All by myself; or part of the crowd?

Welcome back to another blog hop, with #OpenBook. Here’s this week’s prompt.

Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?

At first, I was just trying to get the story out of my head. I didn’t really think about writing a series, or even a second book.

As my writing developed, I had more ideas than I could fit into a single universe. New characters and situations flowed from my mind. I branched out. I went from only writing straight space opera to include steampunk and even an amateur detective series.

Each novel I wrote went the same way. I would type the end, then have a fantastic idea for another adventure with the same characters.

I now have four series, by which I mean more than two books in the same setting and timeline.

And the ideas kept coming, every book that I wrote started off as a standalone, yet most of them have sequels or prequels. If I haven’t written them yet, the ideas exist, the stories are in the queue. Some also have spin-off titles, featuring either the main players or minor characters who had a story to tell.

Some of THESE spin-off’s now have sequels of their own.

Before you realise what’s going on, the whole thing multiplies. While it’s true that not all my series are connected, there are lots of similarities in the technology and world-building between them. So, if you like one of my books (or series) and try another, you’ll find a touch of familiarity, the odd reference to what’s been going on elsewhere. Although the stories themselves, and their settings, are quite different.

While I love all my series, I like to think that any of my novels stands on its own merit, I’ve tried to make sure that they all can be read without needing to refer to any of the others.

And the advantage of writing several stories in a series, as far as I can tell, are this.

Write a stand-alone book and when you write another, there’s no guarantee that the people who enjoyed the first one will want to read it.

Write a sequel and create a series and (providing it’s good enough) the people who read the first one will almost certainly want to read them all.

If you can write a series where all the stories are self-contained, one where you can join the adventure at any point and explore in any direction, then you have the perfect recipe for attracting readers.

How about you, do you prefer series or unconnected stand-alone stories?

Let me know what you think about this week’s subject.

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Now check out all the other blogs in this hop by clicking below.


12 Responses

  1. Stevie Turner

    It’s great that you have so many ideas for new stories, Richard! It takes me months to think up a new plot.

    • Richard Dee

      Thanks, sometimes I wish I didn’t, I can’t keep up with all the typing.

  2. Gilbert M. Stack

    Hi Richard, I’m with you on this one. Series get more readers. Even books in the same genre do not attract the same sort of sales that the series do, and if you jump out of genre, say from military fantasy to a paranormal thriller I find I take very little (possibly none) of the military fantasy fans with me to the new book. That being said, I do think each book in the series needs to tell a complete story. You do that very well!

    • Richard Dee

      Thank you for commenting, I’m pleased you think so. As I said somewhere else, series need to be watched carefully, in case they start to become formulaic. It would be so easy to churn them out long past the point where they have lost freshness.

      • P.J. MacLayne

        And that’s one reason I’m working on the last book in my current mystery series. Time to move onto something fresh.

        • Richard Dee

          I’ll let the characters decide when they’ve had enough. After all, they got me into this!

  3. Roberta Eaton Cheadle

    I enjoyed reading your thoughts about writing a series, Richard. This is not something I currently aspire too, but who knows what the future holds.

    • Richard Dee

      I never thought it would happen to me, anything’s possible.

  4. phil huston

    Elmore Leonard, until late in his career, rarely wrote a followup. I’ve read them all because he can tell a story. Tony Hillerman, back to Hammett, on to Robert Parker, Colin Dexter, Reginald Hill, PD James ad infinitum wrote several series, and I read them all. Granted, I get a little sick of the Brit tendency toward soap opera and the melancholy loner detective and the American philosophizing tough-guy stereotype, both things Hillerman effortlessly avoided. Tell a good story, don’t steal the mafia bosses son’s Cadillac to get rid of him and never mention it again. Jeez, look at Carl Hiassen’s work. Elmore Leonard on Crack. Each one another set of intertwined crackpots.
    Both work. Depends on where the journey takes you.

    • Richard Dee

      My gumshoe started her life as a short story. That was all I ever intended her to be. She wouldn’t shut up so I wrote a novel, then another. Now I’m on number 5! I figure that she’ll leave me alone when she has nothing more to say. I wonder if that’s what all the authors you quote felt, before they started?

  5. Debra Purdy Kong

    I prefer a series, but I like them best if each book can be read as a standalone with its own complete plot. I’m not a fan of books that end on a cliffhanger which pretty well forces readers to buy the next one to see how the plot turns out. Whenever I come across an author I’m not familiar with, I like that I can jump in mid-series with the book that originally caught my eye, and not feel confused because of events in earlier books.

    • Richard Dee

      I try to make sure that any of my series can be read in any order, with enough backstory to let you follow and hopefully intrigue you enough to read the others.

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