Write what you love.
But what if you can’t sell what you love—yet? I love series’. Most of what I read simply for pleasure falls under the category of “series.” Same characters (plus or minus a few) working on the same grand problem with some old/new minor problems mixed in to keep them active. I like my stories to be big. Bigger than short stories. Bigger than a single novel. Bigger than a single epic, even. I want big stories that don’t fit into one book.
And that’s what I want to write.
Start with a stand-alone.
Recently I’ve encountered this advice. And I believe it. It’s hard enough to break into traditional publishing, getting a publisher to commit to a series is going to be difficult. While I might want to try the non-traditional route when it comes time to actually publish my first novel, I don’t want to force myself to do so because my first book is one I cannot sell to a traditional publisher.
What to do?
The first novel I ever tried to write was the beginning of a series. It started as a trilogy and has grown (in my head) from there. The first book will have a satisfying arc, but it will not be a complete story. It is not and cannot be a stand-alone novel. The characters’ problems cannot be solved within the length of a single book.
Almost all the books I’ve dreamt of writing have been series’, or—with some re-working—the first book of a serial that could be passed off as a stand-alone. (The difference between a series and a serial is that a series has a BIG story that requires several books to tell, whereas a serial involves the same characters in a different story for each book—mysteries are often serials, whereas fantasies are often series’.) Each time I tried to write a stand-alone, I found the story growing in my mind. It’s hard to resist.
I can’t abandon these ideas, characters, and worlds. Maybe another writer could, but I cannot. They mean too much to me to just let them go. Their stories need to be told. Besides, that kind of passion is good for a storyteller.
But before those stories can be told—at least, before they can reach a broad reading audience—another story has to be told. Finding that story has been difficult.
I think I have at last found a story I find worthy to be told, which can also be told in a single book—more than a short story but less than a series or even a serial.
Perhaps, the characters will have other happenings and other stories after this. But if they do, I cannot see them yet. For the first time I have gotten past the first few chapters in a book, and cannot see a second one, or a third, a fourth…
Now, all I need is to write it. And come up with a title.