The dreaming. The imagining. The getting to know my characters and launching them on a journey.
But one question many have asked is if I’m writing a standalone or series.
My first published novel, Catch of a Lifetime, is a “stand alone” book. A complete story from start to finish that doesn’t require (or benefit from) a previous story in order to understand it. And while there are several very interesting secondary characters (like Hunter and Marquise), I don’t have any immediate plans to write a follow-up story involving one of them.
On the other end of the spectrum are series which come in two varieties. Some, like detectives or family sagas, have a core character or group that take center stage as each consecutive book relates a new adventure or challenge. Think of Agatha Christie’s Detective Poirot and Mrs. Marple or Karen Kingsbury’s Baxter family or Bailey Flanigan series. While loyal fans clamor for the next installment, new readers can’t easily slip into a middle book without feeling like they’ve been left out of so much that happened before. (And if authors “fix” the problem by including relevant backstory, previous readers can be tempted to skim the history lesson and are therefore pulled out of the story world.) Then there’s the difficulty of coming up with an emotionally satisfying ending for each book that doesn’t leave the reader howling in frustration.
The other general type of series revolves around a single setting with secondary characters from one book becoming the central hero or heroine of the next book (with perhaps small cameo appearances by or updates about earlier characters.) While these are best read in order, each story also stands alone, making it the best of both worlds since both new and loyal readers leave satisfied.
All that to say that while I’ve written standalone stories, my hope moving forward it to write loosely connected series using secondary characters. And that brings me to my current project.
Dance Over Me is coming out in September and was contracted as a standalone. However, when I initially wrote it years ago, I made sure to include several strong secondary characters in case I ever got the chance to expand this one book into more. Since the first story is fresh in my mind from edits and I’ve had a couple years worth of percolating ideas for books two and three, I’m moving forward to get them written. Of course, I don’t know if I’ll get a traditional publishing contract for them or not, but the series will be off to a good start either way.
Then I can decide whether to keep on with that setting or shift to a different series. But that’s a decision for another day … after I get the next two written and out of my head.
And that’s plenty to think about today.
What about you? Do you prefer reading single titles, a series of connected characters, or the continued adventures of one character?