By Glynn Young
The manuscript sits with the publisher. A fifth novel, it’s the last of a series. The story arc that began with listening to an airplane music program in 2002 is coming to an end some 18 years later.
You’ve lived with the characters for almost two decades. Sometimes it feels like you know the characters better than your family and friends. You know their history, their quirks, and their strengths and weaknesses. You know their pasts. You know their stories because you’ve written their stories, and you’ve written the ongoing story they’re part of. You know how an agnostic, what today might be called a “none,” became a believer. You know when the hero was ridiculed and disparaged. You know when characters had nothing but faith and courage to go on.
Now the story is ending. The story you had to tell, that dominated your waking hours and many of your sleeping hours, that story that often drove you crazy, is now finished. The characters who seemed so real to you and your readers are now turning out their lights.
You feel a bit bereft, perhaps slightly displaced. Your days begin to feel different from what they were. You want to hold on to the story, at least for a bit, and you consider all those bits and pieces you labored over but never used. Perhaps a couple of novellas? Some short stories?
And you can try these things.
For now, the first and likely most important thing you can do is rest. And breathe. You can take stock. Almost half a million words are in print. Slightly less than that sit in a Word file under numerous titles – outlines, fragments, sections removed to easy the narrative flow, that prologue your spouse and an early reader adored but you removed it because it got in the way of the story.
Second, you can go back and read your finished works. And you can read them as a reader now, not as the author. If the story is told well, the reader follows the story. No matter how good it is, the author finds the imperfections previously missed. But now you can read the books like a reader, and possibly even enjoy them like a reader.
Third, it’s a good time to read unrelated and really good stories. I’m rereading The Lord of the Rings trilogy, and even this fourth reading tells me what a really fine story it tells. I’m also reading a biography of William Wilberforce, who fought the slave trade in Britain for 20 years and never gave up. And lots of poetry, particularly the classical poets. Waiting are Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s literary memoir, Between Two Millstones, and Wilfred McClay’s Land of Hope: An Invitation to the Great American Story.
Fourth, you have three more writing projects in mind, standalone novels unrelated to the series you’ve now finished. You pick one, and begin to collect newspaper and magazine articles, web site postings and whole web sites, possibly your family genealogy, and novels, non-fiction, and memoirs related to the story bouncing around your head. You plan a system for tackling all of this, understanding how much general learning you need before focusing on specific things. Behind those five novels are more than 60 histories, memoirs, plays, guidebooks, and novels; hundreds of web sites; and countless newspaper and magazine articles.
And fifth, you can give thanks, to your spouse, your children, your extended family, to those readers who came to own the stories you wrote, and God who put that story in your heart to begin with and led you through the good and bad writing times.
You can do those things, and you feel it all beginning again.Glynn Young @gyoung9751 shares 5 things to do after writing a series #ACFWBlogs #writetip #writing #ACFWCommunity Click To Tweet
Glynn Young is a national award-winning speechwriter, communications practitioner, and novelist. He’s the author of four published novels, Dancing Priest, A Light Shining, Dancing King, and Dancing Prophet; the forthcoming Dancing Prince; and the non-fiction book Poetry at Work. Visit Glynn at Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, his blog, the Dancing Priest book page, and his business web site.
I wish I were at cycle’s ending,
with the longish race well-run,
but there’s no use in pretending,
for the work is scarce-begun.
My characters have fourteen lines,
arrayed in cloth caps and in bonnets
fitting to their carried rhymes,
for they are Shakespearean sonnets.
‘Tis a fickle muse that leads
through endless veldt that can be hard,
offering few sweet green retreats
from the strictures of the Bard,
and there is thus no finish-measure
when the process is the treasure.
I like knowing that other writers grow so close to their characters. As a book festival, DiAnn Mills reminded us that they aren’t real. We know it and yet it’s hard to believe sometimes.