mind in the future, but somehow I really, seriously doubt it. My big problem with the series setup is trying to write the first few chapters of each consecutive book. You spend an entire book building up the story, the world, the characters, and then when you move on to the next book it’s a bit like starting from scratch with no idea what your readers already know. You have to write those first chapters knowing that your readers should already have the gist of what’s going on and don’t want you to spoon-feed a bunch of introduction nonsense to them, but you also have to intricately weave in the most important information just in case time has caused your readers to forget anything integral. It’s a terribly frustrating part of the process, at least in my opinion. I’d much rather have a defined beginning and end, and just have to worry about squeezing all the important stuff in between.

Eric Wood

I know I prefer to read series. When I finish a good book, I’m a bit sad that I won’t get to read about those characters any more. However, in a series, I know there’s another book and their story will continue. Some books get me so attached to the characters I don’t want their story to end. Harry, Katniss, every character George R. R. Martin has brought to life and killed. So I would guess I would also prefer to write a series as well. It would give me more time to develop characters, give them added adventure, and a more complex conflict. However, I often find myself writing more towards children – picture book style stories. There are a few series in picture books (i.e. Knuffle Bunny) but I’ve never explored writing and series for children.

H. Anthe Davis

Seeing as I’m currently hip-deep in a six-book series, with a list of thirty other possible books in the extended world…I have to say I prefer series!  Though I do intend to have some of those thirty-odd related books be standalones within the world, just still be a part of the overall chronology.  I seem to have way too many ideas to restrict myself to one book at a time, unless that one book is just following one character (which is also difficult for me).

Elizabeth Rhodes

I can’t decide. Both have their merits. Standalone stories call for less planning than a series, and in that sense are simpler (not that a good story can be simple to create!) but worldbuilding for a series is so much fun. Jasper’s universe has at least a trilogy in it, and I have a fantasy series planned for the future, but the book I’m working on now is a standalone.

S. R. Carrillo

I like each for what they offer – series, for the potential to really craft and expound upon a whole new universe and dig into character and plot arcs; standalones, for their simplistic nature boiling down to the “nitty gritty” of a story, so to speak – and, even though I have based my career around my longest and only series, I would have to say I prefer standalones.

They pack a little more punch to me because it essentially forces the focus of the story to shine right from the start. I think, often, series are taken for granted by writers and readers.

Jay Dee Archer

Can I say hybrid? I love series. I love reading series. I’m writing series, too. My first series is actually just two books, but part of a larger universe, or in this case, world. I’ll follow that up with a trilogy. There will be future series on that world, but there may also be standalone stories that fit within that world. That’s why I say hybrid. But really, my simple answer would be series. I love to get into the world, get to know the characters, and often characters from different time periods. I like history, so I want to develop the world’s full history.

I have three other series in development, as well. Not one of the books is a standalone. I’ll probably do one in the future, though.

How about you?

As a writer and a reader, which do you prefer, standalone stories or series? Let us know in the comments below.

16 thoughts on “Authors Answer 71 – Standalone or Series?”

  1. As a reader and as a writer, I prefer series because they allow me to spend more time with characters and settings I’ve grown fond of. If the author only has one book’s worth of story to tell, however, I’d rather they just get on with it rather than inflate it into a trilogy or more.

  2. I am currently in a conundrum on this very subject. I have the first draft down for three books, but for the genre I’m not sure if a trilogy is the order of the day. It’s contemporary – you could call it a dark romance, though to me it’s more about exploring the recreational use of drugs, and the history of the dance music (EDM) scene in the UK. Think Irvine Welsh, but not quite so twisted. If I try and get it trad published, I worry that if the first book doesn’t sell well, the other two won’t be published. And that is not something that can happen with this project, in my book (metaphorically speaking). So, do I cut it down into one novel. or stick to the story’s true integrity? (they all work as stand alones, BTW, as in each one has a proper individual plot arc, but knowledge of the prior books would definitely be helpful.) Mmm, decisions, decisions…

    1. Trilogies aren’t very common in contemporary fiction, are they? But if they all work as standalones, then I don’t see an issue with that.

  3. Oh, this is hard, I like both. Sometimes you come across a brilliant and huge stand alone book which tells a complete story but I think in general if I love the characters I would prefer a series where I can get to know them and keep the stories going.

  4. Loved everyone’s answer on this one – especially Tracey’s mention of “recapping.” That one can get tricky, but I really think it’s “all in the wrist” haha.

    1. I can see how that can be difficult. I read so many trilogies and series that I’ve noticed there’s usually little to no recapping. However, much of what’s happened before is mentioned from time to time.

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