Monday 17 October 2022

Knowing When To End A Series - The Creative Process


I have, over the course of my writing, written and completed a few series. While there are only three of my series out right now, with only two completed, I have written the whole of the Cramping Chronicles series (you can pre-order the second book here) and am just working my way through revising the last three books. I've also written a few more series, but there's no point in listing them because they won't be out for a few years yet. I simply state that because I want to be clear that I know what it's like to be at the end of a series or be in the middle of it, and not know for sure whether now is the time to end it.

For example, in the Dying Thoughts series, I originally planned for five books. They would see Tara up until she finished secondary school and that would be the end. Only as I sat down to write the fifth and final book, I realised that ending it there wouldn't do. The plot of that book puts Tara in a really bad place at the end, and I also knew there were more of her stories to tell. That said, I didn't want to go on for too long. I've read super long series where it feels like the author gave up around the ten books mark, and took the plot with them. I didn't want to be that kind of author. I wanted to make sure that every single book had a purpose beyond just being the next one in the series.

So how did I know when the right time was? How did I know that book eight in that particular series was going to be the final one? And how does that translate into advice for books and plots I have never seen nor read? I'm glad you asked, because I have a few pointers that I feel, might, just be universal to the whole series question.

Like I said above, with the fifth book in Tara's series, I knew that leaving her there was going to leave a lot of questions for my readers. It was going to leave her hanging in the space where characters go when their stories are done. I wasn't going to answer those questions because while I would've had my own ideas, I did want to, somewhat leave it up to the reader, but to do that I had to give Tara, and my readers, a firmer foundation to end on.

Now I could've done an epilogue and told them where she was left years down the line, but it felt like I'd be cheating my readers out of the stories that came in between. I wouldn't be giving them the plot, I'd just be summarising it for them, and that felt like a bit of a copout. So if you've reached the point where you're starting to think that you're done, ask yourself whether leaving the main character there is going to end the series properly or if it's always going to be there in the back of reader's minds that more could've been done. You are the only one who can make that decision and it's something you have to be sure about.


Now some series, like Cramping Chronicles, have more of an overarching plot that goes through all five books. I knew the fifth one was the final one because the plot was basically tied up. If I'd tried to do a sixth book, I'd have had to start a new arc and it would've felt a bit like I was dragging things out for the sake of it. I always find it hard to say goodbye to my characters for the final time, but I also want to do their stories justice and unless there is a plot that needs to be told, that without it, the whole series would suffer, then I can't justify writing another book no matter how much I would like to.

Again, this is something that only you, as the author, can decide. If you know that the arcs are done, the ending wraps everything up, and there's no way that starting another book will change that, maybe it's time to call the series done and be happy about it.

Now as I said above, I personally find it hard to let go of character, especially when it comes to a series. I spend so long in their worlds and in their heads that it's hard for me to say goodbye and accept that their story is done. With Tara, it was close to fifteen years I was writing her story, and you can imagine how weird it felt to just not be doing so any more.

That said, you really do need to dig deep and work out if the reason you want to write another book in that world is because of your own personal reasons, or if it's something that is actually needed. If it's the former, then it might be time to put down the pen for those characters, and if it's the latter, then maybe there's something there that you can work with. Either way, as with all of these questions, the final decision has to be yours. I don't mean that you can't ask for advice, I did that with Dying Thoughts, but you need to be sure that you're making that decision for the good of the stories and not just because you don't want to say goodbye.

Any questions? Lemme know in the comments!

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