Stand Alone or Series? My Internal Struggle

As I was compiling my ever growing backlog list of books I wish to read in the future, something occurred to me.  Especially in the fantasy/science fiction genres, though definitely not limited to those, there’s the dynamic between this:

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Caption: An Example of The Stand Alone Novel

And this:

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Caption: The Massive Wheel of Time series, not all included in this picture. @___@

Now, there’s certainly advantages to both of these methods of storytelling.  With the stand alone novel, you can compactly (I use this term very loosely) tell a story and still do a good bit of world building if needed.  But, there’s only so much content you can put in a stand alone novel before it becomes too long, scaring off the casual reader from the dictionary-esque size of your novel, the book ending up as some old granny’s door stopper.  You do have the advantage of, generally, NOT DYING while you’re trying to complete your book.  (Obviously there have been plenty of authors that have died trying to complete a single stand-alone novel, but you get the picture).

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I’m looking at you, GRRM.  YOU BETTER NOT DIE BEFORE FINISHING ASOIAF.

But many times writers have more to tell, more to explore, with certain worlds, characters, and creations.  And that’s where we get the series.  Which is an absolutely wonderful medium, don’t get me wrong.  There are a great many series that are well written and should not be told in a single novel because it would cut short what the author would deem necessary content.

However, the depressing thing is… lately I’ve been associating series of novels with YA vampire/werewolf/fairy/some sort of supernatural creature shit that plagues the shelves of Targets and Wal-Marts everywhere.  I don’t think I HAVE seen a stand alone novel of that genre (I’m sure you can prove me wrong, but it’s what gets shoved in my face so often it’s hard to have another opinion). It also seems like it’s being used as a money-maker more than anything for a good amount of authors.  Additionally, the quality of writing sometimes suffers as the novels go along, as I’ve really noticed with the recommendations to ONLY read the first book of, say, Dune for example.  Getting invested into a series can be daunting, certainly, for all the reasons I’ve mentioned above.

It’s why I’ve decided to really listen to recommendations and advice given on each series I even think of starting, and at least give the first novel a chance.  But I hate that I’ve ended up with this sort of view of novel series, and I probably am not the only one.

So, my question is this.  Which do you prefer?  What do you think of the issues I’ve raised?  What issues would you raise about each medium?  It’s something I’ve been thinking about for a while now, though not so eloquently put in this post, I’m sure.

Blogger’s Log: Yes I am reading Lolita.  No, I haven’t finished it.  Klonopin is one hell of a drug.  But I’m being switched off of it so I can be more alert and focused instead of a walking zombie, so yay!

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2 thoughts on “Stand Alone or Series? My Internal Struggle

  1. As someone who adores the amazing world building allowed by the length of the Wheel of Time series, I’m can’t be completely opposed to series. You’re right though that a lot of authors seem to just write a trilogy because they can or for the money. In those cases, you often get “middle book syndrome” where the second book is just filler. Sometimes a standalone novel is the perfect length and can pack a lot of punch. Examples that come to mind are Tigana and (the only example I can think of in the YA genre) The Scorpio Races. Great discussion!

    • I’m really looking forward into eventually getting into The Wheel of Time. Only used it as an example because of the sheer length, haha. And yeah, I see a lot of trilogies especially in YA fiction and some recent bestsellers. If done well, I’m happy.

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