Connection is Key   8 comments

Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?


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I write series

I have no problem with standalone novels. I read a lot of them and enjoy them. Some stories can be told in 80,000 words. I believe that. There’s nothing wrong with standalone novels.

For me, however, I write series. I’ve got three under development currently. Even some of my WIPs that started as standalone projects have spilled over into two or three books.

First Book Sells the Second Book

A body of work with interconnected stories gives readers a reason to come back to the same author. It’s really a marketing technique. Since Amazon now has an app for tracking page reads, I can see a trend, particularly with Transformation Project. Someone starts Life As We Knew It. Sometimes they read half the first day and half the next or sometimes they read the whole thing in one day. Then, someone (most likely the same someone since who reads the second book in a series without reading the first) starts reading Objects in View. Most of my reads appear to be people reading the entire series, just based on numbers. So while I advertise all the books, I spend my big money on the first book in the series and let it do the work for the rest.

Great Characters Doing Interesting Things

I’m a character-driven writer, but only so many characters with interesting stories present themselves to me, and generally those stories are the ones that wander through my mind the most. Which is good. I have enough of a cacophony of characters in my mind with the active stories. If I had dozens of standalone novels, I’d be horribly distracted — not just from the story I’m trying to tell, but from real life. Yes, authors live real lives beyond the boundaries of our pages and, yes, I want to be present for my life.

Because I write series, I know I have lots of opportunities to tell stories. I can show Peter, the main character in the What If Wasn’t series, acting like an immature teenager without a clue to where he’s headed in Red Kryptonite Curve and yet know I have lots of opportunities for him to get it right — or not — in future books.


World-building is where speculative fiction writers rise and fall. It’s tough to build a great alternative universe. It’s a little easier to build a community for a more mainstream story. For me, having done the work, why waste it? You can bring readers time and time again to this world where they know their way around and feel comfortable, so I can then concentrate on the stories the characters want to tell.

There’s power in telling stories over a long period of time. Shane is not the same person in Gathering In as he was when readers met him in Life As We Knew It. External events and internal torments set him on a journey of change. I don’t think I could tell that story in one book. He’d be a flat one-dimensional character and the behaviors I’ll show in “Winter’s Reckoning” (due out this fall) wouldn’t really make sense.

Variety is the Spice & Seasoning of Life & Literature

I enjoy standalone novels and I write series. I also love to read series. There’s something about the story arc done over a period of time that is very compelling. Most of us live in interconnectedness. Our teen years inform our 20s, our 30s inform our 40s, etc. Why should books be different? Some stories can be told in less than $100,000, but others maybe take several thousand pages. And it all works for some readers at different times.

Posted June 1, 2020 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop

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8 responses to “Connection is Key

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  1. An interesting discussion, Lela. I read mainly stand alone books, although I have read the Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings series as well as a few by some other authors. I don’t seek out series, as I prefer single books. I read a lot of classics and most of those are stand alone books. I have my Sir Chocolate children’s picture books series but, to date, my own novels have all been stand alone books.


  2. Once you have created a universe for a book, it almost seems a shame not to use it again for a series.


  3. I think there’s an interesting tell in the character-driven story thought. Good characters with a story can get away with zilch for a set. I saw members the Royal Shakespeare Company in street clothes do Macbeth and Taming of the Shrew at TWU one time with nothing on stage but a couple of folding chairs and they were so good it didn’t matter.

    Here’s a clean kitchen in an 8 plex on Longbeach, here’s a Taco Bell in Albuquerque. Its about the people, not how they get rid of their garbage on Foonblat z19 or what they feed their cattle outside Shamrock.


  4. I think you have to write what the stories and the characters deserve.


  5. Maybe it’s easier to write series in certain genres than others?


    • Definitely. Fantasy is a genre that invites long-form story-telling. Other genres might only have one interesting thing happening in the character’s life, so one story would be enough. Alex Flinn wrote Breathing Underwater, a story about an entitled rich kid who beats up his girlfriend and ends up court-ordered to anger-management classes and losing all his friends. What nobody else knows is he’s abused by his father and his anger starts there. Through the process he changes for the better. Anyway, lots of people asked Flinn to write a sequel and she has always said “I can’t imagine Nick doing anything interesting in the future. He’s fixed himself and the rest of his life is going to be acting on what he’s learned and taking his SATs moving away from his father, falling in love with a girl he won’t abuse. None of that is a life worth writing a story about.” She did finally write a second story, but from the girlfriend’s perspective.

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