From a writer’s perspective, both have their advantages and disadvantages.
When writing a series, you can “reuse” the entire world that you’ve created: characters, setting, themes. There’s no need to keep reinventing the wheel. There’s no need to bang your head against cinder block walls trying to describe yet another quirky, but lovable character (or maybe that’s just me?). This appeals to my desire to be efficient.
In a series, you can map out multi-book arcs, both in character development and in plot. If you want to take a character on a long, spiraling soul-sucking journey into the depths of despair, you can do it over the course of several books!
But all’s not rosy when it comes to writing a series. You can’t kill main characters. And you’re stuck with the characters you’ve created, so if you’ve made a questionable decision (or three) along the way, you have to live with it.
As a writer, it can be a challenge to keep coming up with believable/interesting stories without getting stale. And I suppose it’s possible that at some point, you might get bored writing about the same cast of characters living in the same place year after year after year (although I wouldn’t know for sure—the farthest I got in any series was Book Two!).
Of course, the advantages and disadvantages of writing a standalone are pretty much the opposite of those above.
So, which is my preference, as a writer?
I’m going to take the
wimpy easy way out and say, “It depends.”
It depends on the idea I’m planning to work on. Some ideas don’t lend themselves to a series, while others are ideal for a series. Of the seven books I’ve published, five have been standalones and two were part of a series. Of the last three manuscripts I’ve written (and not yet sold), two are first books in a series and one is a standalone.
As a reader, my answer is a little different. Although I’ll read anything that’s a good story, I probably have a slight preference in reading a series, because then I know I’ll have more books featuring characters that I enjoy spending time with.
How about you, readers? What’s your favorite mystery/thriller series?