Friday, June 4, 2010

Series vs. Standalones


Since I started the topic of discussing writing goals and knowing what you want from your imagination, it’s smart to coordinate those goals with a good business sense and aim them so that you can expect a career from this in the end. It seems like I know what I’m talking about, but I can assure you that this is a brand new epiphany, sparked by my last post.

Because I’m obsessive compulsive and enjoy accomplishing things in the far future, I tried to picture what I’d be wrestling in January 2011 as far as novels went. The slot was blank and I had a few minutes to make a decision. I could poke at a brand new idea or I could just jump on a sequel. I knew that wonder writer C.E. Murphy juggled several series simultaneously before she landed her publishing contract. Her career is a product of her belief in her series and persistence in her pursuits. But this is what’s tricky with series. If the first novel is not good enough to be published, than all the time spent on the series is wasted. Though it can be argued whether honing your craft can be called wasting time. If the first novel in the series is also the very first novel the writer has ever written, then chances are that novel will not fair so well during submission stages. It’s how statistics roll, sadly.

This brings me to the other option, standalones. I know that most successes recommend that rough talents start with a standalone. The one time I ever got the balls to write to a big name author [it was the mighty Holy Lisle – Ed.] I received the reply that betting on the standalone would be wiser. You work on one novel, which is considerately less time spent than writing several installments in a series. This also makes it easier to accept rejection and that it will not sell. If it does get published and the writer gets his name out, then who says he can’t start the series he always wanted.

But SFF writers have the natural predisposition to create in installments. Be it modest duologies, cannon trilogies or the epic twelve part behemoths, when the SFF writer commits to a world, he takes his time exploring it.

And the question remains: Standalones or Series?

As a non-published person, I’ll stray away from the know-it-all tone. Instead, I’ll discuss what I intend to adopt as a writing model. Because I’m equally torn between three series [all exceed six books – Ed.] and standalone novels, my decision would set my priorities straight. I want to do all. I want to work with the intentions to get published and I also want to work on whatever I want to despite what is being advised [not delving into series, until a contract occurs – Ed.], so I’ll work on a new novel every time. After drafting and editing the first novel in a series, I plan to outline and develop a 20,000 word skeleton for the sequel, but leave the sequel at that. Then it’s on to the next novel. So on and so on, until, you know, I get published.

If I happen to sell a series, I will have a good starting point for the sequel. Once I settle in the swing of it, I imagine it being relatively easy to continue the series [given that you take notes and such beforehand – Ed.].


Charles Gramlich said...

I wrote Swords of Talera as a standalone, although I had an idea for a series in my mind. After finishing Swords, I wrote two chapters of Wings and then stopped because I didn't see any sense in doing any more until Swords was sold. It was nearly 12 years before I sold Swords and picked up on Wings. I only started working on Witch after Wings sold so I guess I'm a proponent of not doing the work until there is a good chance of selling the resulting product.

Harry Markov said...

@ Charles: Good, that means I do have a business sense in me after all. :D I am glad to see that on whatever epiphany I stumble, it is usually the sensible one to do.

Murf61 said...

A standalone sounds like the more realistic option for getting published initially. But there is a third option, sort of... build your world then set a standalone novel within it. The world can be re-used over again with another standalone or with a series. Jaine Fenn and China Miéville have done this, and you could argue that Tolkien did as well given that The Hobbit is standalone but set in the same world as the Lord of the Rings trilogy.
Just an idea... :-)

Harry Markov said...

@ Cara: I do have plans for that, but I did not think it was like a third option for what I was asking, you know. The setting is not an issue and it doesn't matter if the world is the same or not.

But yeah, one can totally pull that off. You are being sneaky.