How do you decide if you're going to write a single novel or a series?

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by UltimaBahamut93, Nov 28, 2018.

  1. UltimaBahamut93

    UltimaBahamut93 Apprentice

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    When you began working on your books and planning out the plot, how did you decide if you would make a single, duology, or trilogy? Did you know from the start or did you change your mind as you progressed?
     
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  2. Taniwha

    Taniwha Journeyman

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    I started knowing there'd be 3 books but a couple of times through the process I have wondered if those 3 could all be published within 1 large book.
    I'm back to 3 :)
     
  3. JGCully

    JGCully Apprentice

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    I went with a series after the first book, as I just really enjoyed the characters and thought 'I could keep putting these guys and girls into interesting situations.'

    4 books so far, 5th planned and about another 15 ideas. Time permitting of course.
     
  4. Insolent Lad

    Insolent Lad Mystagogue

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    These days if I start something completely new I assume from the start that there will be sequels. On my first few efforts I didn't realize this until I got into them and saw there would be more to say than I could put in one novel---not continuing stories so much as 'further adventures.'

    On the other hand, my first fantasy novel was actually put out in four somewhat short books but is pretty much one story, albeit written in eleven novella and novelette sized chunks. That was just a matter of choosing the best way to present it.
     
  5. Gurkhal

    Gurkhal Shadow Lord

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    I know that I don't write more than short stories at the moment and thus I know they will be around 1-3 pages long. And in that I can normally ge the story I want to tell onto the page.

    Now I've also got one or two larger stories around 5-10 pages or so. But I think that you can fairly easily know if your story will require one or several books. Its all about how "long" the plotline is, how many turns and twists with sub-plots and characters that will need to get their page space. So basically I would think, in my potential ignorance, that if you can keep everything in your head then its going to be one book or shorter. If you need extensive notes then you are probably looking at several books.
     
  6. Demesnedenoir

    Demesnedenoir Dark Lord

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    I know from the start for the number of books... word count is another issue, heh heh. I wanted to keep Eve of Snows around 120k for publication, but it could’ve been 200k, and was finally put to bed in the 140k area.
     
  7. Insolent Lad

    Insolent Lad Mystagogue

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    I could add that after my first Malvern novel turned into a trilogy, I wrote another trilogy set in the same place and approximate time, featuring some of the same characters and some who were new. I had no idea this would happen when I first began exploring that world. So now, of course, there will be a third trilogy, starting with the book I thought would the the third book in the second trilogy.
     
  8. UltimaBahamut93

    UltimaBahamut93 Apprentice

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    I'm trying to chart out the plot for my first book and I can't decide if I want to make it a standalone or a series. As I'm inexperienced with writing I don't know how to "see" in advance if you would have the length needed for even just two books. I wouldn't want to stretch out the length of my plot with filler but then again don't want to cram too much into a single novel.
     
  9. skip.knox

    skip.knox Staff Moderator

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    All my stories have been standalone. I haven't had anything I wanted to turn into a series, as I have too many other stories to whom I have made rash promises.
     
  10. A. E. Lowan

    A. E. Lowan Staff Article Team

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    We're currently working on Book 3 of a very long running series (something like 20 books planned plus a second series set afterwards). Funny story - we thought this was initially going to be a stand-alone. Then the development work spawned a second book, which turned into the first book, Faerie Rising. Then Book 1 became Book 2, Ties of Blood and Bone.

    Then it kind of exploded. :p
     
  11. ThinkerX

    ThinkerX Mythic Scribe

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    Depends.

    'Labyrinth' was intended as a standalone tale of maybe 10-15,000 words - and the first draft morphed into a 44,000 word novella. About half those words got cut during the rewrite. Most of the scenes weren't bad, they were just distracting. After multiple rewrites, 'Labyrinth' became the 62,000 word 'Labyrinth: Journal' and set the stage for book II, 'Labyrinth: Seed.'

    'Empire' began as a notion to explore the heartland of the Solarian Empire, largest, most advanced nation on my world. I knew from the start it would involve multiple tales (I envisioned four to start with) but wasn't sure of the length of those stories. Rough draft of the first, 'Empire: Country,' topped 50K. After multiple rewrites and tossing in a short story for a prologue, it sits at 60K. 'Capital' and 'Estate,' the next two stories initially checked in at about 35K each; after rewrites, they too are around 60K. The next three are much longer.

    I participated in multiple short story competitions after coming to this site, mostly 'Iron Pen,' but others as well. I used these challenges to further explore my world. Partly out of simplicity and partly because I liked the characters, many of these tales - ten or so - became a series featuring the exploits of Toki Trollborn and his hobgoblin companion Hock-Nar. The intent is to write four or five more tales describing their exploits. The rule is those stories remain under 10,000 words.

    All that said, series writing can be a pain. Decisions and actions in later books often conflict with choices made in earlier ones. With 'Empire,' I made it clear to book 6 before realizing that in order to make that book work, I had to insert at least mention of a petty, thuggish prince in books 1 and 2. Said insertion made those books much better. That's just one example of many - I spend a fair bit of rewriting time trying to harmonize events.
     
  12. ThinkerX

    ThinkerX Mythic Scribe

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    on my reading list. might give a 'Top Scribe' type judgment.
     
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  13. skip.knox

    skip.knox Staff Moderator

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    That word gets used in different ways. In one sense, it means a single tale told over the course of several books, which the author from the start intends to be broken into separate books (This is why A Song of Fire and Ice is a series while Lord of the Rings is not). Each book is a self-contained story that comes to some conclusion while leaving major plot threads still open. Characters persist across books, with at least one of them appearing in all.

    In another sense, a series is simply books with a common MC, and this MC has a story arc to him or her. A good many detective and action thrillers take this form. The author has decided to write books with a particular person at the center. The books are stories--mysteries, adventures--that are more or less self-contained, but we are following that MC over their career. My favorite example there is Easy Rawlins.

    In a third sense, "series" has come to be applied to any group of books all set in the same world. There is a common historical thread that runs through them, a common timeline and geography, but any one book or set of books might have entirely different casts. I don't regard that as a series, but the word has been used that way so widely, I think it's acquiring that denotation.

    As you can imagine, the motivation and logic for deciding is going to vary not only by author but also by which type of series is meant. Perhaps the OP could say more about what prompted the question and what specific kind of series is envisioned.
     
  14. Ewolf20

    Ewolf20 Master

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    If your just starting out, doing short stories and novellas gives a basic idea of what to work with. Once you mastered that you can finally decide whether or not a book series makes sense. If you want a self contained story, one book is fine. If you want a continuing storyline, a book series makes sense. I'd liked doing short projects as I tend to grow ver bored when I work on something too long.
     
  15. Demesnedenoir

    Demesnedenoir Dark Lord

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    Let’s see, there’s at least 2 types of series. Okay, 3.

    Episodic: basically a series of standalone novels: The Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew are two classic examples. James Bond, might even fit this category. Most mysteries and thrillers with the same main character could fall into the category. In most of these, what happened in a previous book just doesn’t matter.

    Continuous Series: ASoIaF, and most fantasy epics fall into this category. I know Tolkien intended LoTR to be 1 cover, but it’s also broken into 6 “books” if I recall correctly. So, I’ll happily call it a series. Intent is secondary to execution, heh heh.

    Continual Episodic: I can’t come up with a series off the top of my head, but I’m kind of writing one. I imagine the historical romance genre has plenty of these. This is the sort of thing where the characters and storylines change, but themes or more likely, the families involved stay the same. The past matters, unlike pure episodics.

    In my case, I’m writing “standalone” trilogies and books where the stories come to an “end”, but there wll be further stories within the world in order to follow the “world story” to its end. This would be a form of continual episodic.
     
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  16. Chessie2

    Chessie2 Staff Article Team

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    Short stories, novellas and novels are structured differently. You learn how to write novels by writing novels, not shorts.
     
  17. Raeann

    Raeann New Member

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    Sometimes I do it with the intent of writing a series. But with the one I'm working on now, for example, I was determined to make it one story! And when I realized that wasn't working, I re-worked the plot and found that it's going to have to be a trilogy or else I risk rushing it.
     
  18. Sitra Achra

    Sitra Achra New Member

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    I should say knowing how long your story is going to be from the moment you've thought of it would have to be almost intuitive. It depends what it's about. Also a series with a continuing story, or even 'episodic continuing' as someone said before, requires a lot of plot structuring before you can even get started. J.K Rowling for example spent five years plotting out Harry Potter before writing the first novel.

    I chose to make mine a trilogy because it's a 'quest for the macguffin' style story in which there are four identical macguffins, so each book could be about the pursuit of one at a time. It's taken me years to plot it out too, there's so much to think about in advance. There were always going to be three, but I've another project that'll definitely be a one off, and another that will be better as a collection of shorts :)
     
  19. Demesnedenoir

    Demesnedenoir Dark Lord

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    Don’t tell GRRM it should be intuitive, unless of course intuition is subject to horrific failure, heh heh. For some folks spending years plotting is effective, for others it’s called procrastination.

    Of course, according to something I read, GRRM thinks of ASoIaF as one book, which is incidentally broken into however many it will end up. A bit like Tolkien.

     
  20. Northern

    Northern Apprentice

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    One of the main advantages of a one-and-done story is that you don't have to really worry about world building as much since you should be only including information that is relevant to the characters so as to cut out unnecessary fluff.

    For a series where continuity is important then like the others have said, you have to take more time setting things up so future events feel organic when they occur and not require retcons which most readers dislike.

    But that's easier said than done. Being able to weave a lot of world information into the narrative and not have it come off as an info dump that hurts the pacing of a story is more of an art than a science and takes a lot of practice to do well. This is also one of the main markers between a novice and a experienced writer.

    All that said though, are publishers even interested in stand alone novels these days, especially in the fantasy genre? It seems like everything that gets published is part of at least a trilogy or longer.
     
    Last edited: Jan 20, 2019 at 1:13 PM
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