Guest Who? is a feature that Molli at Once Upon A Prologue does monthly. It's a guest post swap between her and other bloggers. She has kindly allowed me to join in on the fun of this feature by having us both write on the topic of Stand Alone novels versus Series novels. If you would be interested in taking part in one of Molli's features, check out this link for details.
It’s no secret I’m a huge book geek; in fact, I’m THAT girl who squees when a package arrives in the mail and it’s a book or books I’ve been anxiously awaiting. I make these embarrassing little flap-y gestures and get ridiculously excited – yes, all over a new book. But in the last year, there’s something different I’ve been craving: more stand-alone books.
Now, that’s not to say that I don’t love a good series. If there’s an amazingly swoon-worthy hero or heroes (especially a tortured hero) and if the plot holds my attention and keeps me guessing, and if the author knows how to play up the suspense and heart-ache in a string of novels, there is (clearly) nothing better than not just one book, but several books about characters I love. If you want to make my fangirl heart pound, give me four or five books with a couple I truly love (think Jamie and Claire from Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series, or Clay and Elena from Kelley Armstrong’s Otherworld series, or the ultimate book pairing, Daemon and Janelle from Anne Bishop’s Black Jewels trilogy) and I am the happiest girl in the world. There’s nothing quite like the high of knowing the new book in the series is out, and that I get to read about the further adventures of the Black Dagger Brotherhood, or the Lords of the Underworld. (Mmmm, Rhage, Tohr, Gideon, and Kane! P.S. If you don’t know those names…you should!)
However, here’s where it all goes bad. Said author starts a series, and gets a few books in; suddenly, the novelty (hahaha) wears off and the author has all these loose ends to tie up before the series ends, or they realize they’ve painted themselves into the proverbial corner. Where my love for series gets a bit sour is when the author does a few things I can’t stand, such as killing off all the best characters (yes, I’ve seen it happen) in order to write a new trilogy, or ending the book sloppily (I’m looking at you, Stephenie Meyer…we still need to talk about Breaking Dawn) by trying to please everyone with a too-neat, too-shiny ending. I want authors who take chances, authors who aren’t afraid to leave an ending open, authors who laugh at the need to keep drawing out a story past its prime.
Victoria Schwab did it in an incredibly spooky and clever way with The Near Witch. Jess Rothenberg gave us an emotional, heart-breaking, laugh-out-loud story of love and life after death with The Catastrophic History of You & Me. Hannah Harrington did it in a soul-healing way with Saving June. Lauren Oliver shattered my heart, and then painstakingly pieced it back together with Before I Fall. Jodi Picoult made me see red, made me cry, made me grieve, and made me FEEL with Mercy. Kate Morton did it in a family-secrets-to-tingle-your-spine way with The Forgotten Garden.
There is no rule that says your book has to have a sequel. However there should be a rule that says your book must have a need FOR a sequel. Authors who write a self-contained story don’t always need to draw out the ending. It’s okay – it can be brave, even – to end it with the end of a single book. It isn’t necessarily always kind or gutsy to write a sequel or sequels. Sometimes it’s just plain silly. A good question to ask yourself is, are you serving your readers by writing a sequel, or are you serving yourself? We all get attached to those characters, but sometimes…the time comes to bid them farewell. Charlaine Harris could spin her Sookie Stackhouse series out forever, yet she’s wisely ending it within the next few years, while there’s still a good level of interest in the series, and stories left to tell. That, to me, is the real test. If you’re reaching blindly to fill the pages, then it’s time to take a step back and re-evaluate.
It’s all up to the individual author, and again, I do love a fabulous series that throws in enough twists and turns to leave me a bit dizzy. I love it when I can’t figure out what an author is up to, and I love spending years reading about my beloved characters. But the saying goes “all good things must come to an end” for a reason, and I’d love to see a few more author try their hands at stand-alones. It gets to be a lot of pressure to finish reading this series and that, when there are new books coming out every month from a dozen new authors I’d love to try…and I think there’s something to be said for leaving something to the imagination, for closing a book and realizing: no, the author didn’t tell you EVERYTHING that happened…but he or she told a damn good story that it’s going to take you awhile to recover from, and they left off in a way that you get to imagine a bit of your own ending. That, to me, is better than any series.
Thank you so much for this great post Molli! You really hit all the best points about the greatness of stand alone novels. What do you guys think? Stand alones versus series? What is your opinion of them?