Tuesday, July 07, 2015

Question: what constitutes a book series?

I've been reading your emails consistently since I subscribed to them. I was hoping to find the answer to my question  "what constitutes a book series?" I've been a Technical Writer/Editor for more than 20 years in the computer field and a story teller/artist since I first held a pencil in the one-room school I attended for one year in Kentucky. While at Ohio University I fell in love with Love Stories and have been writing them since.  Even after joining RWA and attending national and local chapter conferences and classes the definition of a series still eludes me.  I might have a series confused with an anthology.

You're not alone in your confusion. Publishing has a lot of strange terms, and to add to the confusion, uses familiar terms in unfamiliar ways.

A book series is generally understood to be more than two books with the same main character/s, set in approximately the same venue, with a chronology.

An example of this is my client Gary Corby's Athenian mystery series.  

The first book (The Pericles Commission) introduces us to the main characters: Nicolaos; Pericles (a historical figure as well as a character here); Nico's annoying younger brother Socrates; Nico's family; and, Diotima, a priestess who captures Nico's heart.

The book is set in Ancient Athens.

The second book (The Ionia Sanction) expands the world by sending Our Hero to Ionia, but it's still set in the same time period.

The rest of the books follow that pattern.

Readers love these books as much for the characters as the plots.  I'm always a bit melancholy when I finish reading one of them because I love to hang out with Nico and the gang.

You might think of the Jack Reacher books as a series, but they are really connected stand alones, because each one has the same main character (and a few recurring characters over the now many books.)

Each book can be read independently of the others. There is no real narrative arc over the entire set of books.  

This isn't a bad thing. I love the Reacher books with a passion. I'm melancholy when I finish reading one because I love hanging out with Jack Reacher (and because I LOVE how Lee Child writes.)

Kristan Higgins on the other hand writes true stand alones, which always breaks my heart because I love every one of her books, and want to spend more time with every character she's created. 

The books are independent of each other, have no recurring characters, and there is no narrative arc for all of them.

When you're querying a novel, it should be something I can read as a stand alone. That is, it does not depend on reading something else to understand it, and the story and plot should feel complete in this book.

Most editors want to buy series, rather than stand alones.  Thus writers must query a stand alone then quickly figure out how to turn it into a series of some kind. What KIND of series is up in the air. That's something to be discussed with your agent.

Yes, we decided to do that in order to torment you.  One of the many perks of the job.



Kitty said...

I've been reading your emails consistently since I subscribed to them.

We can subscribe to emails from you? What have I been missing?

Janet Reid said...

Kitty, you can read the blog via email. There's a "follow this blog by email" button on the left hand blog roll at the bottom.

mhleader said...

My heart is so deliciously warmed by the thought that agents, editors, publishers all have special perks of finding new ways to torture writers.

I frequently tell folks, "I'm a writer. Of COURSE I'm paranoid and insecure!"

Where would I be without paranoia and insecurity?

Why...I'd probably be NORMAL! (ewww!!!)

But the QOTKU and her many minions have my back. She'll never let that ewww!!! state darken my doorstep. Thanks, Sharky!

Kitty said...

Janet... I signed up and was greeted with a 'welcome back' message listing my old email address. No wonder why I was confused!

Donnaeve said...

Some books, IMO, should never be turned into a series. I think of books like SECRET LIFE OF BEES, THE HELP, MUDBOUND, and THE DRY GRASS OF AUGUST for instance, as examples.

So many times, like the summer of sequels we currently have at the movies, a second attempt to drag old characters back into new situations flops. I recollect reading one book called ME AND EMMA, by Elizabeth Flock, which was a good book. I'm not sure who decided to take the story and write a second book, but years later WHAT HAPPENED TO MY SISTER came out, and IMO, it was a crazy story, with excessive abuse that seemed far reaching, and a strange plot point about Charlie Chaplin which had me scratching my head.

I can think of two books of the three I've written where I could resurrect certain characters and continue on with a different story, a la Reacher style. As a writer, I would think we would know how to manipulate/work out another book or two - or not. With my first book, I can't imagine dragging my MC back out, dusting her off, and plopping her into some other unsavory family situation. She's already been through more than enough.

(I deleted my other comment and re-posted as I was contradicting myself. I do that a lot.)

Colin Smith said...

Now *that's* an interesting twist I didn't expect: "with a chronology." I wouldn't have included that as part of a definition of a series. Recurring characters, yes. Same setting, yes. But that there's a timeline? I would have considered that optional. Of course, I'm sure there are Reacher fans who have developed their own chronology of the series, even if Lee Child doesn't give one (admit it Janet...). I shall note that enhancement to my definition.

Yes!! I love it when you give Gary's series a shout-out, Janet. :) My wife just finished DEATH EX MACHINA and enjoyed it. She says she liked Gary's "Author's Notes" at the end almost as much as the story!

I notice you didn't mention anything about mugs and t-shirts. I think these are a must when a series reaches five books... ;)

Unknown said...

I wrote book two in my series and sent my query and a few pages to an agent during a WD course. The response surprised the hell out of me. She didn't like Mabel! How could anyone not like Mabel! Yes, she's a bitch with anger problems but she's kind of funny...once you get to know her.

But Ms. Agent hadn't read the first book (not a lot have). Book one eases the reader into Mabel's weirdness and drops hints about her upbringing. With book two I did the ultimate rookie mistake of assuming everyone read the first.

Stupid. Now I have to damn near rewrite the whole freaking thing.

Colin Smith said...

To Donna's point, I would hope agents/editors would be sensitive to the author's artistic sensibilities and not force serialization where the author never intended it, and really has nothing more to say about those characters. If the story is self-contained, and the characters develop and grow as part of that story, then to make a series out of that one book might not work. I'm sure it's very flattering to be told "We love these characters so much, and we think millions of others will love them too--can you serialize this?" But that's not a good reason for doing it, IMO anyway.

Yes, I'm back. Been kinda quiet the past few days. From the comments, I don't think you missed me. And that's okay--it's nice I can sneak away from time to time... ;)

Donnaeve said...

Colin! I missed you!

Don't feel bad about no one (Susan!) calling you out..., ("did Colin miss the bus?")

Sometimes it seems a little like out of sight, out of mind, but I did wonder where you went. This is the case of thinking it, and not saying it. I do that a lot too.

Dena Pawling said...

Is there a desired number of books to the series? Sue Grafton is up to X. Janet Evanovich is up to 22 in the Stephanie Plum series. But are these part of a true series? Based on your description, they appear to be defined more as connected stand-alones.

For my WIP, I have a second book half-outlined which continues the story, and a possible third knocking around in the emptiness between my ears. I read a lot of “two book deal” and “three book deal” on PM. Are these descriptions used for both series books and stand-alones? Do publishers have a desired number, at least to start? Does it depend on genre?

Colin Smith said...

Awww... that's very kind of you, Donna. Everything's okay--just been busy with some other things. Life. Work. You know... :)

Since we're talking about series--for those who are interested in the continuing adventures of our family's transportation woes (if you recall, pushing our dead Excursion out of the road brought about my wife's recent heart episode), our car is currently under the knife and getting a much needed engine transplant. I'm hoping it'll be ready by the end of the week, which will be a relief. We've been trying to get around for the past 6+ weeks in my mother-in-law's PT Cruiser, which can be a challenge when all 8 of us need to be somewhere... :)

Julie said...

@Colin - I missed you. I'm sorry I didn't mention it. I should've. (((Colin)))!

"Yes, we decided to do that in order to torment you. One of the many perks of the job."

Um. 1) "We?" "We" as in "We" Agents? As in "We" decided we only wanted you to query the first of your series and pretend that it was a stand alone and then tell us after the fact that it was a part of a series? Or - "We" as in "We" here at Fine Print who help me with My Blood, Blog-In-The-Water, who like nothing better than to terrify us with rapid about faces regarding which is better, series or stand-alones, and then drop confusing bits in here and there making it impossible to tell who stands where, in the same way that suicidal drivers might decide that driving like hyperactive, inattentive squirrels is a good idea? Or "We" As in "We" involved in publishing in general who stand at opposite ends of the spectrum rather like generals in the Cold War, with Soviet Generals recently set out from a meeting in Lubyanka and US Generals let loose from Gitmo, both sets lined up at opposite ends of a corrugated steel warehouse set somewhere in Antarctica having been built especially for the purpose, in which one "Alpha" General in each set has been armed with a laptop and another with a cell phone and Cuban cigar...

"AAAAaarrre djyou rready, Komrade?" asks General Komrade Beta One in a highly aggressive tone.

"Son, I was ready the day yer mama first kissed yer daddy," responds General Cowboy Beta One, somewhat contemptuously.

"We weeeeell burrry djyou... djyou and djyour Ameeerican 'series,'" Komrade responds, upping the ante.

"You can't handle our series," Cowboy retorts.

"Oh, no? How djyou theenk djyou gonna compare to War and Peace with djyour Capitalist series drivel? Djyou really think that Fifty Shades of Exceedingly Poor Taste is going to fly any American Author to Stockholm? Please. Don't waste my time."

"Now, now; ah conceeede that some, ah say some series material isn't worth mah mama's pink ceramic kitten collection..."

"General," one of Cowboy's colleagues interrupts, "if she hears you wagering those kittens..."

"Keep your shirt on. Ah'm only sayin' that some series material is quite entertainin'! Why, let's even look at that Dante and his Inferno! (Not that it was precisely his inferno, if you catch my meaning...)"

"I might suggest, General Cowboy, that that particular piece does not strictly speaking, meet the criteria for "series." I zeenk, actually, zat eet was intended as a standalone..."

"Which was the purpose of this meeting!" A loud voice boomed from the end of the hall. All faces swerved to look, expecting to see an enormous, black-clad, mysterious form; instead, they were met by... A Shark, and A Cat.

So you see how this all can be very confusing to us Sharkbites.

Do you want the books to be series?
Do you want them to pretend to be standalones in the queries?
Do you want them to be standalones?
Do you want them to pretend to be series in the queries?

This is all too much for a bear of very little brain.

I just wanna write, teach, I just wanna WRITE!


Think, Think...


Anonymous said...

The two biggest series I read when I was younger were the Hardy Boys and Trixie Belden. Nowadays I like to read stand-alone novels and very rarely read series- mostly because the 'love interest' is turned into soap opera and I can't abide soap opera. Having said that, I still read the Perry Mason series occasionally, and I buy EVERYTHING in Steven Brust's Vlad series as soon as it's available.

And offhand, I can think of at least one book that, as Donnaeve said, should never have been made into series. It's a wonderful Ronald Kidd book entitled Sizzle and Splat (and even if technically the other book was only a sequel, I thought it a very weak sequel with the tendency to ruin the first if one allowed it to do so).

I'm writing what I like to call a 'Sequence', since though it has some recurring characters (the main characters are switched up, so not the same ones in each book) and an overarching storyline, all the books are standalone stories. I have no real idea if 'sequence' is the correct term to use here, but calling it a 'series' definitely felt wrong, so I went with what felt right.

Amanda- ooof! that sucks :( Maybe the agent was alone in his/her opinion, though? Maybe get more feedback before you rewrite the whole thing?

Colin- hahaha! I was thinking the other day as I lurked without commenting that I hadn't seen you around in a little while! I didn't like to remark upon it as my own commenting has been spotty of late (too much to do at home).

Lisa Bodenheim said...

Even though I don't have an MFA (and it's not in my plans to obtain one though I can always be derailed), this blog goes a long way toward teaching me the academic and scholarly language of pubbing as well as the rough vernacular.

completely off topic
Colin: I'm trying to imagine 8 of you in a PT cruiser. Sounds sweaty skin catching painful for summer weather. Glad an engine was for the Excursion. Hope the transplant is successful.

Theresa said...

As a reader, I prefer stand alone novels, but I'm still devoted to certain authors. And there are a few series that I read, though by the time I get around to the latest installments I've often forgotten certain background details of characters and over-arching plots.

Dena,to me the Grafton mysteries are a series because she does follow a chronology with Kinsey. Or at least I've always detected a chronology.

Donna,I agree that there are a lot of novels that are perfect stand alones and should not have follow-ups or sequels. That would spoil the magic of the original.

Adib Khorram said...

Is the desire for series fairly universal across all genres? Or are editors acquiring in, say, literary fiction or YA contemporary less worried about series potential? I seem to see far fewer series in those spaces. But maybe I'm just not noticing them.

ProfeJMarie (Janet Rundquist) said...

What about books that are in the same "universe" with some overlapping characters, but not a series that has an overarching single character arc? ie: the next book in the series focuses on a secondary character or even a tertiary one. I'm thinking of Miranda Kenneally's YA Hundred Oaks series or there are many romance series out there that do this lately. Are those considered a "series" or is there a different term for that? What is the desirability of that vs. primary protagonist series?

Craig F said...

I have a series. I drew up a time line and started populating it with concepts. I started partway down it to build my writing skills. By the time I got to the start the people I have allowed to read them are impressed.

Of course I am me and not you so I do things differently than you. Because of this post I now realize that I really did have an ulterior motive. I just hadn't known it.

Books one through three are increasingly speculative thrillers. Book four takes the big step into science fiction. It has space travel, wormholes, aliens and psychic powers.

Lucky for me that I read this blog. I now know that the setup is to torment Agents. One of the many perks of the job of being a writer.

Patricia Harvey said...

OP: GO BOBCATS! (My older daughter is an alum of the Scripps College of Communication.)

At one conference I attended, I heard an editor talk about the need for a certain type of children's book series - easy readers that bridge the gap between picture books and chapter books.

As a former remedial reading teacher, I always had to write my own "decodable text" stories. Mainly because good stories that hooked my young readers, appealing to their senses and emotions, and reinforcing recently learned letters and sounds, were not available. ("A cat sat" can only take them so far.) They really enjoyed the little series I wrote about two brothers. (When a child exclaims, "I can see it in my mind!" you know the light has turned on.)

With decodable text, the writer uses primarily phonetically decodable words. Very few irregular words, and only after they are taught. The phonetically decodable words are introduced as part of a "phonic line" - or the order of sounds, symbols and language concepts children are taught in multi-sensory, structured reading intervention.

But I think this is also an opportunity for book series - especially for older reading-disabled students, who find little of interest in terms of reading material that they can also successfully read.

Laura said...

Jasper Fforde said he wrote "The Eyre Affair" (one of my favorite books, but be warned -- "quirky" is an understatement) as a stand-alone, but then his publisher wanted it to be the first in a series. So what he did was add a handful of little moments that could pay off in other books -- he didn't know how yet, but hey, he'd figure it out.

The Eyre Affair is still the best book, but I do like the entire series. Fforde also spun off a minor character from book three or four into his own series, so there's always that option, too, just to make things more complicated...

Laura said...

Patricia, I love your idea of a series for older children with reading issues! I used to tutor high school kids and my solution was comic books, but a specially-designed series would have been awesome.

french sojourn said...

Colin...solider on my friend. I know about vehicle reliability, searching out our 6th mechanic for my 26 year old Land Rover brake issues ( series of unfortunate...anyway) and I've only owned it for 3 months.

When I was 6 years old (in 1965), my folks were separating, so we all moved to Portugal.( No; I have no idea why....pay attention) My Father was an Engineering Instructor for the Maine Maritime Academy. He managed to get the family 1956 Porsche 356 A loaded onto the "State of Maine" training vessel that was incidentally going to Portugal as part of the annual training cruise. My folks got it disembarked and we started out two year adventure. (in insanity?)

So we would be driving around Cascais with my 5 sisters in the back seat, My Father driving, my mother riding shotgun, and my 9 year older brother was between them. Where's Waldo? you wonder....I was perched on the rear shelf above the engine.

Sorry for the shaggy dog story above but the 8 in a P.T. Cruiser brought back memories...painfully warm memories.

The excursion will be fine shortly. Just another chapter in the journey of life. Welcome back.

Cheers Hank.

Laura Mary said...

I’m hoping to query the first of a trilogy later this year, and constantly wonder whether I should mention it’s a trilogy or pretend it’s a stand alone. Or, be prepared to re-write it as a stand alone???
And what’s a girl to do whilst book one is out fishing? Work on part two, of a trilogy that may never see the light of day, or work on something else entirely and panic if someone shows interest and askes for details on part two!
Raaa! You don’t need to develop torture methods for writers, we create them well enough for ourselves!!!

Colin Smith said...

Julie H: lol! OK, so one of Carkoon's big publishing houses, "PulpMess" is looking with great interest at your dialog snippet. I think one of the editors sees series potential... :)

Thanks, guys! You are too kind. Really, though--I don't mind that my absences go unmentioned. It's not like you NEED my input on anything, and I would hate for anyone to feel pressured to comment lest someone sends out a search party. Extended absences are an exception though. You had us all a bit worried for a while, Julie H. :\

Hank: Lovely! When you consider the ages of our 6 kids (11-21), and the fact my son is 6 foot 1, "squished" takes on a whole new meaning... :) Thankfully, we have kindly friends who can often help us split the load.

Laura Mary said...

ProfeJMarie – would that be classed as a spin off series?

Anonymous said...

See, this is why I don't like starting new books. My brain has trouble doing stories as true stand alones. I can think of two things on the shelf that would be stand alones the maybe someday collection of Julie stories and the children's book with my grandson in his superman cape teaching Gage the deaf wonder dog obedience in sign language. The other children's books if I could find them except the mg mystery would be stand alones. The mystery could easily be a series.

Everything else my mind just refuses to stop at one and that presents a conundrum because I always work on more than one project at a time. If I get stuck on one project, I work on another until the boys in the back work out the plot knot on the other one.

At some point in time I could possibly write myself into a corner and have two different series going. Don't I sound confident?

Colin good to have you back. I'm glad you're getting your car fixed. whee

Anonymous said...


I query mine as "series potential" and leave it at that. Let them decide how many books it needs though I think it will need three books to finish the story. I think I heard Outlander started out as a trilogy, so stuff happens.


Julie said...

@Colin - When I vanish, you can do double duty for me. Pretty sure you'll be able to pull it off. So are you saying that I'm destined for Carkoon? Been thinkin' that for a while. I'll just pack my bags and head over there when I'm discharged.

Speaking of which, the attending changed.

At least the attending over here never changes, so the rules (theoretically) remain the same.

I'm just loving life. <----- Sarcasm


Jenz said...

Laura, standard advice is to say something like "a stand-alone with series potential" in your query.

As for what to work on next, that's tricky. If you have an idea how you want the next book to go, go ahead and outline it. Standard advice with this (again with the standard advice) is to not waste time writing a sequel if you haven't sold the first. So whether you actually write it or not really depends on how you're going to feel if the first really doesn't sell--will you feel like you wasted your time and regret it, or will you be happy to have wrapped that up and gotten in some more writing practice? Do you have another book idea that may be a better use of your writing time?

ProfeJMarie (Janet Rundquist) said...

Laura, I've always wondered that myself when I see people just starting out in the query trenches with their sights set on a series. I guess the short answer is to write what you're passionate about right now (because that's going to be the better book) and always keep that brain open to new ideas that you can start at any time.

Colin Smith said...

Julie H: You? Carkoon-bound?? I think not! I don't think even QOTKU would have the heart to dispatch you to exile when you're laid up in a hospital bed. Even if you have nice looking young men wanting to bathe you. By the way, PulpMess is interested in that novel too... :) No, you don't have to be exiled here to be published on Carkoon. Indeed, some people's writing is so bad, this is the only place it deserves to be published. Those books are assigned reading for people who have good taste. Part of the punishment. Why else do you think LynnRodz gets all the Dino Porn? :) (By the way, LynnRodz, part 78 of the Bronto Bondage series is due out next week. Clear some space on your reading schedule...) But then there's the good stuff that gets published here. That's to torment aspiring writers, often distributed with the words, "You'll never be this good. Read and weep!" It's lovely here, isn't it?

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

I just figured that because the weather has been so nice here in Carkoon, that's why Colin has been lurking, (as in tanning), do naturalized US citizen Brits tan or burn? Sizzle I think. Anyway, nice to hear from you. So, did you hear that Julia is an M&M gambler, Julia has a book coming out, handled by the shark herself, it' about cowgirl poll dancers.
Gotta go, back to work.

Elissa M said...

Some genres lend themselves to series better than others.

The epic fantasy I'm planning to query (after my beta readers finish with it and the "last" round of edits are complete) will be queried as a stand alone. However, I mention in the bio portion of query, "I'm currently working on a second novel set in the same world." I believe this line will tell agents I'm prepared to continue the story if need be.

Right now though, I'm focused on writing the first book the best I can. Later books can be worried about... later.

Donnaeve said...

Julia..., phew! I was brain exhausted after reading that first comment of yours.

Are you feeling better?

Donnaeve said...

Colin, I was giggling at the picture of eight in a PT Cruiser.

Jennifer R. Donohue said...

Hrm. This makes me feel like I should have considered further before querying The Last Song first, for it very definitely is a standalone. If you know the myth of Orpheus, you know I probably wouldn't be terribly thrilled to write the sequel, Orpheus: back to hell [Orpheus 2: Electric Boogaloo?] (or some such. My main character isn't named Orpheus, quite, though close).

My werewolves, though, that's a trilogy at least. First book written, second book screwed around with, nascent ideas for the third.

But....werewolves are a "dead genre" /snarl

(and of course I think my werewolves are different. I didn't write 'em to rip 'em off anybody else, certainly)

I see so many people saying so many things are DEAD dead dead, that it seems to me everything's come 'round full circle and is alive again.

REJourneys said...

"...which always breaks my heart because I love every one of her books, and want to spend more time with every character she's created."

I wonder if when we part ways with a character, be it the end of a book or the character dies/leaves the story, if it affects (some) people the same way as losing a loved one or a friend moving away. There are still some character deaths I'm not quite over years after reading a series.

It would be an interesting study to see.

Stand alones depress me too, but I also realize loving a series means I'm getting ready for a bigger heartache since I've spent so long with those characters.

Christina Seine said...

Elissa said what I was thinking, that some genres lend themselves more to series-es than others. And probably some characters more than others as well.

I may be a woman of a certain age, but one of my all-time favorite series(es) is the Anne of Greene Gables books. I read all of the books several times (not necessarily in order, either) loved when my kids were still learning to read so that I could read it to them aloud (although I'm not above having an AOGG paperback in my purse; if caught I will deny everything and say I'm carrying it for my daughter, lol).

I'm trying to figure out what made the series so compelling to me (aside from Anne's adorable personality and intense relatability). Certainly the first book stood alone - it didn't seem as if there were loose ends left untied (the resolution was implied to occur in the near future, anyway). There is a narrative arc over the course of the series (although it isn't blatant), although some of the books focus more on peripheral characters.

Hmmmmm. I am going to have to stew on this a bit, this idea of exactly what makes a series work. Is it just a matter of worldbuilding + a conflict compelling enough to carry through several books? Is it in the characters? Is it a trifecta comprised of all three? (I just wanted to say "trifecta" - I love that word).

Anonymous said...

Colin: You may have noticed, the number of comments has dropped since you went away. I blame you for not being here. :P

Yay for finding an engine! If I remember, that was the biggest problem there.

My space opera is a series. I won't say how long it is, because most of it's only in the first draft stage, and I draft short. I like the characters, and keep thinking up more ways to torment them (much as agents do with writers). I like tormenting my characters. I'm mean like that. The first couple books (one being shopped, one being edited) can stand alone, but they still belong to the series arc.

I think, even in a series, it's a good idea for each book to be standalone enough that a reader won't be lost if they don't read earlier ones. This often tends to be a few phrases here and there to include hints of backstory from previous books (this also helps to remind the reader who *has* read those books). I also think that, if done correctly, later books can get readers to want to read earlier books.

I wouldn't even mention 'series' or 'trilogy' or 'standalone' in a query. As Janet said, you're querying one book. ONE. And if the agent asks, you can tell them that it's a trilogy or a series, or that you can quickly write a sequel if they want one...

ProfeJMarie: I don't know the books you're referencing, but a series arc doesn't have to be a character arc. You can have a number of different characters, settings, places, all with something to tie them together - and all fitting somewhere along a line from a series point A to a series point Z. At least, that's my take on it.

One of my favourite authors is Terry Pratchett. His Discworld 'series' is all tied to one place - a certain magical world. However, some of the stories are complete standalones. Some use the same characters in their own chronology (for examples, the Witches of Lancre, the Wizards of Anhk-Morpork, the Watch novels). Some of the 'series' will include characters from other 'series' - for instance, a few Wizards wind up in Lancre for a coronation, in Lords and Ladies. Granny Weatherwax (one of the Witches) meets Tiffany Aching (in Tiffany's own Wee Free Men series). In fact, the Wee Free Men were introduced in Lancre in Lords and Ladies, and Sir Terry created the Wee Free Men series with Tiffany later.

But then, Sir Terry always did whatever he wanted to do, without worrying about others' definitions.

Jennifer: I think the only thing guaranteed to be dead are vampires and zombies. Of course, they're also considered 'undead'. So I could be wrong.

LynnRodz said...

My WIP started out as a stand alone and I didn't think there would be a follow up, but guess what? After yesterday I started thinking about it. In book two my two protagonists are going to head out to Wyoming and become bronc riders together. I understand there's an agent who wants that kind of scenario. (I know, I know, she wants Julie MW writing it and no one else.)

Seriously, I cannot see a sequel to my WIP. There are some stories that say everything they need to say without dragging out a second book simply because the first one is so popular.

I did write an MG and left the ending sort of ambiguous with the thought of writing a sequel, but I had to put it aside because this WIP took over my thoughts and wouldn't leave me alone until I wrote it. So the MG and its sequel are on the back burner.

Which brings me to the question others have asked, I also see a lot of 2 book deals, so can those 2 books be stand alone and not necessarily be a sequel?

Omg, Hank, that's a great story. Do you speak Portuguese? I love, love, love that language. When I was trying (notice the word trying) to learn Japanese, I thought about learning Portuguese at the same time. Not a good idea, but today I can understand about 85 % of what's being said. Funny, but I understand people from Brazil better than people from Portugal.

Colin, why do you like to torture me?

Patricia Harvey said...

Laura Brennan, Thanks for your positive response. It's sad to see a teenager of 16 with a third grade level. Sometimes their main reason for wanting to improve their skills is something so small, like passing the driver's test. Or not being retained. Getting enjoyment from reading isn't even part of the equation.

french sojourn said...

Lynnrodz: No, the Portuguese language has buried itself fifty years deep in the recess's of my mind.

bjmuntain: Your mention of the Discworld flooded me with memories of the Ringworld trilogy by Larry Niven...have to hunt it down for my Kindle. Although I don't think they offer it electronically...something about all those tubes and wires probably.

Christina: The Anne of Greene Gables mention reminded me of a couple of my favorites"To serve them all their days", and "All creatures great and small." Although they weren't series (well they were once they were televised) they were great reads.

Jennifer R. Donohue said...

bjmuntain: hah, why yes, vampires and zombies are by definition dead. Undead? You can make them redead, with enough gumption and know-how. Other than writing for a role playing game character, though, I don't do vampires (or haven't). That's such well trodden ground, and I haven't had any lightning bolts pertaining to them, so I'll just let them lie.

Zombies, I think zombies can be well done. I'm not saying I have done them well necessarily, though I do have a badly-needs-editing South Africa steampunk book that's concerned with zombies (or the specter thereof), but there are cultures in South Africa with specific zombie beliefs, I didn't just do it for kicks. (well. so much as anything I've written is or is not for kicks.

And God, how I love the James Herriot books, and the Anne of Green Gables books. Though I confess, I might like Emily of New Moon (and her following two books) a teensy weensy itsy bit more.

Julie said...

OHHH my goodness. Colin, I swear, I can NEVER get these things done correctly on the first try. Julie's Rule Number One wins again. I'm losing aaalll kinds of time, here. Oy. FOURTH try.

THEEEERRRRE we go! I hope. Fourth try. Magic white-out applied, and now phone number, etc, have been removed. :) Pls don't delete (at least on those grounds - if on some other... go ahead and I'll be confused. :) ).

@Colin / @Carolynn / @Julie M O Great Julie - Just to clarify, I'm the one with the M&M gambling problem; OGJ is the one with the Book Of Impending Greatness coming to you Right now, Right here, Live, in front of this very audience, co-signed by the Fins of Fantastic Ferocity.

I have no such impending anything.

I have a few books sitting around gathering dust because I'm afraid of queries.

I have a query that I've had professional help assembling, and the professionally altered query is now ( Right now...) sitting in my inbox, where I'm avoiding it because I'm (cough) sick. (I am legitimately ill; but I'm worried about looking at this thing because it brings me one step closer to sending it out.

And I have another book that I finished at the End of May.

Then I decided that Better was better than Good and messed with it.

Now I have fragments of said book sitting in pieces in this laptop while I toy with them and send various characters to the hospital and give others substance abuse problems. Said characters all stare ruefully at me and growl, "Thaaaaanks."

One even fingers his Beretta and mutters, "Didn't you say something about not editing while you were in the hospital?"

But I digress.

Julia: M&M Toxicity and Manuscript Anxiety
Julie the Greek Goddess (perhaps Julisia or Juliedite, Juliephone or Juliestasia... :)): Impending Elevation in already amazing status (Coming up next: A "Stupid Julie Joke" of my own.)

And @Colin, O Colin (O Colin, My Colin...), I'm not so sure about my Carkoon potential. I think I've had one toe over that line since before I ever started typing in the comment box.

My goodness, I'm soooo tired...

OH! OH, OH, OH! P'raps this will be of interest to my reef-members and Maaaaaybe (dare I hope?) even to the Great Rainbow-Scaled Wonder herself.....

Guess what?
You'll never guess.
I'll give you a hint.

I got to unplug Henrietta an hour ago.

Here's My Hatty Hint!

And a better hint, but no hat.

Love to you all, Hats on and hats off...
(Aww, you made me iiiinnnnk....)

(And pls send thoughts out for my roomie. The poor lady was getting better all week and was headed out with me tomorrow but she got sick overnight and is having an MRI today - looks like it'll be a while for her. If you've been reading along, you know I'm on the chronic illness (read "mostly cancer and some other weird (like Julie) longterm illness floor, so everyone here has been through the ringer. She's pretty elderly and I was pulling for her, hoping she'd actually get to go past the nurse's desk alongside me and Brian, but no go. So any thoughts or prayers for my friend "D" would be really appreciated. Thanks. :) )

And, reciprocally, WHOA - those fires! PLEASE be safe all you guys and your family and friends. (((HUGS AND PRAYERS!)))

I'll be getting back to my Cone of Shame Editing While Under the Influence now.


Squirt (Again)

Kate Larkindale said...

This is one of those posts that stokes fear into my writer's heart because I just don't want to write series. I've written 11 or 12 books now (is it bad that I can't remember?), and there isn't a single one I would want to write a sequel to. Once I've finished a book, I've taken those characters on their journey and I'm ready to move on to torturing a new set of characters. Once I tried to take a minor character from one story and make him a major character in another, but I never really liked the result.

Guess I'm doomed….

Colin Smith said...

Julie H: Yay!! Here's to a D/C tomorrow! :) And thoughts & prayers to your roomie. May she follow you out soon. :)

Kate: When in doubt, go back to first principles: Write an awesome book. Editors and agents may prefer series, but I've never heard of one turning down a novel they loved and believed in, series or not. We know there are plenty of obstacles between "The End" and publication. What's one more? All you can do is write the best novel you can. :)

Anonymous said...

Hank, if you mean 'All creatures great and small' by James Herriot, I'd call that a series. He covers a number of years of his practice, though it may not have been written completely in chronological order, it does have a chronology that runs through it. Of course, it's also non-fiction. I loved those books.

JulieH: Yay! Farewell to Henrietta today, the hospital tomorrow. Glad you're feeling better! It must have been the M&M.

Kate: No one says you have to write a series. And just because series are popular (mostly because it means more money and develops a following) doesn't mean your books are any less desirable. Don't add any more stresses to your wilderness creature brain. We're all stressed out enough by realities. Let the worries slide.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

JULIA, I know you're the one with the M&M fetish and
JULIE is the cowgirl pole dancers’ author.

My comment was a mind-fart typo because I was communicating via my Kindle Screen. It's like typing on a rear view mirror. But, it's the only thing I can sneak in at work. And don't even get me started with typing on my phone, eeeeeek!
Okay I feel better and hope you do too.

Regarding series, trilogies, anthologies, stand-alones, live-alones, live-ins and marriages lasting an epilogue plus a day, it's all the same.
Writing a great book is like being married to your best friend. Having fun, turns to commitment, satisfaction, love and a whole lotta Jim Beam.

Colin Smith said...

bj: "You may have noticed, the number of comments has dropped since you went away. I blame you for not being here. :P" Oh, I think the wonderful verbosity of the regular commenters more than makes up for any absence on my part! :)

Yes, finding an engine was the problem. Thankfully our mechanic (yes--we found a mechanic we can trust, and those are like gold dust, so we are blessed), can get us a refurbished/rebuilt engine from the same place that builds them for Ford. But since he's not a Ford dealership, he can offer it to us for cheaper. And it is a good deal. Comes with a three year unlimited mileage warranty too.

Thanks for joining your Yays with ours! :D

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Just reread my comment and please allow me to add the one word which jumped out at me because it was not there.

Writing a great book is like being married to your best friend. Having fun, turns to commitment, doubts, satisfaction, love and a whole lotta Jim Beam.

Julie said...

And I've figured out the Captcha glitch.
It's decided that anyone with enough chutzpa to say, "I'm not going to submit to your random despotic proclamation that I must prove myself not to be what you clearly are! - And what kind of psychology is implied therein, might I add? Is this some kind of random dating screening service?", is clearly not of its own kind.

french sojourn said...

2Ns: It's like typing on a rear view mirror! howl

(I don't check "I'm not a Robot I jumt hit Publish your comment
and it goes through. Odd?)

Anonymous said...


"Zombies, I think zombies can be well done."

Anything can be well done. That's why I don't worry much when people decry this anti-fad or that. Every fad started with someone writing a really great book about something. I just try to be the person who writes the next great book.


Not everything ahs to be a series or should be a series. Write what you love. Mary Stewart certainly did well with many books that were stand alones.

Hemingway didn't write series books.

I wouldn't want to spend the rest of my life on a series. I have too many other stories I want to write and I'm too far on the north side of forty to tarry.

And I can almost hear agents saying, "I know something that'll get on your nerves, get your nerves, get on your nerves."


Donnaeve said...

Not odd Hank. I've been doing that now too - and glad we can! Saves time and is helpful to my poor limp along brain.

BJ - Less comments sans Colin??? Holy cow, one of the days Colin wasn't around I think QOTKU blog had like...IDK..., 100 or so? Somebody out here made up for Colin's absence.

(twern't me)

Anonymous said...

Hank: You don't have to prove yourself because you sign in with a Blogger profile.

Those of us who prefer to sign in differently (like I prefer my WordPress profile) must always prove we are not robots. Because Blogger clearly has a 'if you're not one of us, you must be a robot' bias.

And Captcha wants me to choose steaks. Then, after an OpenID error, it made me choose cakes. I'm hungry now.

Anonymous said...

Donna (and Colin): We haven't had more than 69 since last Thursday. And last Thursday was 100, and Colin did comment then. And only 30 on the WiR - that is so not normal.

Coinkidink? I think not.

Now salads. Anything can be a salad these days. (And I rarely eat salad. Because lettuce is evil.) I just chose the bits with something green in it and those seemed to work.

Jennifer R. Donohue said...

Sorry, I meant to say "I think I can do zombies well" ("well" being the ultimate subjectivity of my own judgement, obvs). Because if nothing else, for that book, I felt tremendously inspired. If I felt that kind of inspired, I could do vampires well (again, in my own opinion ^^). But I don't want to "kitchen sink" my urban fantasy world; there are many series I enjoyed quite a bit at the beginning, when it was limited Critters in the Dark scope, but when they started adding the length and breadth of the fantasy folkloric catalog my interest fell away.

Then there's a few notable standalones I wish were series, like Annette Curtis Klaus' BLOOD AND CHOCOLATE, which was such a compelling modern werewolf series I was completely enamored of it from beginning to end (and I tend not to like it when a love story gets in the way of the rest of the story).

Colin Smith said...

Ummm... ummm... feeling the pressure to say something... ummm... ummm...!!!! Hello! Jolly wot and all that rot. Good show! Oh my giddy aunt! :)

Anonymous said...

Colin, you just make us wanna talk more, that's all. :)

Julie said...

@Colin - ROUND of Applause for Colin! Standing O! So glad to see ya!

Tomorrow's my favorite part of the stay (not just the leaving part) - but the part where I get to leave good chocolate bars for the nurses to say thanks. Not looking forward to how pale Brian will get when he realizes that I stayed for a week, and that's 7 days and two shifts and both a nurse and an LPN each shift, and a GOOD chocolate bar for each one, but hey, right's right.

I'd give 'em coffee, but not everyone likes coffee, and most people like chocolate.

Hm. Now I'm angsting over whether they might not like coffee.

Janet? Whaddya give the person you just want to say "thanks" to who might not want chocolate? I can't give them all Air Sharks. Ideas? I'll probably be sprung sometime 'round noon (Eastern time) tomorrow.

I figure I could give 'em all a Green Mountain chocolate bar and... I dunno... a box of Munchkins? A Dunkie's Big Box (coffee)? Now Eliciting Active Solicitation (I know it doesn't work, but it sounds so cool) of advice from Shark and Sharkbites... After all, they did sort of treat me nicely for a whole week with no real incentive.

Oo! I wish I'd thought of this earlier, but I could've gotten them a VT Teddy Bear in scrubs with a "Thanks from Julie in 480" on the back. Hm. Maybe I could still order one and have it mailed.

Whaddya all think?

Dena Pawling said...

Colin, you can subscribe to my philosophy, which you can modify to refer to commenting if you want. A closed mouth gathers no feet.

Laura Mary said...

I don't think any genre is 'dead' so long as what you write is different and done well. However, I do think timing is key, and anyone with a Vampire/Zombie/Werewolf novel might do well to shelve it for a little while!
Having said that, I do love me some Zombies! I'll give anything zombie related a go. I loved Mira Grant's Newsflesh trilogy and have Darren Shan's Zom-B series stacked up waiting to be read. I tend to dip out if it gets dull and starts treading too-familiar routines, but hey, Zombies gotta Zomb. It's what they do best.

Thanks for all the advice on what to write next whilst Book 1 is out doing the rounds. I wonder if I'm clever enough to work on two books at the same time? I'm making lots of notes for book 2, but also have a seedling growing for a completely different idea altogether.

Horse before cart though, finish book 1!

LynnRodz said...

Didn't have time to read the comments yesterday, but it's obvious why there are less of them when Colin isn't around. He alone comments around 10 times a day which causes a chain reaction. Tada! Simple mathematics and I'm usually bad in math.

Anonymous said...

Bingo, LynnRodz. That's gotta be it.

JulieH: Chocolate is usually a good idea. If they don't like it, they'll appreciate the thought and share it with someone. Even with others on the floor.

(The teddy bears sound kinda cool, too.)

Panda in Chief said...

I wasn't going to comment, but any mention of jasper Fforde dissolves my resolve., Laura Brennan. It's so much more fun to hang out with writers than visual artists. Ya'll are much funnier, I must say.

My personal Fforde fave is "The Fourth Bear", but that's partly because I have a thing for bears and partly because the concept of Dorian Gray as a used car salesman is the funniest thing I ever read.
Interesting to know that he didn't originally plan "The Eyre Affair" to be the first in a series, which of course explains the title of book 2, "First Among Sequels".

And dang if being amongst all these writerly types isn't causing me to go back and proof read and correct my comments. What DOES one pack for summer camp on Carkoon? I wouldn't want to be caught wearing the wrong attire.

I offer up this link to a shark cartoon by Doug Savage, for your amusement: http://www.savagechickens.com/2015/07/sharks.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+SavageChickens+%28Savage+Chickens%29

Panda in Chief said...

Oops... so much for proofreading. That link should just be: http://www.savagechickens.com/2015/07/sharks.html

Kristan Higgins said...

I DO have a series, Ms. Reid! The Blue Heron series. Hope you like the books! xox

Romantic Writing Diva said...

I'm still a bit confused. I've read several books by Kristan Higgins where each book can stand alone in the sense that the MC's story has a beginning and end but those characters frequently pop up in her other novels as secondary characters. Are they connected stand alones or is it a series? I get the explanation of the Athenian mystery series. Although I haven't read those books (but now I will), I'm assuming the MC's story is not resolved until the last book (like the Hunger Games books and True Blood books).

Also, I'm curious where editors stand regarding connected stand alones? I understand they want a series because of the earning potential there. Is that also true for connected stand alones?