Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Series...



Yesterday I wrote a synopsis for book two in my planned series. It was such a different experience, writing down what I plan to happen to these characters I already know and love. I didn’t feel the same kind of fresh creative energy I do when I start a new book, but it was a different kind of energy… one that actually excited me more, because when you already have the foundation built with where these characters have been and where you want them to go, you have a little more freedom to stretch their story in a believable way. If that makes sense.

I didn’t think I’d ever write a series. Because it seems like some people write a series for the sake of well, writing a series. But I get it now. Some stories just need more time to be told. With my first book, (I think I’ve said before) I really did jam three books into one—so the reader wasn’t able to feel and experience the story—they were just being whipped around on a wild ride. Characters need the appropriate time to learn, grow. And sometimes all you need is one book.

This year at the SCBWI conference in LA, Sara Shepard (Pretty Little Liars) spoke on having a successful series. It was fascinating to hear how what was originally a 4-6 book story has now turned into a 14 book saga. It’s incredible! One of the things she said that stuck out to me was “Leave a bit to chance.”

This thought resonated well because I’m such a pantser. Plotting for me takes a bit of the magic out of the process. It’s the white blank page and the unknown that stirs me to write. But when writing a series, you can’t just go blindly. You’ve got to know at least the major plot points so you can add each layer and create the puzzle that needs to unfold. But knowing that I have the freedom of leaving a bit to chance keeps the excitement there.

What about you? Have you written a series? Any tips? Or on the other side of the page, do you enjoy reading a series?

I know for me, I LOVE to be immersed in a story that doesn’t end after book one. When I fall in love with a world, I want to stay there for a while. But it does seem difficult to keep up the hype and make each book better than the next.

Books that have done this for me are the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon (It’s adult, but I love it) and Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead (YA—and these books just get better with each book!) Any series you recommend?

Red. Head. Out. :D 

61 comments:

  1. I've written two books in a series and am writing the third. I love to read series. That being said, I can get tired to a series at aome point as a reader. I think some series are far too long for the growth of the characters.

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  2. I've never actually written the second book, but I have written some first books that I've left open :) I don't want to waste too much time in writing a second if I don't think the first will sell, if that makes sense...

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  3. I prefer reading series, because I like really getting to know characters and their world, and sometimes you don't get too close to them just in one book. Although I agree with you in the sense that some series are written that don't necessarily need to be a series.

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  4. I've never written anything other than series'. When my Camelot trilogy is finally done, I will be in mourning.

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  5. Morgan, it was you who encouraged ME to write a series LOL! :p I like writing them, though. It gives me more time to explore the characters and their stories. I like reading them too. :)

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  6. I haven't done any series stories, and I don't read many either. I have some adult contemporary (temporarily shelved) and they are connected with characters, but each story has a different mc who shows up in the others. But they are all stand alone and could be read in any order.

    Just haven't had any ideas for a series yet.

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  7. I wrote one, but it was never planned. I had one book in me. Fans wanted more. (Darn those demanding fans!) I think there's two ways to approach it - like LOTR, where it's one, big story told over several books, or a series of individual books that follow the main characters.
    Obviously, mine is the latter!
    How to write a series? No idea. I just kept jumping ahead twenty years in Byron's life and throwing new stuff at him.

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  8. I don't like a cliffhanger at the end of the book. One I'm reading or writing. I tend to like companion books more, where I can still be with the same world/characters that I love, but not be left hanging wondering what's gonna happen next. I guess that's why I like movies over TV shows.

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  9. That's a toughie! I love a good stand alone book- there is something fantastic with a whole world in between two covers.
    That said- there's nothing better than a good series to chomp your way through.
    Mmm. Not sure either one is better than the other- once it's a superb story with loveable characters, it really doesn't matter anymore.
    Thanks for sharing, Morgan!

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  10. I have a tendency to think in Series. mostly because i have so many stories to tell that there is no why I could tell them all in a single volume. I'm very interested in Serialized Novels and Large series. that is what I grew up reading and I'm tempted to try my hand at such things.

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  11. I like viewing a series--for the characters--as I do each new day: An opportunity to make new choices, to change what people know about me, and what I know about myself. The biggest struggle seems to be keeping things fresh, and to evolve the characters in a natural way. So that's my trick. Don't necessarily think about how XYZ would react in book one, let them make decisions on their own, and that will ultimately lead to an exciting writing and reading experience.

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  12. Series are HARD. I'm tweaking book two of one now, and have another one planned. First book is written and with the light sketching of book 2 and 3 I figure they'l be about 20K each, lol. So, yeah. HARD.

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  13. My friend attended a class at Storymakers about writing a series, and she told me the instructor said to keep what worked in the first book and expand on it. So when your CP's beta read for you, have them tell you what they liked about your first book and what they want to see in book two. This will give you an idea of what the reader expects of your world, what they HAVE to see again.

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  14. I'm a really big fan of series, personally. My current WiP is the first in a planned series. It makes me nervous thinking about querying the first book in a series, but it's just so hard to tell the story in only one book. I'm not sure how I missed that you had an agent. When did that happen?! That's awesome. :)

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  15. I have a trilogy. That energy you spoke of, I know just what you mean. I think this is why lots of new writers finish the first book and start a sequel because they know the characters and setting so well. That was my story. It wasn't until I started making other characters and places when the writing improved, but that's me. :)

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  16. I love series! So far I've written a sequel (novella-length) to a novelette and a trilogy of novelettes/novellas that were individual stories but interconnected. It's fun to play around in the same/similar world previously created. Of course, some ways it is harder too. But when you get attached to characters, you just don't want to let them go quite so easily.

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  17. What you are describing is exactly why the second movie in a comic book "series" is better than the first. It's because in the first movie (or book in your case) you have to set up everything. To use an example: the audience needs to know where all of Peter Parker's powers come from and that takes time.

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  18. When I started my current WIP I said it would be a one shot and my sister laughed at me. Turns out she was right. The idea quickly expanded to a trilogy and I'm in the process of trying to whittle down book one to a reasonable size. I think when you like an idea it needs time and space to grow. So I'd have to say that in both reading and writing I lean towards series.

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  19. I love series (I recommend the Vorkosigan series by Bujold by the way), and I love writing them...when they should be a series. Some stories need more room to breath. Some stories should be kept to one shining shot in the dark. It's like trying to imagine a sequel to The Usual Suspects. Yeah, I don't think that would work out.

    As for me, I'm kneed deep in rewriting a series that didn't get the kind of love I'd hoped it would, and it really is different.

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  20. I like the beginning of a series, but I usually lose interest after a few books. I have never written a series - until now. It will be a short series of three books, and I'm on the first book. I have the overall idea for the second book, and the ending for the third. And I know the character arc for the series. You're so right about it being different.

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  21. I'm a huge Outlander fan! I also like the Vorkosigan series mentioned by Rena above (at least the first two books, that's all I've read)

    The book I'm shopping around was initially written as a stand alone but I realized there was more to it so it's now the first in a trilogy. That is, it will be if I can sell it. I'm half way through the first draft of book two and book three is notes and a few scenes. I'm working on something different while querying though, just to clear my head a bit.

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  22. Great thoughts, Morgan. I thought I would write a series a couple of years ago. But when book one didn't interest an agent, I lost my enthusiam for the series. :(

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  23. Hey,

    So glad that you're happy and excited to be working on book Two :)

    I think I would *love* to dabble in a series, but need to finish WIP #1 first :)

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  24. For some writers, writing a series is a business. For me, its about what inspires me like characters for example. At times a secondary character can make a presence that they demand their own story. You know what I mean?

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  25. Series are great... as long as they don't overstay their welcome. Sometimes that means three books, sometimes twelve. Just depends on the story. A suggestion: if you love discovery writing you can write a series where each book is an episode, rather than one part in a bigger story. Each book can be a new thing, though the characters remain more the same. Works great for detective novels. Some of my favorite series: The First Law, by Joe Abercrombie, The Saxon Stories, by Bernard Cornwell, The Tales of Alvin Maker, by Orson Scott Card.

    Great post!

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  26. It takes me awhile to read a series. I really have to delve myself into any book I read. I still gotta read The Hunger Games series! I rather watch a film series than read a book series. It's easier to follow with films :)

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  27. I know how you feel. I'm writing book two in my series right now, and whew! What a rollercoaster. ;)

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  28. Man-oh-man I am excited for you! Series are a lot of fun... I fall in love with my characters and I love the idea of holding on to them for a while :) You go girl :)

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  29. I prefer to read series because, like you said, once I fall in love with a world and its characters, I don't want to leave. I think that's why I naturally want to write series versus stand-alone novels. I'm getting ready to start prepping for book 2 of my series, and I'm SO glad I get more time with my characters. Like you also said, it has a different energy, but I'm almost more excited in a way because I KNOW my characters now and feel more connected than I did from the beginning. Best of luck to you as you write your series!

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  30. I'm working on a series too and the only tip I have is...At least know the big stuff. Everything else will work out :)

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  31. I have a series of six books (four finished) that has now turned into nine. Maybe. Every book stands alone, but they're about the same characters.

    A few days ago I started another in the same series (dealing with a couple of peripheral characters) and like you said it's a different energy. I already know these people, I have some idea of where they came from so the framework is more constrained. At the same time, I'm excited to be with them again and find out where their story ends. Or doesn't, as the case may be.

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  32. Haha, sorry Morgan, but I think some people don't just write a series for the sake of writing a series! Not J.K.Rowling, anyway :D

    Getting serious, yes, I'm currently reading a series, although a classic one: it's In Search of Lost Time.
    It's quite engaging, but I love it. I keep finding myself in it.

    I've always wondered if there's a required length for a good book synopsis...

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  33. I'm sure it's very difficult to write a series, but if your characters are strong enough it's nice to find out what happens next! Good luck Morgan! Julie

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  34. I'm currently working on my first ready to be (self) publish series called The Sacrifice Series for 2013. In each novella the story starts with a character who is in a situation where he or she will be sacrficed. Their decision to stay or run propells each book along. Series are great but I have a special love for stand alones. I've even decided to make my novella series Nevermore an epci four part stand alone. Haven't made it official yet but I decided at the beginning of the week that it was too big to be a novella and also that I didn't want to make it into more than one novel. I'm a pantser too but I definitely need to plan out this novel (which will probably be completed and polished in year 2016...yikes). Also I'm printing outline instructions and so on for Nanowrimo next month. I'm determined to complete my novel this year. And I'm keeping that story underwraps until mid-november. Ooooh.

    Tips for series? I have two. 1. Write about something you can keep yourself interested in for more than five minutes. If dolphins make you fall asleep. Do not do a series about dolphins.
    Second tip, Check what's out there so you can pick an appropriate name for your book. I didn't do that in the past but now I find it a valuable tool. It won't necessarily change the name of your book, but it gives you some ideas. For me I plan to avoid writing books with the words Fire, Water or Stone in the title for starters. I just think those words are too over used. A word that I don't think ever gets old though is Bone. It just has that eerie feeling in it that just can't be diluted.

    Hope my tips help.

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  35. A planned series would be a lot of planning. I sort of "fell" into a series. I wrote "Past Due" and the hero had two brothers. When I finished the first brother's happily ever after; the second brother said, "Hey, what about my side of the story? I'm not the total tool you just made me out to be in book one." So, Craig got to tell his story. Then the youngest brother was screaming in my head..."Hey, I'm not chopped liver- what about me?!" Now I'm crafting his tale.

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  36. Hi, Morg,

    Fantastic.... A series?!!! AWESOME. I can't begin to tell you how excited I am for your new prospects and projects.

    I love series books for the same reason you do. IF I fall in love with a world or characters, I want MORE, MORE, MORE!

    My first novel was created as a series of five books. The first is in revision and I had started the second a few years ago, but another book called for me to write and I put the series aside for a while. I am looking forward to picking it back up again. It's time for a bit of magic, and this series features elemental magic.

    I've been INSANE ... I'll send you an email shortly and what's up in my roller coaster world.

    Go with your magical flow. Pantst away sweets.... You need that magic. Get it all down. Then you can go back a trim if need be, but you DON'T want to lose that pantster magic, it's who you are and that's what makes you the OUTRAGEOUSLY AWESOME person/writer/WONDER WOMAN ... you are.

    Sending MAJOR, positive vibes your way, and I'll be waiting to read the magic....

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  37. I love reading series! And congrats on starting one. :)

    They definitely come with their own set of challenges completely unique to second books! But they also lack some of the challenges of first books, so I guess it's a good trade off. :)

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  38. Ok, so I'm going to be utterly useless here because even though I'm writing a series, I've only just finished my second draft of book one and am now debating if/should I dive into book two. So unfortunately, I've got no nuggets of advice, or useful tips. I'm thinking I should try and do something outside my nature and do a rough outline...though I always say that but never actually do it...my panster side is too strong. LOL (; I don't mind reading series, but I also enjoy closing the book on a good story at The End. Good luck with your writing Morgan! :D

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  39. I planned my current WIP to be the first in a series and wrote the ending that way. But the next story fighting for my attention isn't that series number two, it's a whole new cast of characters in a different place and time. Not sure what I'm going to do about that.

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  40. you know, just like life, te story never really ends, characters live on, even if not the main one, spin offs are options too! go wild!

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  41. Love this post, Morgan--I totally relate to it. I'm the same way; I'm kind of a plotting pantser, if that makes sense. What you said about plotting taking away some of the magic of it is so true. I've had to find a balance, because some things (especially series!) have to be plotted at least somewhat, but I still want to leave room for the characters to take over and do crazy, unexpected things. It's part of the excitement of writing for me.

    My co-author and I have a series we're still working on. It actually was going to be twelve books, but we're taking it down to seven books now. After we started working on that, I didn't want to take on any more series--one was enough! My most recent books, Rising 1 and Rising 2, were supposed to only be one book, but then the story got to long, and when I was about 100,000 words in, I realized it needed to become two books.

    I really love some series. As I've gotten older, I tend to prefer to read series that are already finished, but if I really love a book, I'll take a chance on one at a time. ;)

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  42. Great job here, Morgan. You just have to be careful when writing a series and letting it grow and that you don't lose control. As much as I love the Wheel of Time series, Robert Jordan really lost control in the middle. He should have reined it in and tightened things up, and the series would have been better for it.

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  43. I admire anyone who can pull off a series well. That's a lot of work, but I imagine how the writer, as well as the reader, would not want to leave a world they're in love with. I didn't think I'd ever write a series, but towards the end of the WIP I'm editing, it occurred to me I'll probably need another book to really resolve the story. I'm not in a rush though, I really want to do something else!

    Um... that makes me sound like I don't like my book! I do, but I like to do different things. I wonder how many series were originally meant to be one book?

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  44. Harry Potter has to be the most carefully plotted series ever; 7 books long, and a detail like a broken nose in book one explained in the 7th, and so much more.

    I've learned from this and I have so carefully plotted out everything, basically, for my 2nd book in my 2-book series. This way I can set everything up in the first and then it won't be so out of the blue, and I won't get stuck in a corner.

    It's fun plotting :) I need to plot.

    Thank ou for this post!

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  45. I've pretty much always written series books, since series were so popular when I was young. By the time I found out writers aren't encouraged to write their own series or conceive of a project as a long series from the jump, I'd been with my people and their worlds too long to accept that "advice." I'd keep writing their stories even if I never were published.

    I have three series with my Atlantic City people (a fourth I decided to permanently shelve). The first consists of four short introductory books, one was originally planned with 33 books but now has 40 books in the outline, and the other, my handwritten magnum opus, will eventually have 12 volumes and is more like a family saga than a bunch of interlocking series books like the others. The books in my Russian family saga are getting longer and longer, though at 13, I certainly never envisioned I'd write more than one book with these people or that the first would turn into such a multi-layered saga.

    In spite of my issues with it, I have to admit that one of my favorite series is Margaret Sidney's FIve Little Peppers series, which initially had 4 books but grew to 12 (I think) on demands from her legions of fans. The series came to include so-called "midquels" and a bunch of supplementary books not really related to the timeline of the core books. It's an interesting look at the late 19th century and class differences.

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  46. My first story ended as a duet. (I guess that's what you call two books.) But I couldn't stretch it to a third. Well, I could've, but it would have had to be with different main characters.

    My HR is a standalone. Not sure about my dystopian. It's still too early to tell.

    With my sequel, the problem I had was deciding how much reminders to throw in. I mean, it was the same main characters--a continuation of the story. What if someone picked up that book first?

    Another thing I have to watch is revisions of the first after writing the second. The characters have grow. I have to be careful to backtrack in my mind or I'll write them all wrong in the earlier book.

    Anyhow, great post! :)

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  47. Awesome, Morgs. Wishing you lots and lots of luck. You are Morgan Shamy, though, so you can do anything you put your mind to.
    The second book I've written I plan to have it be a series. Maybe just two books but I'll have to see what happens.
    I love me a good series that's for sure!

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  48. I'm writing a series. The weird part? After the first book got picked up by my publisher and they said they'd like to publish the whole series I had to figure out what was going to happen in the rest of the series! I'm a panster all the way. I love to figure out what is going to happen when my characters do :) But with a series you can't. I knew where i wanted my series to end up, a few points in the middle but I really had no idea.

    So I had to outline *gasp*. So, for now, I've got an idea where the final three books are going to go. I'm sure it will change one bullet point in ;)

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  49. The WIP I'm working on now is intended to become more than one book. I'm thinking duology, not series or the ever popular trilogy (though I did consider the trilogy - I think the story can be told in two books, though). I can't wait to get around to mapping out book two! How exciting!

    Shannon at The Warrior Muse

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  50. I prefer reading a series because if I like the world I always want more. A cliffhanger is just the chocolate chunk cookie that promises more.

    Great post!

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  51. I love reading a series that has a planned story arc. It's nice when the story doesn't end in one book--although then there is always the danger that the next books won't be as good as the first one!

    Allison (Geek Banter)

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  52. I love VA!!!! Dimitri is swoon worthy, as is Adrian. :D

    I planned a series when I first started writing, back when I was writing YA fantasy. Now I prefer to read and write stand alones. I don't mind books in a series (unless it's a never ending series), but I prefer to know it will be one before I read the first book. Nothing worse than getting to the end and having to wait a year to find out what happens next. By then, I've forgotten what happened in the previous book.

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  53. Series are fun to write. You get to know and your characters and help them to grow during the time period you work into the books! Have fun!

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  54. Morgan, I LOVE reading series books :) Back in the ol' Virginia Andrews days (when they called them Sagas haha) I couldn't get enough of them. I'm in utter awe of the 14 book series, though, that's amazing. I'm like you, a complete plotter. I'll have to give this "chance" a bit of consideration...

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  55. I love a series that ends around 4 or 5 books. The ones that go longer, sometimes tend to just get boring. There are a few exceptions, of course, but overall, I like a 3 book story. Which is why I knew that this was wanted I wanted to write. Now to figure out how...*wink*

    Happy Writing, my friend.

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  56. I have a love hate relationship with series. While I love to get hooked on a new series and get totally lost within their world I also enjoy reading a book where I get a neat little ending without having to worry about cliffhangers or sequels.

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  57. I prefer writing standalones, but I've tried my hand in series.

    I had no idea PLL has 14 books!

    Usually I'll read the first three books of a series. If I absolutely love it I'll keep reading.

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  58. I love reading series where we get to revisit characters from prior books and get to know how they are faring!

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  59. Ooh I remember Sara's talk! I think most of the stories I've written are all intended to become a series. Maybe it's because I have way too many ideas for one book. Sara's right though. It's good to outline, but also to leave things to chance.

    Nutschell
    www.thewritingnut.com

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  60. I thought I was going to be a standalone kinda author too...until my story just kept growing. Despite that, I'm trying another genre (YA paranormal) with another writer, and that project is a standalone. Very two different kinds of thought processes going into each kind of book.

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