To series or not to series? That is the question.

Ciao, amici! It’s time for another Friday Writing Question. Today’s is a simple one:

Series or Standalone?

I’ve written both single titles and sprawling sagas, and I can see a benefit to each.

Sometimes there’s only one character to follow, one mystery to solve, one story to tell. Writing a standalone lets you say what you want to say then move on to your next passion.

Sometimes there’s an over-arching problem to solve in addition to a smaller one, and that will take time to address. Sometimes we invested so much in world building and character development, we can’t imagine leaving these settings and people behind so quickly.

As an author, I can do either, although I do tend to get attached to my characters and worlds, so I write more series than standalones. As a reader, I tend to prefer series. If I like the people and places in the book, I want more of them. (And if I don’t like them, I’m not going to read more, anyway.)

What’s your preference (as both a reader and a writer)? Let’s talk about it.

Staci Troilo Bio

46 thoughts on “To series or not to series? That is the question.

  1. I’ve mainly written standalones but I’m writing a series now and it’s way better honestly. I already know my protagonists and I just keep coming up with new characters for them to interact with. It’s a heck of a lot of fun! It’s way better than starting over from scratch, too. Great question!

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  2. I love series for the sheer potential of world building and character development. But when I am reading a series, I have a hard time with the wait in between two books!

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  3. I’m a voracious reader, so I always want /more/. There are few standalone novels that stand out – such as Stephen King’s Dolores Claiborne – but in general, I crave huge big books in multiples of three, if not more. Not surprising then that I write big sci-fi and sci-fi/fantasy stories that spread across multiple volumes. As my gamer friends would say, ‘series for the win’. 🙂

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  4. Hi Staci, as I mentioned to Priscilla above, I have always mainly read standalone books. That may be because I have always largely read classics which are generally standalone books. I grew up reading Stephen King who also largely writes standalone books so I never really experienced book series until I started blogging in 2016. Since then I am spreading my wings and have read romances, westerns and some books in a series. There is nothing like blogging to teach you about new things.

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  5. I’ve done both and I think I prefer the stand-alone. The stand-alone is so much easier to promote. There is no question about which book should be read first (even though most books in a series can be read as a stand-alone). The stand-alone story makes it easier to blurb without worrying about spoiler for others in the series. Having said that series are fun to do as well.

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  6. I don’t mind either way, whether we’re talking about as a reader or as an author. As a reader, I’ve read and enjoyed stand alones, series with more than 20 books in them, and all sorts of sizes of series in between, and though there have been times when I’ve wished the stand alone was a series, or wished the series had been left as a stand alone, I’m generally happy with what the author has chosen to do as regards length and number of books. As an author, I’ve written stand alones, and series of various lengths (my longest right now is seven books) and enjoyed writing them all.

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  7. (Faceplant) We’ve had this discussion behind the scenes. I love a good stand alone book. I like the completeness in it. I get my reasonably happy ending, and it doesn’t feel drawn out for the sake of selling extra volumes. However, I have taken the challenge of series writing up. I also like to play with all the tools, and this experience was lacking in my training. It’s a bit like entering Luke Skywalker’s haunted tree, but I may come out the other side better for the experience. My goal is to not have any subsequent tales feel like filler material. I want something noteworthy to happen in each volume. I find plants and payoffs more valuable in the trilogy than the ongoing series, but that makes sense. Something could happen in book two that will pay off in book three, that kind of thing.

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  8. Hmm. I think I probably fall somewhere in the middle. I’ll stick with a series if it engages me, but too many go on too long. I prefer 3 books maximum for a series with an overall plot arc. If it’s a character series–where the character continues in multiple books–I’ll read as long as the work is good. Preston & Child are releasing their 20th Pendergast book the beginning of February and I can’t wait! I’ve read the previous 19 and eagerly look forward to each one.

    By the same token, I love stand alone books too and devour them on a regular basis.

    The only think I don’t like is serials. Thankfully, they seem to be phasing out, or at least I’m seeing less of them.

    Liked by 3 people

    • I’m probably late to the bandwagon, but I’m really getting into serials. They remind me of soap operas. You can almost jump in whenever and ride the wave.

      I know you like the Pendergast novels. I’m glad you’re getting another fix soon.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. As a reader, I love a good series. I don’t like “serial” books where there is no satisfactory ending for three or four books down the road. I’m too impatient! LOL I also enjoy a good stand-alone novel.

    As a writer, I love doing a series. I’ve been challenged me to write a stand-alone novel. I’m going to try it one day.

    Liked by 5 people

    • I’ve actually come to embrace the serial. I’m really starting to like the desperate need to read on. PROVIDED there isn’t a five-year gap between releases. I say bring on the serial, just bring it on quickly.

      I bet you’d rock a standalone. THE STRANGER (though novella, not novel) was great.

      Liked by 1 person

      • How quickly they forget! I loved The Stranger.

        That wasn’t me hinting about my series, by the way. But it is why I’m starting to like the serial form. It’s kind of fun to write. I mean, each title refers to something that does resolve I. The book, but I do keep readers on the book until it’s all done.


  10. Thanks, Staci. As a reader, I love a series … as long as they don’t just end without finishing the story properyly, if you know what I mean, and as long as I’m not left waiting years and years for the next book, lol … as with a certain Mr Martin and others.

    As a writer, I find I’m labouring with a series. I think at the moment I prefer to write standalones. Perhaps that says a lot about my brain these days! Tee he hee.

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    • Well, I understand your impatience, for sure. I seldom give up on a beloved series, but I can think of two (to remain unnamed) that I stopped reading because the books took longer and longer to be released and you could feel a lack of interest from the author. It was like they were more interested in padding their wallets with filler content rather than developing and finishing proper plot lines. Thanks, Harmony.

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