Friday, October 26, 2012

How Many Books?

Next Thursday I will be starting my 7th WriMo. But I will be doing something for the first time... starting a series that is intended to be read in order... a Septology? Anyway... it occurred to me that I've written stand-alones, a trilogy, a series in which each book CAN stand alone, but they also go together... And in each case there are different challenges. I thought maybe I'd talk about that...


In most genres, this is what most books are. Each book is its own enclosed unit, telling you everything you need to know (or at least enough you can satisfactorily imagine the rest). There is some tolerance of some loose ends, but the big thing has to be wrapped up. I think the vast majority of authors write mostly these, though there are genre exceptions. But I know of my 13 books I've written, seven fall here (YA and cozy mystery fall into exception categories.)

Series of Stand-alones

I most often see these as mysteries. Same sleuth, detective, or cop. New crime. Though I think there is some YA and a fair bit of middle grade that falls here, too—same characters, new hi-jinx. My Cozy Gardening series fits this and they are tricky—at least the first one was (and by first, I mean second--the first that came after the first *shifty*). The problem is the reader might start anywhere, so you have to give the important details for characters, but you need to do it lightly enough that someone who has read OTHER ones doesn't want to throw the book.


See, this is the category I've never done... I think some stories earn an after story and that is fabulous. And other authors fall in love with their characters and sort of fall in a trap. I think it is important to make sure it is the former you are writing. Even great books can have stupid sequels. I was not, for instance, impressed with the sequel to Pillars of the Earth (which was a favorite book until the sequel annoyed me... I'm serious). But if the end of one book is headed off to a new part of life, then sometimes THAT makes a great book, too.


I really love the trilogy, probably because I love a good, long story. The TRICK to trilogies is to, in addition to the long story, have a compelling story within each individual book that completes. I've written one of these. Badly. It may or may not ever see the light of day, but would need a full rewrite. I think these are easiest when the writer knows the whole story at the start (I mean not all of it, but has a plan for where it is going to go). And even then, it can muck up. (Eragon was meant to be 3... I think it will end up 5)

Favorites: Hunger Games, Lord of the Rings

Epic Series

This is the longer set that all go in order... and this is my fear. It is BIG. They do less repeat than those stand-alone series, but the big plot moves forward for a big, underlying thing. Each book still needs it's own plot that completes, but the bigger thing needs to move forward. I've seen few TV series do this really well. Veronica Mars comes to mind. I have to admit, the idea of writing this is intimidating. I could spend YEARS on ONE series... But I think the story deserves it.

Favorite EVER: Harry Potter. Song of Fire and Ice is doing really well as entertainment, but I don't think it does as well on the 'each book has its own plot' piece. Sword of Truth did it well, though I honestly suspect he wrote the first, did well, THEN came up with the rest of the series—the first book isn't connected to the big overarching thing.

So how many of these have you tried?


Trisha said...

Well done on you 13 books - yikes!! :D and your NaNo plan sounds exciting to me :) Scary, maybe, but exciting still!

I've done a series where each book had its own theme but with the same characters, but now that i've severely messed with the first one in that series, the rest of them are totally out of whack so...yeah. ;)

I have a huge epic fantasy that's one great mess, but is nowhere near complete either. Could go for ages, but the one thing I don't have is a well defined theme for each subsequent book. I just have an overarching plot.

I've done a few stand-alones, but I tend to do more series than anything. Of course, none of my series are actually complete. haha

Siv Ottem said...

Good luck with your series. I am still trying to get one book finished, lol! Have a great week-end!

Elizabeth Spann Craig/Riley Adams said...

Good luck with NaNoWriMo!

Tricky also are the series of stand-alones with elements of sequels to them...the progressive love story, etc. I'm doing that now with the quilting mysteries and am wondering what I was thinking!

Old Kitty said...

Thirteen books?!?! You are truly most NAKED and I am in AWE!!!

Take care

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I guess mine would be a trilogy of stand-alones.

Oregon Gifts of Comfort and Joy said...

None. But my first idea for a novel is a huge one, more of an epic spanning the time of developing early Oregon. I have the feeling that I should begin with smaller projects, but you never know, lol.

This is a great post, Hart. It made me think.

Have a super weekend!

Kathy M.

Creepy Query Girl said...

I have one MG stand alone. One contemp romance stand alone. One romantic comedy stand alone. BUT my urban fantasy I was hoping to turn into a trilogy. I had the first book written, the second mapped out and a faint idea for the third. But the agent I sent it to wants me to try and wrap it all up in one book. The point she made is that a lot of authors are pushed to do trilogies, and end up scraping the bottom of the barrel for more material when the story might have worked best as a stand-alone.

L.G.Smith said...

Hmm, just put the sequel to Pillars of the Earth on my TBR list. My expectations may have dropped a notch. :)

I'm writing a trilogy now. Didn't know that's what I was going to do when I wrote the first one, but I thought there was more story to tell when I finished writing, so I kept going.

Laura Eno said...

I really want to do a series - or a trilogy even. I have a bad case of the "oh, shiny!" when I write. New stories pop in and I drop the one I'm writing.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

I've written a 5 book series. Sometimes it's hard to convince people that they don't have to start at the beginning. Yes, the books do move forward in time, but each story stands on its own. Please feel free to jump in at any point!

Teresa Coltrin@Journaling Woman said...

Good luck on Nanowrimo and the series. YOU are a writing machine.


Carrie-Anne said...

I've pretty much always written series and family sagas. Standalone isn't something I'm good at. I've been with my Atlantic City people for 21 years next month (the members of the original generation, anyway), and my Russian characters for 19 years in January. There were originally 4 series with my Atlantic City people (not counting a bunch of other shelved ones that never got too far), and I recently decided to shelve the first one. Now there are 3 interconnected series, one with 4 books, one that's going to have 40, and one that's one book that'll have 12 volumes.

I don't know how many books will be in my Russian family saga other than that it'll end in 1991. I'm going to start the third book as soon as I'm done with my WIP (a book in my contemporary historical family saga), write a prequel next, and then write a few more books.

I think trilogies are overdone these days. I was always more into series than trilogies, since you get to follow the characters for a lot longer, and each book has its own set of stories.

Stacy Gail said...

Hi, Your Tartness! This is a great post. :)

I'm wrapping up a 4-book series, and you're right--it's a different kind of animal than writing a stand-alone. Because the final book in this series is an "ensemble" story (it has all the characters from the previous books showing up in one form or another), I'm now keeping a character journal. Who's the person who has the buzz cut, who's the tea-drinker, who lived in foster homes as a kid--that sort of thing. The idea of keeping a character journal came from an article by Robyn Carr, who goofed up character continuity early on in her writing career and was called on it by readers. Eep!

Good luck in NaNoWriMo -- I know you're going to do great! :D

Johanna Garth said...

You are always such a source of inspiration. 13! Wow!

I've written 5 3/4 books in total. Three will never see the light of day, 2 are part of a trilogy...need to write the last one and I will just as soon as I finish this kick-ass stand alone book I'm working on. Can you tell I'm excited about this project?? :)

Misha Gericke said...

"Tried" as in tried to write?

Every one of them.

Doorways is part one of a four part epic series.

The fantasy I burned was intended to be a trilogy.

I'm sort of writing the sequel to Doorways.

The urban fantasy I might rewrite during NaNo is supposed to be stand-alone.

Then there's a family saga that's supposed to be one family, different character, which is another form of the Series of Stand-alones.


Sherry Ellis said...

Good luck with your series! I'm working on one of those right now.

Mary Aalgaard said...

Great breakdown of types of books and writing. I did not like the third book in the Hunger Games. Best wishes in NaNo

Tonja said...

They say you are supposed to plant shrubs and plants in 3's or 5's or even 7's - never ever even numbers. I wonder if that's true for novels in a series too.

Good luck on it! I will be writing the last novel in a series in November. (I haven't written the others - just feeling like writing the last one first.)

Tonja said...

Hey, I listed you as a NaNo buddy. I figured that was you if naked world domination was listed as a hobby. :)

VR Barkowski said...

Wow, 13 books, I bow to your greatness, Tarty.

I've written two books as stand-alones in a series. I became so bored writing the second book, what was initially meant to be a trilogy ended in two books.

What I love most about writing is getting inside my characters' heads. If I'm already in there—as in a series with recurring characters—there is no joy.

From now it's stand-alones or bust. That's pretty much how I read, too—few series. In other words, keep LOTR, give me The Hobbit. :)

::Disclaimer:: Okay, so I loved HP & all the Hunger Games (esp. book 3), but they are exceptional exceptions.

Shannon Lawrence said...

I'm working on a possible duology/trilogy, and I do have an idea where I'd like to go and why it takes more than one book, but I'm trying to decide if I need to cut things out and try to cram it into one book or what. I'm also currently working on something that I'd love to see in a series, but each book would be mostly stand alone. Good luck with your NaNo!

Shannon at The Warrior Muse