Walking Away From A Fantasy Series

I have heard others talk about the difficulty of finishing writing a series, of tying up loose ends, of sad partings and death, glorious battles and victories. However clear your plot line is, it is difficult to turn your back on characters who have walked with you on the paths of fiction for five or ten years.

When I finished the first draft of Book Five during the summer, the plan had been to edit and rewrite and then send out to my editor by the end of October. What actually happened was that I plunged straight into Book 6 and now, three months later, I am writing the final third of the book: the climax and end of the series. My publisher knows that a February launch date is mere fantasy (excuse the pun), but given that they are more used to authors who get writers block and stop writing, my uncontrollable urge to write is hardly seen as much of a disaster.

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However, I am finding the final third of Book 6 so difficult to write and it is a strange feeling. There are many storylines to tie up and it occurs to me that perhaps it is better to write the sixth book before locking down the fifth.

The conclusion of a series is a huge responsibility and radically different from finishing one novel. There are many reasons why a series is easier than individual standalone stories and many reasons why it is harder.

But beyond anything, and first and foremost is the multiple strands of plot, is the commitment between author and character, and this truly weighs me down. I have written before about killing off characters but even dead they remain part of the story.

I hope to finish the first draft of Book 6 by the end of the year. Thirty thousand words in forty-five days with Thanksgiving and the Christmas holiday season included is not daunting in terms of output. But this time it feels different and a steeper mountain to climb.

I am wondering if other authors feel the same way? The Professor went on after Lord of the Rings to write two more tomes, though George R.R. Martin seems relieved to soon finish. How do you feel, a reader or writer of series’, when you approach the end of an era?

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Enough pontificating. another 30,000 words to write!

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Alon Shalev is the author of the 2013 Eric Hoffer YA Book Award winner, At The Walls of GalbriethThe First Decree, and Ashbar – Wycaan Master Book 3 – all released by Tourmaline Books. His latest novel is Sacrificial Flame, the fourth in the series.

Shalev is also the author of three social justice-themed novels including Unwanted Heroes. He swears there is a connection. More at http://www.alonshalev.com and on Twitter (@elfwriter). Hang out with Alon on Google+

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8 comments on “Walking Away From A Fantasy Series

  1. augustc60 says:

    I’m writing a new story that is already a series. I’m well into act one of book one but have pages of notes and outlines for the others. Already I have the end of book two and beginning of three mapped out. I’m not sure but I think I’m writing them together. But also I anticipate change as I go. I must say that I’m at the beginning and so still so interested. I think I’ll be ready to finish when I know they’re done though. Then it’ll be time for the next story to percolate. Good luck. See you soon.

  2. Ria says:

    For me, as a reader, it’s entirely situational. I don’t, as a rule, look forward to a series ending or hope it keeps going, because it’s so hard to judge. Sometimes you can tell a series is failing and the books being produced are practically filler material, because the author wants to keep writing in the world or has a quota to meet but can’t figure out what story to tell. Other times, you can tell there are so many stories that could be told and you hope that the author writes more. So it’s all on a case-by-case basis.

  3. weifarer says:

    I had a very similar, foot dragging feeling while finishing the third book of my fantasy trilogy. It was so hard to end a story that I’d worked on for four years. Eventually I pushed through, had my farewell celebration and thought it was all done. And then the characters haunted my dreams and gave me an idea of another trilogy set in the same world. I’m thrilled to go back there. And I don’t want to imagine what ending this second trilogy will be like! I’m hopeful I’ll really be done by that point… and will hate to leave them all over again. ugh.

    So I don’t think you are alone in the feeling of sadness that offsets the wonderful accomplishment of not only finishing a book, but a whole series! I hope you managed to finish up book 6 over the holidays… and hope you had a splendid holiday as well. 🙂

    • Elf Writer says:

      Thank you. Nice to know it is not just me. I have wondered if the publisher doesn’t offer me another trilogy if I might feel compelled to write it anyway. Still, there are six months of editing and finalizing before I need to cross that bridge.

      Good luck with your new trilogy.
      Alon

      http://www.alonshalev.com

  4. I talked about this subject of “walking away from a story” myself, on my writers group blog, (https://cawriters.wordpress.com/2014/11/22/the-story-of-flow/). My story was about the quantum subject of entanglement. I “walked away” from my story in November after living with it for years, but even though it’s no longer on my agenda, the characters still haunt me. It’s like I, myself, became “entangled” in my own experiment.

    You are right, it’s a steeper mountain to climb. To help me through it I turned to various sources for examples when I made my decision… the greats, like Martel and Asimov. I applaud you the courage to plow through it. It’s December 30th today. Did you get your 30,000 words done? p.s. I always enjoy reading your blog. It helps me. Thanks.

  5. Larry Kollar says:

    I’m prepping Book 6 of a series now. I have a better feel for Book 8 than Book 7, and I kind of think Book 9 will be the conclusion. It’s been a long slog, and there have actually been a couple thousand people following it. I’m torn between getting it done so I can figure out what the Next Thing is, and saying goodbye to some characters I’ve gotten to really love over the last couple years.

  6. My series are short, but here’s my experience, FWIW.

    I write historical fantasy. I’ve written two two-book series and a trilogy. I don’t know if the last really counts because I tied off the story line but left it open for a sequel.

    But the two two-book sets are done. Utterly. I’ve said all I’m going to say with those characters. They’re going to live happy, uneventful lives on their farms. They’ve earned it.

    And I’ve had people tell me I should continue with shorts, do more with that world. And maybe my feelings will change, but for now, I look at them and think, I’m done. I’ve said all I need to say with these people. I can invent new people to torture for the next story.

    I’m seriously paranoid, so I’ve finished the entire series before publishing. Maybe that has something to do with it. *shrugs*

    But I’m fine with saying good-bye. I picture my characters in their nice HEA, never being messed about by a writer again. The dog has puppies, the crops grow, kids go to school–all the wonderful things about an everyday life that no one will ever write.

    And I’m happy for them. 🙂

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