Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Standalones vs. series

Recently I've had a couple of people ask me: Which is more difficult to write? Six standalone novels or a six-book series?

To be honest, I've only written one standalone novel in my life (a horror story back in the early 1980s that wasn't published), so I'm not the best person to ask. But it seems to me there are two ways to look at it.

When you write a standalone novel, you have to create its own world and its own peculiar set of characters, so doing so six times would seem more difficult that doing it one time for a series. In other words, once your world and characters are created in a series, then all you have to is riff off them like Carlos Santana (okay, so I like Santana). You're using the same world in Book Six that you used in Book One. This argument would indicate that writing a series is easier than the standalones.

There is, however, at least one way I can think of that a series is more difficult. The need to finish things is inherent in the human species. We don't sweep one corner of the kitchen floor and then stop. We sweep it all, and then mop it, and then dry it, and then put everything back in its place. When you're 250 pages or so into a standalone, the light at the end of the tunnel already is in sight. But when you're 250 pages into a series that will surpass 2,500, well ... you get the picture.

Currently, I'm revising Book 5 of the series. Though I continue to adore my story and characters, there's a part of me that's saying, "Man, just how long is this frickin' tunnel?!"

Anyone care to riff off this one?

Also, please check out my online interview at Thanks again, Allie! It's a great service you're providing for other writers.


Allie Boniface said...

It's a great interview, Jim. Thanks again for taking the time to do it!

Jim Melvin said...

It was my pleasure! And thank you again for doing it.

Karen L. Alaniz said...

I just got back from a writer's conference and your post made me think of something semi-related. Writing a series, whether it's novels or non-fiction books, is much easier and more effective to market than stand-alones.

-Karen L. Alaniz

Jim Melvin said...


I'm glad to hear that!


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About Me

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Clemson, SC, United States
I was born in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., but grew up in St. Petersburg, Fla. I graduated from the University of South Florida (Tampa) in 1979 with a B.A. in Journalism. I now live in South Carolina near the Blue Ridge Mountains, a pleasant setting for writing, to say the least. I was an award-winning journalist at the St. Petersburg Times for twenty-five years and I currently work at the Charlotte Observer. I am married with five daughters.

The author

The author
Jim Melvin, a veteran journalist, debuts as novelist.