Let me skip away from the title of this post for JUST a moment and then I will jump right back on task. I promise.
When I first started writing THE BEHOLDER, it was kind of a side step to what I had really been wanting to do. Don’t get me wrong, I was excited about it and I thought the idea was pretty unique and had a lot of potential. But REALLY, I was more excited about the series idea (ELEMENTS) that I had been trying to write but was having a hard time plotting out. I had already spent months with those characters inside my head and they felt like the most awesomest cast EVER. To me, at least. I let a few CPs read the first 6 or so chapters I had churned out and a lot of the feedback was very positive and complimentary. But as a beginner writer, trying to tackle a series was a daunting task. I spent all of my time trying to figure out how each book would play out and how the characters would change from the beginning to the end of 300,000 words or so. It was mostly frustrating and sometimes insane. I felt completely and irrefutably over my head.
But I was determined to be a writer. It was in my blood. I knew I had the passion for it and I wasn’t going to let this hole I dug keep me down. So when I got the idea for THE BEHOLDER, I made the very difficult choice of setting aside ELEMENTS and all the wonderful characters I had created and started in on a new idea, a new cast. At first I didn’t know them as well but I came to know them. And I came to love them. And it was a lot easier for me to wrap my head around an idea that would only span one single book. Or would it?
We will now be back on task to answer the question posted in the title. To be a series or not to be a series? I started writing THE BEHOLDER for the very reason that it wasn’t a series. I wanted to get one stand-alone idea out of me so I could get this whole writing-a-book process down. It was supposed to be the exercise that better prepared me to get back to my series ideas with ELEMENTS. But as I get closer to finishing THE BEHOLDER, lingering plot lines are forming and I am having visions and ideas and dreams of what will happen in Book 2. Where did this come from!? My stand-alone is trying to become a series the more I work on it!
Now I am stuck with the choice: do I finish it up and make it obvious of the series potential or wrap it up nice and neat and leave it as stand-alone? My heart strings are pulling on the series idea. Again, I don’t have all the ideas planned for what would happen in Book 2 and Book 3, etc. but I have some really good ideas of where I could take it. Is that all I really need? If I just went back and wrote the Book 1 of ELEMENTS, would the general ideas for the other books in the series be enough to pull me through?
I have posed this dilemma to a few agents through Twitter and other forms. I never got back the detailed, ANSWER-TO-MY-PRAYERS response that I was hoping for but at least I got some response.
One agent said “I don’t know but everyone wants a series.”
So it would make it more marketable if it was a series? But then I have to question if I am considering a series just for the marketability standpoint or if it is really a good fit for my book and the idea behind it. When I really thought about that, I think that me considering making it into a series is purely innocent. I started writing it as a stand-alone and the ideas to continue the story came naturally. The fact that I am even trying to decide what to do shows I want what is best for the story.
Another agent suggested “Pitch it as a stand-alone with series potential.”
This is what I am leaning towards but I am still stuck on how exactly how I should wrap up the ending then. I don’t know if I should make the lingering plot lines more apparent or not. I would think yes because this shows the series potential. But then I have to be careful so that it can still be seen as a stand-alone, right? Ah, so confusing!! I would really hope that if the story and my writing is good enough, this is something my agent and I can discuss and work through if they offered to represent me. But I guess I just don’t want to leave anything to chance.
As of right now, I think I am going to bring out the lingering plot lines and questions every so slightly. I have ideas on how to change the ending a bit if it was definitely a series but, for the most part, the story itself will stay intact. I hope that I can master up the right combination of stand-alone and series so that an agent will be excited enough about the story itself to accept it – whether it is as one book or many. Until then, it will be hard to keep my fingers at bay when I finish up book one.
6 thoughts on “To Be a Series or Not to Be a Series? That is the Question”
I think most agents prefer “stand-alone with series potential”. I think it’s a good idea to make the lingering plot lines slight, that way it’s still wrapped up, but you can always introduce new events in book 2 and 3. I’m in the same boat with my YA SF. It was supposed to be a stand-alone, but now I have all these tidbits of ideas for sequels. I’m just wrapping it up, and then I can introduce the new events in the following books (with a teeny-tiny bit of foreshadowing).
I pitched my book with the exact phase used above, “stand-alone with series potential”. Wrapping up the storylines was hard, but I arrived at The End with some secondary characters that could be left alone, or developed in a later book, and the same for the relationship between my main characters.
Of course, I’ll still have to see how that pans out in an editor/publisher’s eyes. I could be way off the mark and in for a LOT of rewrites 🙂
PS. Thanks again for the Liebster Award!
For what it’s worth, I would pitch it as ‘stand alone with series potential.’ Wrap up the main plot lines, so that readers won’t be disappointed if they don’t want to pursue a series. You can pick up elements and characters in future books, while still keeping each entry independent enough that it can be read on its own.
I don’t think series are bad, but I do think it would be difficult for a newbie author to pitch a series rather than a stand-alone. I get the impression publishers are willing to take a risk on you for one book, but maybe not a series until you’ve proven yourself.
Just my two cents…
I would pitch it just as it really is, a stand alone that has series potential. Tie up all lose ends and hint at the rest. If they want it as a stand alone then that’s what they get, if after you finish Element and decide on writing the second book to THE BEHOLDER, pitch it then. Doesn’t hurt 😉
Stand alone with series potential for sure. I think they may want to know it *could* be a series but also for a new writer they may not want the risk of a series. As for how much you leave hanging – I think tie up the major plotlines and the major thrust of the novel. There may be secondary characters or world building elements that you can take further in another book. It may be not *EVERY* question is answered in the book but it should be satisfying to a reader to read alone. I hope that helps.
And remember you’ll have CPs! They (COUGH ME ME ME ME ME ME) can read it and go ‘not enough tied up’ or what have you to help!
I agree with all the above comments! Stand alone with series potential. If you leave a few plot lines lingering, but wrap up enough to be satisfying, then the agent can decide which way to run with your book when the time comes! (just as long as you make it easy enough to do a “quick” edit and have it go either way.