1. buster a. jump b
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    buster a. jump b New Member

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    Is a series too much of a bet?

    Discussion in 'Publishing' started by buster a. jump b, Mar 23, 2010.

    Dear writers,
    I'm half way through a manuscript that I intend for teenage fiction. I am writing to ask whether or not I should finish the manuscript in a cliff hanger, and thus lead on to a sequel. I do intend for a series, but I understand that publishers and agents alike feel differently to this idea, mostly opposed to much a submission. I would like some advice on whether I should leave it as it is, or write the remainder so that the plot is self contained and that it would be a stand-alone.
     
  2. pinelopikappa
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    pinelopikappa Senior Member

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    Self contained but with some vague things in the plot that you can use later. Without compromising your current plot. Is that something you can do?

    I am speaking as a reader, nothing to do with publishers.
     
  3. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Your first novel must stand alone. Period. You won't sell a cliffhanger. A publisher has no reason to take it on faith that you will produce a saleable sequel, or indeed any sequel at all.
     
  4. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    In general, it will have to stand alone. There must be a complete story arc in it. That doesn't mean that avenues for future books cannot be a part of the mix, but the reader must come away with a satisfied feeling, that there was some closure.

    Do remember that books in a series are often released 6 months but usually longer (a year or more) apart, even if the writer has another manuscript ready to go.

    Maybe when you're an established writer, it will be different. But then again, established writers, even of fiction, can sometimes get a contract on a short written proposal as opposed to having the full manuscript ready.

    Terry
     
  5. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    ditto all of the above...

    plus, each novel in a series must be able to stand alone, anyway!... if there's no resolution to the current plot at the end, who'd want to read them?... after all, not everyone will be buying them in sequence, will they?...
     
  6. Unit7
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    Unit7 Contributing Member Contributor

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    I have to agree with everyone else. It should be a stand alone book.
     
  7. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Well, there are certainly exceptions to that, but not many. J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings stands out. The three volumes (six books) are a complete story, but the individual volumes or books do not stand alone. Isaac Asimov's Foundation trilogy also seems that way at first glance, but in that case each volume does end with a resolved storyline.

    But an unknown author in today's publishing market stands no chance of selling a novel that ends with a cliffhanger. Even George Lucas had to write his first Star Wars movie to be complete in itself. That turns out to be just as well, as it appears he will never complete his originally planned nine-part saga.
     
  8. Scoody
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    Scoody Member

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    Instead of a cliffhanger, why not create a character that your readers will want to become more familiar with. Mention somethings in passing from there past that can get expanded upon in further books.

    Stephen Hunter does this with his Bob Lee Swagger character in Point of Impact, Dirty White Boys, and Time to Hunt. He would always mention how close Swagger (a USMC Sniper) and his spotter were in Vietnam. So close in fact that Swaggar wound up marrying his friend's widow. Everytime that this character was mentioned it was very poignant and there was always the seed planted that there was more to his death than everyone thought.

    Another thing that was always brought up in the Bob Lee Swagger novels was that Swagger's father was a State Trooper who was murdered during a routine stop. The murder was committed by an escaped convict just a few minutes after a supermarket robbery. These two things were mentioned over and over in several novels until in a brilliant marketting move, Hunter wrote two novels, one for each event and his readers were hungry for them after being teased for years.
     
  9. OPTiiMUM
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    OPTiiMUM Member

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    I think, as it's your first novel, it should be able to stand alone.

    But that does not mean you can't somehow leave it open for a possible sequel, even if it's not obvious like a cliffhanger.
     
  10. MontyJames
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    MontyJames New Member

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    I am currently in the same process. I have almost 70000 words of first manuscript in what I intend to be a series.

    I already have he ending sketched out and drafted (which I tend to do as part of the writing process). I have written it to end within itself but also leave questions unanswered or the possibility of more than one outome for some of the characters.

    I feel this is a good way to go, but wonder how others feel.
     
  11. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    It depends on how key the unanswered questions are to that specific book.

    Each book, especially your first, must stand on its own. The principal plot must be resolved, one way or another, by the book's end. The publisher cannot and will not assume you will deliver on subsequent volumes. You could lose interest, or be incapable of writing another book at the same level of quality, or you could be addicted to playing chicken with commuter trains.

    Or the first book may not interest the pubic enough to justify publishing the subsequent volumes.

    So it's fine to keep yourself open to writing followup volumes, but you're much better off thinking of each book as an independent project.
     
  12. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    it all depends on the novel in question... and without reading yours, no one can really say if you've made it work, or not...
     
  13. buster a. jump b
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    buster a. jump b New Member

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    Thank you for your advice!! I had thought no one answered because I was sure I was watching this thread by e-mail notice, but you have all kindly given me your advice and views! THANK YOU!

    To Scoody, my cliff hanger is in the form you mentioned, my characters mention certain things and people in passing. The cliff hanger is when that these events begin and the people gather. The book ends there.

    To everyone else, I believe it is a stand alone, there isn't a continuation of the plot, there is a defined start and finish for my characters. To sum the cliff hanger up, the people mentioned simply turn up. The continuation is that my characters learn about the new people and a new story goes from there.

    In short, my characters go out beat the villain and come home. Then there is a epilogue where a new villain appears killing one of my characters.

    Would this format be ok?
     
  14. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    i'd strongly advise dumping the epilogue for now... if you're lucky enough to snag a publisher, then see if you'll be allowed to tack on the teaser for a sequel...
     
  15. HeinleinFan
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    HeinleinFan Banned

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    A note of caution: your book must have a main story arch that is resolved during the book. You probably have that, but I'm emphasizing it now because your description -- ending the book when events begin and people gather -- is only a satisfying ending if something else has been answered. It can be, "Will the main character accomplish his difficult goal?" or some variant, but it has to be there.

    For example, if your plot involves getting characters together so that they can work to solve a problem, the climax of the book probably should not be "the last member of the Heroic Companions had arrived." It might be, "Will Thero Braveleggings make it to the Heroic Companions when he is opposed by an assassin and a curse?" at which point the ending would be the defeat of the assassin or the curse or both, and then the Heroic Companions would have gathered - this last being only a side benefit, not the main point of the book.

    Hopefully that made sense. It's just -- well, I've read two self-published books that were pretty good EXCEPT THEY DIDN'T RESOLVE THE MAIN STORYLINE. Grrrrr. And this makes me sad, since F. Allen Farnham's "Angry Ghosts" was actually a really neat book. But the ending was too blatantly a sequel-launcher. So I don't want you to fall into the same trap.
     

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