Monday, April 27, 2020

Series Enders Are Hard

A post by Mary Fan
The last time I wrapped up a series was in 2015, which feels like approximately a million years ago. It was the Jane Colt trilogy, which is a rather episodic space adventure whose final chapter didn't have a whole lot of plot threads from previous installments to tie up. I'd written the first book in the series in 2012, and though I took detours to write a few other things in between, for the most part it felt like I was powering through the whole trilogy in one go.

Wrapping up the Starswept trilogy has been an entirely different experience, and damn, was it hard. I finally managed to finish the manuscript about a week ago -- three months after I planned to -- and there were days when every word felt like a struggle.

Unlike the Jane Colt trilogy, which is three separate adventures with a few plot threads carrying through, the Starswept trilogy is essentially one giant story. The challenges from Book 1 are still present in Book 3... if anything, they're compounded. Plus, more characters to deal with. All the things I'd been putting off for 2 books had to concluded.

When I wrote the first book in the series back in 2013, I had only the vaguest ideas of where the series might go. Since Starswept was set up as a kind of dystopia, it was easy to take for granted that it would all come down to a final battle of sorts where the bad guys would get overthrown and the good guys would get a victory parade. Sadly, it turned out, that's not actually how I set things up. But as long as there was another book in the future, I could put off considering how my characters' problems would ultimately get solved.

In a way, writing a series ender is about contracting your universe. All the books before it are about expanding on your world and introducing new people and situations, but when you get to the end, you have to pull it all back so the story can feel finished. And I, for one, feel like I need to give all my characters some kind of send off, which can be hard to do without bogging the book down in sappy sentiments.

It feels weird concluding a series I started writing seven years ago, especially when that series turned out to be quite different from what I originally envisioned. There were some things I imagined happening that just didn't work when I actually sat down to write. Looking over old brainstorms makes me go, "huh, I really didn't know what I was going into, did I?"

And then there's this sense of finality. I'm putting away these characters and this world for good. As long as the series ender wasn't written yet, I could noodle around with possibilities for where the story might ultimately go. Even after I decided, there was always the chance things would change. And, of course, nothing is as good on paper as it is in your head.

I think part of the reason why I procrastinated so much on this book is because I didn't want to set down in words how everything would turn out, especially since it always felt like there was something else I could do, another direction the book could go in.

Right now, I'm still kind of in denial about this story being over. I guess it isn't quite done yet, since I still have to edit and stuff. At the same time, I'm not planning to majorly overhaul the ending or anything. It's a relief that this project I've been working on for so long is finally coming to an end (especially since I've got so many other to work on next), but at the same time, it's... well, weird. Maybe a little sad. I'm still trying to process the fact that this thing that's been part of my life for the better part of a decade is about to come to its end.

Have you concluded a series? Was it hard? Did things turn out the way you thought it would?

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