Friday, December 2, 2016

Writing a Series Versus a Standalone

A Recent Decision

The question of whether Primogénito: The Fuentes Legacy would become a series was there from the beginning. In fact, before I sat down to write the first word, I had to decide which story I was going to tell. The ending? Or the backstory? At the time I only had a little of the backstory in my head and didn't think I could make that into much of a book, so I wrote the ending instead. But as I was writing it, the backstory grew. And grew. What at first only stretched back five years eventually came to encompass centuries of Fuentes family history. As I was writing Primogénito, I was thinking constantly about the other stories that could be told about these characters. I wanted to tell those stories, but I had some reservations about writing a series. I will explain those reservations in a moment. First, some reasons why many authors choose to write a series as opposed to a standalone book.

Benefits of Having a Series

The primary benefit of having a series, especially for indie authors, is promotion. If one book in the series becomes popular, it will drive sales for all the other books. And if you discount one of the books, that drives sales even more. I know of a lot of indie authors who will make the first book in their series free for a few days when they release a new installment. So readers snap up the freebie then go on to buy the sequels. At least that's the hope. And for many people it works.

Why I Didn't Want to Write a Series

If I'm honest, I was resistant to the idea of turning my book into a series because I was being a literary snob. In my mind, a single book could be a masterpiece but writing sequel after sequel, or prequel after prequel, or even spin-off after spin-off, would cheapen the value of the original work. Keep in mind that I was a kid in the eighties, the decade of the bad movie sequel. Remember The Neverending Story II? No? Neither does anyone else.

I'm also a horror movie buff, and have been for as long as I can remember. I mean that literally. I saw Poltergeist when I was four and it instantly became one of my favorite movies. I had several friends who had also seen it and I remember them coming over to my house for Poltergeist role-playing games. This was particularly fun in the pool because we could hold on to the ladder, letting our bodies float in the water, and pretend we were Carol Ann holding on to the headboard while the closet was trying to suck her in. Did you know Poltergeist spawned a couple of sequels? No? Neither does anyone else.

Halloween is the prime example of what I'm talking about. This is one horror movie I actually didn't see as a kid. I think I was in college the first time I watched it. This is only my humble opinion, and you are welcome to disagree, buy I consider Halloween to be the best slasher movie ever made. I liked it so much I decided to have a Halloween marathon. I didn't make it past the second movie.

Okay, so I've given you some of my opinions of sequels. But I wasn't planning to write a sequel. Remember, I already wrote the end of the story. What I need to do now is write the prequels. I have even worse associations with that word than with sequel. Why? Because the first time I ever heard that word was in high school. A friend of mine, who was fangirlishly obsessed with Star Wars, told me that there were plans in the works for a prequel to that series. I remember thinking, "Prequel! Ha! Clever word. It's like a sequel, but it's before the events of the original movie, so it's a prequel." I also remember thinking, "Wow! A brand new Star Wars movie. Can't wait to see it!" Well, I did see it, and, like everyone else who saw it, I'm still trying to forget it.

Changing My Worldview As I Mature

So my early experiences of series were less than positive. I have since come to adore, even respect, quite a few series. The Little House series was one of the first. Then I discovered The Chronicles of Narnia and Harry Potter. And let's not forget Tolkien. Did he ever write anything that wasn't set in middle earth and didn't comprise part of the backstory of The Lord of the Rings? If he did, I haven't read it. And I don't think anyone could accuse him of cheapening his work by continuing to write books set in the same world.

The Deciding Factor

There were two things that compelled me to turn Primogénito into a series. First, while I was writing it I couldn't get the backstory out of my head. I just really wanted to write about those events. After I published it I started on a new project, but was still sort of in love with Damian Fuentes. I wanted to spend more time with him. Don't get me wrong, I like the new story I'm working on, I just feel like I've jumped into a new relationship too soon after terminating the previous one. I think Damian and I have some unfinished business.

Those feelings were powerful, but they weren't what made me finally bite the bullet and start pounding out the prequel to Primogénito. The decision became unavoidable when I started reading the reviews my book has gotten. You can read two of them on Primogénito's Amazon page. Both make statements that led me to conclude that the rest of the story has to be told.

First, one of the reviewers said, "The story starts off rather weirdly, and it gave me an impression that I was supposed to know some of the background already. It took me a while to actually figure out what was going on." seems that not revealing the backstory early enough is a potential weakness of this book. Well, if readers need to know all that before they read the book, why don't I give it to them?

Then, in another review, it says, "I'd really like to know Leo’s story, and the stories of Damian’s ancestors, and also that of Damian’s first encounter with Renato and his brothers. This seems like such a pain-ridden family, even if some cannot truly feel the pain, like Renato. Leo cannot have been the first to dig his heels in and try to fight back. Or maybe so. How common are children after the first two?" So for this reviewer it didn't come across as a weakness, but as something that would be very interesting to read about. Well, again, if people want to read that story, I might as well write it.

What I'm Up To Now

So now I'm busy writing the prequel (the first of several) to Primogénito. I haven't abandoned that other new story I had begun, but I've got to get that prequel out or it will eat me alive. I'm considering prepublishing it on this website and on Wattpad as a way of advertising the other book, so feel free to drop by and check for new chapters. It will basically be my first draft, so anyone reading it will be welcome to leave feedback (as long as it's polite).

You can also read Primogénito: The Fuentes Legacy now on your kindle. It is on sale for only $0.99/£0.99 until December 6.

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