Open Book Blog Hop – Standalone book or series?

I never thought I would bake my children’s birthday cakes and I never thought I would write a book, let alone twelve

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?

This is an interesting question. I would answer immediately that I don’t believe I will ever write a series, but my Sir Chocolate books are a series, so I have written one. I don’t really consider a children’s picture book series to be what this question is all about, and on that basis, I will revert back to my initial response that I don’t think I will ever write a series.

Why? Well, I have two reasons:

  1. I don’t really read book series. I have read the Harry Potter books and The Lord of the Rings (I’m not sure if LOTR’s counts as a series as it is really one book broken into three parts for publishing and printing convenience) and I have read three Indie author series, Hode’s Hill by Mae Clair, some of the Braxton Campus cozy mystery series by James J. Cudney and the Zelda Richardson series by Jennifer S. Alderson. That is the sum of the adult book series I have read. Most of my reading consists of standalone books and I love classics which are usually standalone. As a result, I believe my aspirations are to write a really good standalone book; and
  2. By the end of my books, I have had enough of the characters and the premise they are involved in and I don’t want to revisit it. I need to write part II of my mom’s story, After the Bombs Fell, and I am finding it hard to set my mind to it. When a book finishes for me, that is it, the end of the journey.

On the other hand, me being I, maybe I shouldn’t say never. Who would have thought I would ever write a book in the first place. I trained for seven years to become a chartered accountant and another three years to become a specialist in financial reporting for the Johannesburg Stock Exchange. I have written a number of books about investing in Africa, African stock exchanges and the African debt markets. I have also written articles about corporate governance. I also became accredited as an approved executive for the Johannesburg Stock Exchange and a trainer for the financial reporting requirements of the exchange. I never planned or expected to do any of these things either.

I jumped from this non-fiction writing to writing my rhyming verse Sir Chocolate books with my son, Michael. I then wrote a children’s book for young readers about a male equivalent of My Naughty Little Sister and his trip to Cape Town with his family. I have a poetry book, a fictionalised biography of my mom’s life growing up during world war II, a supernatural fantasy book and I am nearly finished a supernatural historical novel of 110 000 words. I also have horror short stories included in two anthologies, paranormal stories included in one anthology and murder mystery stories included in another.

I can’t guarantee that the urge to write a series won’t descend upon me at some point and then maybe I will write one.

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39 thoughts on “Open Book Blog Hop – Standalone book or series?

  1. A terrific question: one get place to begin – is the main character or the environment they are in support a series of adventures? I have read all of Nordic Writer Jo Nesbo’s Detective Harry Hole books – 13 so far….I enjoy the character, the rich collection of supporting characters, and of course, the plots of each one, which stand alone for the most part.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. On reflection, John, it probably depends on the nature of the story you write. Murder mystery, cozy mystery and thrillers probably lend themselves more to series. The characters can become involved in a different case or adventure in each book. I don’t think my historical novels lend themselves to series as the endings are to complete and final.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Roberta, I too am not a fan of series and I have to say that I am so impressed with your credentials.
    Never knew that you had authored non-fiction works.
    Please do post your nonfiction articles. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hi Deepa, I haven’t written any non-fiction articles recently, for various reasons, so they are a bit out of date. My last non-fiction book was published in Feb 2017. Once coronavirus is over, I may look at writing a non-fiction book about the impact of coronavirus on this continent (Africa).

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I suddenly realised that your books are also a series, Jacqui, so I should have included you here. I have read more series than I thought. Your books also all stand alone completely so I don’t really think of it as a series, but maybe the idea I have of a series in my head is wrong. I like to have new characters and finalise my relationships with the old ones at the end of each book.


  3. Well done with the non-fiction. I wrote a textbook and I think it was the hardest thing I ever did. Series, on the other hand, seem to be a natural progression for me. It’s as if the characters are not content with their stories coming to an end. They want to tell me more of their lives and adventures.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Richard. I think it is great your stories can carry on. Mine can’t because they all include ghosts and the ghosts past issues must be resolved so they can progress to the next stage of the afterlife.


  4. I think characters tell you when they’re done with you. They stop dropping by, new project time. I consider short stories, specifically similar genres, to be a form of series. One could go in, auto-replace the names, there it is. Because we aren’t selling backstory or prologue or any of that nonsense in a short. Just my .02 on that. Your stuff is like selected projects, so I see your reticence toward the whole concept of series.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Phil, you have said it beautifully. My books are selected projects and I become very involved with the research and the timeframe. I don’t believe my book ideas have been conducive to a series to date. Anyhow, I need to master standalone first before moving forward into something more complex. I have an idea for an 1820 settler’s book which will be my project after I do my mom’s next book. I need to write that one while she is still interested in it.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I think it depends on the book idea and how it pans out. I started writing a cli-fi book about how society adapted to climate change and the Fourth Industrial Revolution. That would have evolved into a series as the idea was to complex for one book. I have put it aside due to Covid-19. It will have to be reconsidered now but I don’t think much will actually change as a result of this three month shutdown.


  5. I’ve written two series, but they were both at the request of my publisher. As a reader, I fall into the 50/50 camp. I love standalone novels but there are several series I follow that I am addicted to. As a writer, I can go either way (again 50/50). When it comes to reading (or writing) a series, I want each book to have a definitive conclusion but don’t mind some ongoing plot threads. I actually like those.

    What I don’t like are serials, where the book ends in a cliffhanger. There are very few authors I’ll hang with to buy the remaining books in a series,

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Mae, it is interesting that your publisher asked for the series. Your Hode’s Hill series is a bit unique as each book features new characters, although the readers has “met” them before. The only real continuous feature is the place as all the monsters are different too. I also don’t like a book that appears incomplete and the remainder of the story is in the next book. It feels like a cheat.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I love reading and writing series. Reading because when I find characters and worlds I love, I don’t want to leave them after just one book. And writing because… well, the same reason. If the characters and worlds are interesting enough, I have more to say than one book’s worth. And if they’re not, I’m probably not going to finish the first one.

    Does that mean I won’t write standalones? No; I’ve written a few. Does that mean I won’t read them? No, I read many. (But that doesn’t stop me from wanting more of a good thing. 😉 )

    Thought-provoking post, Robbie. Thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. My pleasure, Staci. There is nothing wrong with writing a series, depending on what your story is about and whether it lends itself to a series. My ideas to date haven’t lent themselves to a series so it would not be possible to write one. I also don’t think I want to write one as I like the type of stories I write and the style. I also think writing a series is a huge commitment by the author and I don’t know if I am willing to make that commitment.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I like both. I do enjoy a series because I get to know the characters and I get some pleasure out of knowing what to expect from them. I’ma big Harlan COben fan, and I’ve really enjoyed his Myron Bolitar series. I’ve also read several of Michael Connelly’s Bosch books…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think stand alone is a good place to start, Joanne. More than enough to learn at the beginning from my experience. I left Through the Nethergate open for a sequel if I wanted it but I know I don’t want it. I already have my next book idea.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Interesting discussion here. I’ve come across questions about series that readers ask, “Can this book be a stand alone book?” Series like Harry Potter, the characters are the same but each book has its plot so it can be a stand alone book.


  9. I’ve done both and can see merits in going either route. A series is great because you’ve already built a world in the first book, now the focus can shift to new storylines. For standalones, the plot is done when the last page ends, which is enough for some books.
    My sub-characters tend to grow on the page, so standalones become series! lol


  10. My problem with series is that I start a lot of series and just quit after the first book. If I’m not a big enough fan, I won’t continue.

    And, moreover, buying a whole series can get expensive real quick. If I do read a series, I tend to want them to have at least a few volumes available at the library.

    Liked by 1 person

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