Maggie is finished. It went to Mod R for editing, and the beta team has been assembled. We have the copyeditor lined up and the proofreader has a spot open in her schedule. Barring weird happenings, the novel should be ready to go on submission in January.
It clocked at 127,000 words. It was a bear to finish.
I’m trying to recover a little bit before diving into the edits. I have very little brain power left. Playing Starfield is a little taxing, which tells you everything you need to know about the state of my brain. A new batch of blog questions has arrived, so I will do my best to make sense.
“Do you anticipate the work-in-progress currently entitled Maggie to be a stand alone novel or the first book in a series? I have a hard time waiting for the next book, particularly if there is any type of cliff hanger, so I prefer to start a series when it is finished. In this case I will pre-order Maggie the day it becomes available and promptly devour it on release night regardless of your answer but it would help to be mentally prepared for any loose ends or cliff hangers.”
Maggie will likely be the first in a short series. So a new world, rather than a standalone. We don’t know how many books yet, so I would say probably one more. There was no way to pack everything into a single book. It would’ve had to be one of those 400,000 word monsters that only occur in epic fantasy.
I will point out, not as a criticism but as a datapoint: for traditional books, existence of the second book depends on the sales of the first book. The person who posed the original comment stated that they will be purchasing the book when it comes out – thank you.
What is a series arc and what does and doesn’t constitute a cliffhanger?
A series arc is the story that stretches across the series. We’ve talked about progressive vs episodic series before.
To quickly refresh, in an episodic series, each book is a complete adventure, and the series can be read out of order. Traditional comics tend to be episodic: Spiderman encounters a problem, resolves it while learning some lesson or experiencing an emotional turmoil, and at the end of the issue, the status quo is restored as if the story never happened.
In a progressive series, the characters and the world undergo a permanent change and there is a single plotline uniting the books. If you put all of the progressive series novels together, they will form a single massive book. LOTR is a progressive series.
Every novel in a progressive series should finish a part of the story and deliver an emotional payoff. But it should also indicate that the story isn’t finished. As Mickey Spillane famously said, “The first chapter sells the book; the last chapter sells the next book.” A sequential novel usually ends on a hook.
A cliffhanger is a plot device that leaves the character in a dangerous or difficult position or delivers an explosive revelation which drastically changes the character’s situation for the worse. For some reason, it is one of the most commonly misidentified literary devices. Only deus ex machina confuses people more.
Here is a good rule of thumb when it comes to cliffhangers: is the character in danger or about to be in danger? Are you very worried for the character? If the answer is no, then it’s not a cliffhanger.
“By the way,” she said, “I was going to tell you once you both had properly recovered, but since you’re awake, I might as well. A human is here to see you. I was going to turn him away, but he is an Arbitrator, which presents some difficulties. His name is Klaus. He says he is your brother.”Andrews, Ilona. Sweep of the Blade (Innkeeper Chronicles Book 4) (p. 312). NYLA. Kindle Edition.
Not a cliffhanger. Just a little hook to get you excited for the next book. Maud is not in danger at the moment and there is no urgency in the way Ilemina delivers this message. For all we know, Klaus is there to deliver some cupcakes.
Lady Ilemina stormed into the room. “Maud! A human is here to see you. His name is Klaus. He says he is your brother and the world is about to end!
A cliffhanger. Why? We just took the warm happy feelings that the reader has after Maud succeeded against all odds, and we stomped them into the ground.
As I have learned recently while being anxious about my annual physical, a great deal of our anxiety results from being unable to tolerate uncertainty. It’s not that I fear doctors, it’s that I worry about being given bad news. A cliffhanger is the ultimate example of uncertainty. We have no idea if the character will live or die. A hook is a promise of more fun things to come.
To reiterate: if you are worried about the character at the end of the novel, it’s a cliffhanger. If you are curious and excited to know more, it’s a hook for the next book.
Are sequels more tiring because you have to keep everyone straight or is the first book and establishing the world building more draining?
Having just built a world from scratch, the first book is the hardest. Ask me in a couple of months, and I will tell you that the sequels are the hardest.
Whatever the writer is working on right this second is the hardest. Hehehe.