I have a database of story ideas that I keep adding to each time I'm struck with a new idea. I started it about 12 years ago and it has grown to about 90 story ideas now. I probably won't write all of them, but it is fun to read through it every now and then and remember stories I came up with years ago.
These stories re-enter my mind all the time, they come back into the forefront and dance around for a while, sometimes spawning brand new book ideas. The old ideas gets developed during this process and I add more details to my database. My one sentence premise turns into paragraphs of dialogue or descriptions of a few clear scenes in my mind.
I am so glad I started doing this, because as my writing has evolved I've been able to link my stories. Rather than having a database of 90 separate story ideas I'm beginning to see ties....and I'm loving it. You see, I get a little bored writing the same thing all the time. I like variety, so that's why I have so many stand alone stories floating around in my head, but I've quickly concluded that ties can be made between these books and I think that's pretty cool.
As a reader, I love seeing old favorites pop back into stories. One of my favorite series of all time for that is The Chesapeake Bay Series by Nora Roberts. Four novels each following one of the four main characters, in a sense they can stand alone, but reading them together gives you this amazing world and lets you see the characters you loved from the first book grow and change in the background throughout the rest of the series.
I've really taken this concept on board and through this thinking have decided to develop a series of stand alone novels that will all make sense individually, but will also let you see the characters from previous stories having a background role. I've entitled it the Songbird Series. The first book, Fever (due for release in June 2014), I've had planned for a long time now. Originally I was just going to make it a stand alone novel, but then I went back through my book database and I found 9 other stories that all had a musical thread running through them and it sparked an idea. What if I created a series and linked all these stand alone novels together. I could give each book a soundtrack! I jotted down all the stories I thought would fit and easily found links and connections and so a one book novel has now turned into a 10 book series with the possibility of two novellas to go with it. I am so super pumped about this idea and I can't wait to start putting it together. I plan to release 2-3 Songbird books a year, so this is a really long term project, but it's going to be so fun to work on.
As a reader, do you prefer reading series or stand alone novels?
As a writer, do you think it's better to produce series or stand alone novels?