Making a series into stand alone.

by Emilio

Hey there!

As I was reading through the articles and questions on this site to help with my own progress as a complete newbie, I stumbled across something that was a bit concerning to me and my writings.
I should start by saying that my first intention was an anime. So I wrote, a lot, and ended up with 25 or so scripts that I decided to turn into a novelization instead. My goal was to make a Light Novel or an equivalent, but in doing so I realized that it would, almost certainly, be a Multi-Volume series. Out of the 25 scripts (which isn't even the full story.), I only used 3.5 for the for my first manuscript with a word count of +50,000.
So, how could I still tell my full story that was designed to be Multi-volume in a more "Harry Potter" fashion? A standalone with more an overarching plot?
And yes, it is a fantasy!

Answer: If you designed your series to have an overreaching arc, rather than be purely episodic, your job will be a little easier.

Here are some useful techniques...

1. Develop an outline that summarizes your intended story.

Make sure the outline includes the major turning points (drivers) and what's happening in each of the four acts -- so you get a sense of the dramatic shape of the story.

Just as important, include the subjective arcs, which include that of the main character's inner conflict, the impact character, and the major relationship. These articles may help...

2. Turn sequences into scenes.

All events in a story follow a certain 4-part arc...

setup --> complication --> crisis --> resolution

This is true whether the event is a single scene, a sequence, a novel, or a series.

When you are condensing, you want to look for sequences (changes told through a series of scenes) and see if you can replace them with single scenes that do the same job in less space.

For instance, if you wanted to show a marriage breakup, you could have a scene that shows the potential for problems (a domestic squabble), another
scene that shows the problems manifesting (maybe someone begins an affair), a third scene where a decisive event occurs (perhaps the affair is discovered), and a fourth scene that shows how things stand in the end (divorce).

Or you could just have one scene, that does it all. For instance, you could have a meeting between someone and their lover. Begin with the person talking about their marital troubles, followed by steamy sex, in the middle of which the person's spouse arrives, who then presents the person with divorce papers.

One scene thus shows the complete arc -- the change in the relationship -- but in less space. This technique is often more effective than just cutting, because it doesn't leave plot holes.

Do this for as many sequences as you need in order to reduce the size of the story without compromising the dramatic tension.

3. Cut unnecessary scenes/arcs.

Maybe you have some subplots that you don't need to tell the big story. Maybe you have episodes involving minor characters that can be left out. This material isn't wasted, because it helped you get to know your characters, but the reader of the standalone doesn't need to know it.

4. Consider the trilogy option.

Maybe you don't have to finish the story in one book. Publishers do like trilogies because it helps them sell more books.

It is important that the first book be a satisfying and complete story, so that readers don't feel you've left them hanging. But at the same time, you could make the first book the start of a bigger story (like Harry Potter).

Think about how Rowling makes the first Harry Potter book the complete story of Voldemort's attempt to obtain the Philosopher's stone. That story is complete. It ends in failure for Voldemort. Yet she also raises questions that are unsolved -- including the possibility that Voldemort will return and that there will be an ultimate showdown between him and Harry.

In other words, the first book can be the first act of a bigger story, the resolution of which sets the stage for the next act.

Best of luck.

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