I’ve waxed poetic before about how much I love series. So I’m not going to do it again. Other then to say, yet again, I love them with the fiery passion of a thousand suns.
The Something books were the first series I ever wrote. Not the first I conceived of, sure, but the first that actually made it onto the page. To be honest, I’m sort of surprised I managed to get the second one written, let alone this fourth one.
The way I see it, there are three kinds of series. I’m speaking in broad, general terms here.
The first is the direct sequel series. The stories that follow a particular couple/person as they navigate life and the obstacles in it. There’s a overarching metaplot that spans all the books, but each adventure is tied up, at least mostly, within one book. These stories don’t work as standalones; you have to read the series in order if you want to have all the pieces.
Then we have what I’m calling linked series. I’ve heard the term spin off used for this one, but I’m going to classify that as something else. What I’m talking about here is (and I’m going to relate this one directly to romance) are books in which a new couple gets their story. These stories are linked by the world, and often they have a group of some sort (family, friends, comrades in arms) all finding their relationships. Characters are introduced in previous books, and as the series progresses, there are cameos from the previous couples. These books often worked best when read in order, as there’s sort of a build up as each new person finds their love. There’s a history there that works better, usually, when it’s read in order. So while these books are often billed as standalones, they aren’t entirely. This is where I classify the Something books. Yes, they can be read on their own. And I worked hard to make sure all the pertinent information is in every book so that the reader has everything they need. But truth of the matter is, it works better, there’s a better build up, if you read them in order. (Incidentally, this might be my favorite kind of series. I love watching these sort of stories unfold)
And then there are spin offs, or what I’m calling spin offs, and here’s what I mean by that. These are books/stories that are only tangentially linked. As in it’s the same world, maybe, or there’s a connecting theme. The characters from book to book don’t know each other, or maybe it’s only in passing. Maybe there’s a mention of a character that, if you’ve read the previous books, you know who it is, but you don’t have to know in order for the story to work. So there’s a common thread, but they work completely as standalone stories.
Where I’m going next with my next series is somewhere between options two and three. These stories will have cameos, yes. But they are linked by world (they take place in the same city) and work as standalones. You won’t have to read one to understand the next fully (though of course, I’d hope you would read them!) The first two are a little more closely linked, but my goal is that they work entirely on their own. That’s what I’m hoping for anyway. So while it’s characters we’ve seen before, ish, the story is completely contained, and now prior knowledge is needed.