How My Stand-Alone Novel Became a Three-Book Series

The idea for my fantasy book, A Singular Gift, came to me many years ago.  I asked myself “What if?”  What if magic could be inherited?  What if a young magician inherited a gift of magic, but she had no teacher?  How would she learn to use the magic in a responsible way?  I wrote the first three chapters about a young teenager, Jean Ryan, with the working title, The Gift.  I started the story from a third person point of view, then changed to first person, because it just felt right for Jean to be telling her story.  Then the manuscript was laid away for a long time.

When I pulled it out again, I again asked myself “What if?” questions.  What if someone else wanted her gift, wanted it badly enough to cause my heroine much trouble?  Why did they want it?  To what lengths would they go to try to get her gift? What challenges would my main character have to face?  Would she have any help at all?

I wrote the book, thinking that was it.  I had an ending and the story was finished.  I revised it using Holly Lisle’s novel revision course, and published it with Amazon and Smashwords.  Then a reader asked, “What happens next?”  And another reader said, “I’d like to read more about Jean and Wayne.”

Hmmmm.  I had written the story and thought it was the end.  After thinking about it, I said to myself, “Maybe not.”  So, I began to “What if?” again and came up with a story featuring Jean’s sidekick, Wayne, in a more important role.  In this story, A Singular Chance, I decided to have both Jean and Wayne telling the story, in first person.  Each chapter has a subheading with the name of the character that is telling the story in that chapter.  As I drew to an end in this sequel, even though it had an ending, another book was necessary to finish the fantasy adventures of Jean and Wayne. I am currently working on completing the outline of the third book. The current title is A Singular World.

So, what started out as one single book has accidentally morphed into a three-book series.  I get annoyed when I read series books that end with a cliffhanger, then I have to wait a year to find out what happens only to find that yet another book is needed for the continuing story.  My books can each be read by itself and have a complete story, but like most series, it’s more fun to start with the first book, then read the second, then the third.

Do you write series on purpose?  Or are your books all stand-alone?  How do you decide?

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About Sue

From the time, as a young girl, when Sue read the Narnia series by C.S. Lewis, she was hooked on fantasy. She loves to read fiction and write within many genres, but she always winds up going back to fantasy. For years she has had fantasy stories spinning around in her head and now that she is retired from many years of teaching, she is putting those stories into book form. She has many interests, including quilting and playing the mountain dulcimer, but writing is the most satisfying of all. Sue lives in the great state of Maine with her husband of 38 years. She has been a factory worker, a waitress, a librarian, and a teacher. Her biggest job was being a mother and she has three grown children. Now that she is a grandmother, she is enjoying that role immensely.

Posted on April 23, 2012, in about writing, Authors - Sue Santore and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. That happened to me too. The result will be available from 1st of May on. ;-)

  2. My most successful works to date are Sorcha’s Heart and Dragons’ Choice. Sorcha is a novella and Dragons’ Choice is the first book in a planned trilogy that continues the story. BUT Sorcha began life as a 5,000 word short story that I wrote for Writers of the Future…and which was rejected on the first pass *lol* I never dreamed that the initial idea would spawn a novella + 3 movels! But it’s happening :D

  3. Terrific theme, really makes me think. For myself, it’s been somewhat the opposite problem. I only have one setting into which I’m chronicling, and the difficulty for me has been finding places to cut separate books out of what I still honestly think of as a single epic tale. My largest manuscript, “Judgement’s Tale” is now telling half the story I originally thought it would… and it’s still TWICE as long as publishers want! Finding another place to cut it would be better than a birthday present. Fourteen months of looking for one- no soap.

    My current WIP, :”The Plane of Dreams” was the first piece of chronicling I ever did, but I set it aside after six months, calling it “Prologue to the Test of Fire”. I knew the latter story fairly well, and realized that what I had written was not a full tale, yet, but it did come before ToF. Now I’m digging in and trying to expand/finish the PoD, without getting tangled in the adventures that came before THAT. And so on.

    My “Shards of Light” series stands at two stories of five presently, and that was the only tale that I saw as separated from the start. Even so, when pushed, I would want to put all the tales, someday, into the same cover where they belong.

    Here’s where I should say something brilliant and insightful about the connected experience of the cosmos. But for my ilk, Tolkien already said it best- The Road Goes Ever Onward.

  4. I knew going in that I would produce a trilogy. But I’m being careful to make the books stand alone as much as possible. There’s definitely an over-arching series plot, but each book focuses on a solving a particular problem. I want readers to walk away feeling satisfied that they got a complete story, while at the same time, I want them to come back to see what happens next. So far, the feedback has been “I liked it, and I’m ready for the next one,” which makes me very happy. Now I need to go finish the next one!

    I hate cliff-hanger and incomplete endings too. I recently read Robin Hobb’s “Dragon Keeper” and wanted to throw it out the window when I reached the “to be continued” ending it has.

    As for making the decision on writing stand-alone versus series books, I must admit my choice was based on marketing rationale. Fantasy and -logies (particularly trilogies) go hand-in-hand. Also, most self-published authors don’t get any real traction until at least their third book. A trilogy seemed a nice way to approach both issues.

  5. Thanks for the comments. I’m glad I’m not the only one that doesn’t like books that end in cliffhangers. Also, I can see that sometimes others work their way into a series like I did!

  1. Pingback: How My Stand-Alone Novel Became a Three-Book Series | Sue Santore: Writing and Cooking and Sewing, Oh My!

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