Finishing a Series

My inclination is to always follow inspiration. My philosophy when it comes to abiding that belief is to always weigh whether my inspiration will serve my creative purpose in the long term. That doesn’t mean I can’t lie to myself, of course, but I try not to. Part of my creative purpose is to finish Riparia’s series. Well, the drafting, anyway. My sudden and unexpected idea would make that happen this year.

Yes, this year.

When I began the series back in 2016 with Trust in the Forgotten, I’d hoped to write one novel per year, later deciding on five novels total. I got off to a rousing start, following with A River in Each Hand later that same year. In 2017 I took a quasi break and added Torment Surfacing (a periphery novel) and Exhuming Truths (a prequel). The official third book, So Others Might Remember, was drafted in 2018.

Riparia at Lake Seclusion.
Riparia at Lake Seclusion.

And then, well, a couple of things happened that I’ve talked about before. Remember was a novel that swelled beyond imagining and, needing a complete break, I focused on my Pannulus writing.

This year, though, it was time for a reckoning. It was time to face Remember. Imagine my horror when I opened it and discovered it was far bigger than I remembered. Over 190K worth of words.

This time, though, I trusted my process. I created a Revision Map, which uncovered the problems. That was a boost. Too, to relieve my stress, I alternated with editing the far smaller Pannulus novel, Protecting the Pneuma Key. It worked! One project helped boost the other and I stayed on task.

Last Saturday, I completed the 1st edit on So Others Might Remember. It’s now only 141K. In addition, I fixed three major issues with the narrative. Not only was I overjoyed, I was also inspired. By the time I reached the midpoint, the ideas I’d been lacking for Bk4, Aramon Daughters, were surfacing in my brain faster than I could write them down.

That wasn’t all. It was a curious thing that those ideas were surfacing as a package deal. The other half of the package was Bk5, A Glorious Past Reimagined. I kept thinking of them together. It makes sense, to an extent, when viewed from the perspective of the series as one story. After all, Bk4 represents events on either side of the 3rd Plot Point and Bk5 the climax, both linked by the dark night of the soul.

In fact, right at first I was a little worried because ideas for Bk5 were surfacing more often. Then, though, two things happened almost simultaneously. I can’t say too much, but it’s connected to two key characters. One is Riparia, of course. During her time in Slu’ayr is when Bk4 began to spark in my mind. That, coupled with Shadow Language and my vision for the end of Bk5, and Bk4 began to fill-in. All of a sudden I’d go for walks and be flooded with scenes.

Yes, scenes appear to me where I see the setting and hear the dialogue. It’s in piecing those together that most of any story first takes shape.

All that adds up to the possibility I’ll draft Bk4 and Bk5 back-to-back.

Insane?

When the thought surfaced I thought it was a barrel full of crazy. Then, I reflected on my past writing history and my attitude changed. I am, after all, a fast drafter. What’s important, though, is how I finish each year.

Map: CA Hawthorne
Map: CA Hawthorne

Back in 2015 when I finished drafting early during NaNoWriMo I wrote a dozen short stories. I enjoyed the experience so much that the following year I did the same, the short story writing spilling over into December. A Christina tradition was born. I even called it Short Story December and would draft short stories at a casual pace until New Year’s Eve.

Last year introduced the first change. Instead of short stories, I drafted four novellas.

The numbers also support the idea. I didn’t start keeping formal records until 2018, but there’s enough to encourage me. Looking at November and December, my word count in 2018 was 143,867 and 70,728. In 2019 it was 137,086 and 56,666. Last year, the year I became far more serious about my creative purpose, the numbers climbed to 157,072 and 100,033.

I’m also encouraged that my planning has drastically improved since I drafted Bk3. Both the Pannulus novels written since then were far tighter, more concise drafts. It was a result of my more enhanced self-editing on the fly. I’ve also gotten better at recognizing if a story is getting away from me while I’m planning it. Learning to do so was a conscious decision after what happened with Bk3.

Besides, even if I ran over into January 2022 it’d be okay.

For now, I’m going to precede on the assumption that I’m going to draft two novels together. It won’t be too late to change my mind right up to December. I don’t think I will, though. After all, I normally don’t do any serious planning until at least late August. It’s only April and I already have narrative outlines for both that are growing by the day.

Given it’s a series there’ll be few new characters. Most of the additional worldbuilding will be for Bk4. Bk5 revisits multiple locations.

Just thinking about this is inspiring. It helps, too, that my editing efforts have produced the Bk3 I’d originally envisioned. At this point, it’s difficult to not think about that moment when I’ll write the last words for A Glorious Past Reimagined. Glorious, indeed.

About Christina Anne Hawthorne

Alive and well in the Rocky Mountains. I'm a fantasy writer who also dabbles in poetry, short stories, and map making. My Ontyre tales are an alternative fantasy experience, the stories rich in mystery, adventure, and romance. Alternative fantasy? Not quite steampunk. Not quite gothic. In truth, the real magic is in those who discover what's within.
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