Standalone, Sequel, or Series?

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To write a standalone book? To write many books in a series? Or, to write an additional book as a sequel? Those are the questions and there are many factors to consider before you dive into something that might be well over your head.

Standalone, Sequel, or Series Factor #1: Are you a newbie?

Just how new are you? Did you just write your first novel or are you in the process of writing it? Or, have you written a novel then buried it somewhere?

Maybe you’ve heard the advice, write your first novel, share it, get it critiqued, learn from it, then stick the darn thing in a drawer. I can speak from experience and tell you that, for me, these are heed-able words. I wrote my first novel, went out to a fancy dinner to celebrate, then started the process of editing, sharing, and listening. I learned that I was a new writer and that my writing was good. Then I learned that I needed to go and write something else.

On the other hand, maybe you struck gold on your first spin around the track. If you designed your novel as a standalone, maybe stop there–or, maybe there’s more to tell. If your beta-readers are begging for more, perhaps you need to reconsider your ending.

Pitfalls of writing a series when you thought you wrote a standalone:

You’ve written a novel and you’re writer friend says You know what? You should turn this into a series! That’s a great idea! Because people will buy the first book and then want more! Think of the sales! And you get all starry-eyed and think Yes! That’s a great idea!

It happens. It happened to me. Hindsight is 20/20. I wish I had planned better from the beginning. So if I can give you any advice, try to plan ahead. There were a lot of problems that required some serious mental gymnastics in order to solve. I needed to explain a few of the intricacies of the plot that I, in my cavalier I’m-writing-a-standalone! mindset had previously written.

Cons– It was a nightmare and I hit my head with my desk several times.

Pros– I did it. It can be done, but consider this–would you rather build a house the right way the first time? Or would you rather spend years renovating an imperfect dwelling?

Standalone, Sequel, or Series Factor #2: Are you a seasoned writer?

If you already have a few standalone novels out there and have an established fan-base, writing a series or a sequel should be a fun adventure for you. You already have the basics down so why not give it a try?

The Series Formula:

  • Create an overall story arc that will span more than two books.
  • Decide on the theme of your series and sub-themes of each of your individual books.
  • Create characters who will grow over time. Have a goal and an endgame for each one.
  • Decide on your setting and start building your world with a heavy dose of research.
  • Start writing!

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About Author

Heather Rigney is a fiction writer, blogger, journalist, and art teacher based in Rhode Island. Author of The Merrow Trilogy--a dark, historical fantasy novel that deals with homicidal mermaids, the colonial suppression of women, and a present-day alcoholic funeral director trying to make sense of it all. Her writing has been featured in Motif Magazine and Stone Crowns Magazine. By day she teaches art at an all-girls Quaker school and at night she tries to be creative while avoiding too many sweets. You can read more about Ms. Rigney on her website:

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