The act of writing may be a masturbatory experience (or so I’ve heard it said), so introducing a reader into the mix makes the reading experience analagous to sex, right? If you’re the reader, the question becomes: do you prefer to get your thrills in a one-night stand or in a relationship?
Assuming everyone involved is reasonably sane (people have no idea how hard it is to find a mentally healthy, stable writer), both have benefits and both have liabilities. Standalones don’t require a lot of time; series offer stability in your reading life. Standalones are cheaper, series cost more if you’re willing and want to make the commitment. Standalones don’t require any care. If you invest in a series, you make sure the bookshelf is dusted.
I think a well-read life contains both. If I had to choose one type, though, I prefer series.
Don’t get me wrong–standalones can be extremely entertaining, because you have no idea what to expect. You pays your money, you takes your chances. When you settle in for an entertaining time, all bets are off.
A hot cover catches your eye,
you open it up enough to read a few witty lines of dialogue, you pick it up and take it home for a good time. If you feel a connection, maybe you’ll enjoy it enough to keep it around a while, until you get through the whole story. Maybe you won’t care enough about it. Maybe it won’t hold your attention. Maybe it bores you, or another hot cover catches your eye in a bookstore, and so you leave your first standalone to, uh, stand alone in a coffee shop, or on the subway (if you’re that kind of person).
On the other hand, with a series you’ll get a lot more character.
You’ll get to know everything about it, everything between its covers. You’ll be interested in almost everything it says. You’ll look forward to the time you spend with it, whatever moments you can steal to be together. Over time you’ll see changes, but the series will have certain fixed qualities that will bring you back for more. You’ll appreciate a hot cover but it won’t be the first thing that catches your eye. What will bring you back for more is inside, the characters and their responses you’ve come to love. It won’t matter how heavy the books get, how old and worn their covers become from constant touching. When you find a series you love, you stick with it.
The problem with some series is they end without your consent, or sometimes even your knowledge. It’s hard to say good-bye to them, so much so for some people that they try to keep it alive with conventions, websites and *gasp* fan-fic. (Never the same when you have to fulfill both sides of the relationship). Fortunately, there are good series everywhere, if you look. Or, conversely, you might find a standalone with a terrific character, but the character is new just once, and never changes or grows or develops further. You can only get so much from them, and nothing more. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, if you find enough of them. Standalones don’t care.
So what do you do to create and maintain a good reading life? You just have to keep looking until you find what’s right for you. Maybe you’ll hit the jackpot–hot covers, great characters, intriguing stories that have depth and meaning that you can’t wait to be with. That’s not so hard to find, is it?
Until next time (which will be timlier, I swear).