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How do I decide if I'm writing a series or a stand alone novel?
One of the first and most important places I’d look in making that determination is the WORLD of the story.
- Is something major happening in the physical environment of the characters—a pending disaster, for example?
- What about the culture of the world?
- Is it undergoing considerable growing pains?
- Are different philosophies/ethe fighting for dominance?
- Is the moral fabric of the world under strain significant enough to require a couple or a few books over which to unfold?
This can be as true for contemporary works as for works of fantasy or science fiction.
It’s common in romance, for example.The three BOOMERANG books I wrote with Veronica Rossi cover the lives of different couples but within the world of a particular company, which undergoes a sometimes uncomfortable evolution, which creates direct difficulties for the characters. So, the world of the story has its own arc over a few books, even as each book focuses on different players.
Another area I’d consider is the cast of CHARACTERS. Questions to ponder:
- Do you have a large cast with several individuals whose stories need breathing room to play out as fully as needed?
- Will those characters undergo travails dramatic and complex enough that they need to be played out within a more expansive form?
- Are there several antagonists who must be given their due? Several protagonists?
Lastly, I’d offer a challenge to economize as much as possible, to push yourself to tell only the most critical stories, to pare out anything that feels redundant, to make sure that you’re offering continued movement on all levels—practical, emotional, societal, psychological.
Ask yourself: if you were FORCED to limit yourself to one novel to tell your story, could you do it well? If so, consider a single standalone. If you need two but not three, shoot for a duology rather than a trilogy.
Nothing should feel wasted or static or like you’re biding time until an explosive finale.
The long and short of it is that a series should feel EARNED, not just planned. If every part doesn’t fire on all cylinders and take the reader somewhere new and important, it probably hasn’t yet justified its existence.
Work hard to earn those words!
Have a question for Lorin? Send her email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
CLIENT AND STUDENT SUCCESS STORIES
- Veronica Rossi. Veronica's new historical YA, REBEL SPY 355, sold at auction to Delacorte.
- Leslie Budewitz. Leslie's Food Lovers' Village Mysteries returns with AS THE CHRISTMAS COOKIE CRUMBLES, 5th in the series.
- Vijaya Bodach. Vijaya has sold three picture books to Benchmark Education.
Big congrats to all!
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celebrate all your achievements. Make sure to let us know what workshop(s) you’ve attended or if you’re a Free Expressions editing client (Or both!).
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