Thursday, April 20, 2017

Concluding A Book Series: It's Personal

About ten years ago I had an idea for a short story that rumbled around my brain for a couple of years. When I finally sat down to write my story, Time for Coffee, it had grown too long to be a short story; I had a novel on my hands. Several drafts later, a friend and mentor asked me if I had ever considered turning my manuscript into a series. That's when my stand alone novel morphed into a four part series I entitled, Fall Again.

Had I started out to write a series of  novels, I doubt I ever would have started writing. Then, the thought of writing a single novel was overwhelming since my original idea was for a short story. I probably would have forgotten about the project. Thankfully, I had been writing for several months and had strong story and characters. Once I started thinking in terms of a series, the division of my material into separate novels was easier than anticipated. 

Fall Again is a contemporary romance series set in the world of actors and other working artists. It's the story of Marc and Lauren, and their closest friends. It is set in New York, Los Angeles and a few points in between. The story spans twenty-two years. There are four books in the series:
Beginnings An Unrealized Romance - Marc & Lauren meet, fall in love and separate without closure.
Lost Boy Marc the Interim Years - Marcs life and career during his separation from Lauren.
California Girl-Lauren the Interim Years - Lauren's life and career during her separation from Marc.
Reunion A Romance Realized - Marc & Lauren reunite years later.

Four novels now allowed me to delve deeper into the characters lives and experiences.
For me, writing came easily. I could always make time to write. When I experienced blocks, I was able to work through them fairly easily by remembering who my characters were and staying true to them. During a couple of blocks, new characters introduced themselves and guided me through the block as I incorporated them into the existing story.
One of my favorite characters was discovered this way.

Since my story takes place over two decades, I had to be attentive to details. For example making a phone and air travel have changed drastically from 1989-2010. I enjoyed the creative part of the process.
What I never enjoyed were the technical aspects of self publishing. Formatting and uploading files became easier over time, though I freely admit I wanted to throw my laptop across the room on several occasions.

For me, the fourth and final installment of the series was the most difficult to write, because it was the most personal. In 2013, my father became ill. I was able to be with him at the end of his life. This was a difficult time for me and my family. Late at night when I couldn't sleep, I worked on my manuscript, escaping my own reality and finding sanctuary in the world I'd created. One night after an especially trying day, I wrote a scene that took place at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA). My characters are dressed in cocktail attire and sipping champagne on what is to be an important night. The scene ends in a romantic moment at the Urban Lights Sculpture just outside of the museum. (  Later, when considering images for  REUNION's cover, the Urban Lights sculpture seemed like a natural choice.

A few nights later, I was  at my dad's bedside as he slept. I was  reading and making notes on a hard copy of my manuscript when he woke up, saw what I was doing and asked, "Is that a book?" I was able to tell him about the project, not knowing this would be the last conversation I'd ever have with him. When he passed a few days later on April 15, 2013, I promised myself that I would see this project through to it's completion. The first novel was published in 2015, while the second and third installments were published in 2016.  REUNION, the final book in the series, was published on April 15 of this year, the fourth anniversary of my dad's passing.

As a new writer, I've learned several lessons during my journey. These are all things I'd heard before, but still had to experience on my own for them to fully make sense. For those of you beginning your writers journey, and especially to those who will be self publishing, here are a few things to keep in mind:

- Believe in the strength of your story.
- Always be true to your characters. You know them better than anyone else.
- The more you write, the better writer you become.
- Find Beta readers who will give you honest opinions.
- Find an editor, and be open to their suggestions. Remember, you still have the final say. 
- Publish only when you're ready.
- Market your book, but do some studying first to save time money and energy. Remember,
- Marketing is a Rubix cube. Find what works best for you.
- Some will read and enjoy your work, while others will not.

The most valuable piece of advice I could give to anyone who's contemplating a writing project, start writing. Stephen King said it best; "The scariest moment is always just before you start."

I began thinking about this project as a short story almost ten years ago. I began writing the original stand alone novel in November of 2012, and completed the series with the fourth and final installment this April. It's been strange not constantly thinking about my story and characters. (Yes, I continued to make minor changes until I published.)

 The last few days have been rather lonely; I'm experiencing a sort of  writer's empty nest syndrome. I'm toying with the idea of spinning off two of the supporting characters from Fall Again into their own independent story. I also have a first draft of something completely unrelated to Fall Again that could one day become a stand alone novel. In the meantime, there are many non-writing tasks I could do, like cleaning house; something I've neglected since I began writing. Or maybe, I'll just sit back and relax for a while. I think I've earned it.

Fall Again: Beginnings An Unrealized Romance
Fall Again: Lost Boy Marc the Interim Years
Fall Again California Girl Lauren the Interim Years
Fall Again Reunion A Romance Realized

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