Thursday, September 30, 2010

Letting Go

When you're a series writer, the two words you never want to see are The End. Although like any novelist you finish every series book you write, by the time you type the last paragraph of one story you're already thinking ahead and planning the next. Until you reach the finale, the last book in the series, and you know there won't be anymore. Then you spend a lot of time second-guessing yourself (Maybe I could do a Next Generation series?) or sulking (it's not fair. I never got the chance to write Book X, Y or Z.)

You may get the writer version of series separation anxiety. You ask yourself Was it really worth it? a couple thousand times. You probably spend a few hours digging through old boxes of series memorabilia: the letter from the Big Name who thought your first novel was dazzling and gave you The Blurb to End All Blurbs; the first glowing fan letter; the dried flower you saved from the big bouquet your spouse brought to your first booksigning, that non-hatchet review published in the glossy publishing trade (then you re-read the hatchet jobs that promised your series would tank by book three, and yeah, you glance at your ten-novel series and smirk a little.)

At some point during this resentful, teary-eyed self-pity fest, you know you have to begin the process that will allow you to let go and move on. Because if you don't you will never write anything else, or you'll quit Publishing, or you'll spend the rest of your years doing something else while trying to forget what was or wallowing in tragic seclusion over what might have been and blaming everyone but yourself for it.

I've ended enough novel series now that I feel like I should know every inch of this particular emotional rollercoaster. I ought to; I've already built and ridden it six times (it seems weirdly appropriate that StarDoc would be the seventh series I've ended or had to end.) I'm fortunate in that I have other, ongoing series to write and keep me productive, and a couple of new prospects that are starting to look pretty solid. It still hurts to let go, but it's the only way to move forward.

In the end, nothing should get between you and the writing. Not even the writing.

15 comments:

  1. Sigh. I'm still not quite adjusted to this, but Dream Called Time was such a fitting, beautiful end-I loved it.

    And damn it, I want to know more about these other projects.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Letting go gracefully is a wonderful thing. I look forward to what you write next!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Right. *cracks knuckles* I was going over my To Write list yesterday and I think I can shovel through a lot of it by the end of this year if I get cracking.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I feel sad for you, but hopeful as well. I just started your Star Doc series because I knew you were going to be ending it soon and I wanted to have all the books so I could read them together. I know I'm going to be sad to say good-bye at the end.

    I'm curious, which other series have you have ended/had to end. I know the Darkyn series is one of the seven, but I can't tell from your backlist what the other 5 are.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I'm about to make my first attempt at breaking into the fiction market, so I know I'm a ways away from worrying about ending a series. But how do you know when to end one?

    Is it something you just know? Is it something your publisher pushes for? I don't want to be one of these authors that keeps beating a series to death when all my readers wish I'd move onto something else. I also don't want to kill a series and inspire a reader mutiny! :)

    Any advice?

    (Love your blog by the way. Just discovered it the other day.)

    ReplyDelete
  6. Amber from TN12:26 AM

    I'm in an upper-level creative writing class at my college. We've been talking lately about writing gay characters in our stories. I remembered the steamy M/M scene you wrote in one of the Darkyn books, but could you remind me which one? I definitely want to use it as an example!

    ReplyDelete
  7. Naomi wrote: I'm curious, which other series have you have ended/had to end. I know the Darkyn series is one of the seven, but I can't tell from your backlist what the other 5 are.

    Let's see: I wrote one romantic suspense series as Gena Hale and two as Jessica Hall; the last two JH books were an unfinished trilogy. Bio Rescue and Afterburn were an unfinished trilogy, but thanks to a shared plotline and universe I was able to relocate most of book three into Crystal Healer, book nine of the StarDoc series. My Guideposts novels were part of a multi-author series, and I wrote a historical trilogy (not listed on my bibliography because I was contracted as a writer-for-hire for that project.)

    ReplyDelete
  8. Lindsey wrote: But how do you know when to end one? Is it something you just know?

    If you have a series plan worked out before you begin writing the series, you can map out how many books you'd like to write for it. My White Tiger romance series was never meant to be more than a trilogy, and that's one of the few that has gone according to plan. StarDoc was designed as an open-ended series, with brief outlines for fifteen novels and a number of story lines I could have developed into more (I published ten.) Blade Dancer was originally pitched as an eight-book series (I only published the first book in that one.)

    Another open-ended series was Darkyn; I had no definite number of books in mind when I began writing it and instead let it develop more organically as a character-driven series. Because the publisher gave me only one book's notice to wrap it up, I won't be doing that again.

    Is it something your publisher pushes for?

    All publishers care about is money. If your series is profitable for them, they will push you very hard to write it for as long as the money lasts (and will be very resistant to new ideas, too.) If your series plateaus or loses money for them, and/or they think you can make more sales with a new idea, they will shut it down in a heartbeat.

    I don't want to be one of these authors that keeps beating a series to death when all my readers wish I'd move onto something else.

    Not all readers want you to move on. There are those who want only cookie cutter books, and will sustain a series that consists of endless variations of the same story, which is why we have so many series on the market that are exhausted but that the author is still cranking out.

    I also don't want to kill a series and inspire a reader mutiny! :)

    You can't make all the readers happy all the time. From a loyal fan's perspective, there is simply never a good time to end a beloved series. These are the tough decisions every series writer has to make; part of the job is to accept that some of the readers are going to hate you for it.

    Any advice?

    I have been advising writer friends against planning long (more than five books) series; with the way the market is and how publishers are reacting to sales, it's best to keep your series length conservative (you can always leave doors open for future installments if it becomes such a success that your publisher wants more.) Also, think about how much of your life you want to commit to your series universe if it is successful -- StarDoc has owned me for nearly fifteen years. :)

    ReplyDelete
  9. Lynn wrote: Because the publisher gave me only one book's notice to wrap it up, I won't be doing that again.

    I have no idea what sort of struggle you had tying up the series in that short notice, but as a reader I couldn't tell you hadn't meant to tie up loose ends by the final page of Stay The Night. I did get the sense that you had left the doors open because not everything was tied up in nice pretty bows. I'm not complaining - bows get tiresome after a while. :)

    ReplyDelete
  10. Anonymous3:03 PM

    I just recently found your blog and I'm enjoying it a great deal. I found you through your Stardoc series and immediately began scooping up every book of yours I could find.

    I now am the proud owner of most of your books. I am missing the last two of the Stardoc series, but will be picking them up soon.

    I have enjoyed all your stories and want to thank you for stories that I can read more than once and still enjoy.

    Karen in Texas

    ReplyDelete
  11. I saw in another post that you had received a bunch of email asking about getting the rest of the Stardoc books in e-book form, but couldn't find an answer anywhere. If there is a blog post on the reasons for the delays, would you please point me to it or maybe write one if it doesn't exist yet. Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
  12. Naomi wrote: I did get the sense that you had left the doors open because not everything was tied up in nice pretty bows.

    Because of the timing of my publisher's decision I really had only 100K words to tell the seventh story and wrap up as many open or unfinished plotlines as possible. Because I ran with a big cast in this series I knew it would be impossible to finalize every thread, so I selected the ones I felt had the most pressing need for some closure. And like any series writer, I left some doors open in case the publisher changed their mind again, which happened almost immediately when they decided to have me incorporate Darkyn characters into the Kyndred series.

    I don't want to promise anything yet until I have something in ink, but I think it's safe to say that you've not heard the last of the Darkyn.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Bill wrote: saw in another post that you had received a bunch of email asking about getting the rest of the Stardoc books in e-book form, but couldn't find an answer anywhere. If there is a blog post on the reasons for the delays, would you please point me to it or maybe write one if it doesn't exist yet.

    Why is anyone's guess, but my theory is the age of the series. My StarDoc series predates by six or seven years Publishing's new policy of releasing mass market in e-book format.

    At my request my agent is looking into getting a commitment from the publisher as to whether or not they are going to release the books that have not been converted to electronic format. If we learn that they are not planning to reissue the OOP novels as e-books, I am going to seek reversion of the rights for all of them back to me so I can self-publish them in e-book form and reissue them myself.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Amber wrote: I'm in an upper-level creative writing class at my college. We've been talking lately about writing gay characters in our stories. I remembered the steamy M/M scene you wrote in one of the Darkyn books, but could you remind me which one? I definitely want to use it as an example!

    Thanks for the nice compliment. The book I think you mean is Stay the Night, the seventh Darkyn novel.

    ReplyDelete
  15. People refer to their books as their babies. Sounds like a series is the same. There comes a time when those kids grow up and move out of your house. Sure, you'll still see them on visits, but it's not the same, and it usually doesn't come when you planned on it happening for one reason or another, nor are you as ready when it does. Okay, my boys haven't reached there yet, but I've watched enough other families go through the transition.

    Just because the series is concluded, it doesn't mean you (or we) love it any less. It's just time to find something different to focus on. You're good at that. And do I believe Cherjo and Reever will come knocking on your door to visit? Well, I have to :). Hope springs eternal and all that.

    ReplyDelete