Ah, the first heady, rose-tinted days of marrying yourself to . . . a series. Commitment-phobic writers have already run to greener fields and there you are left with a few scribbled notes, a racing heart and a hazy idea that all will be well in . . . ten years.
Maybe you race through writing and can get more out of life and characters in ten minutes on your lunch break than the rest of us do in years. Maybe flings are your thing or serial monogamy, but for me long-term commitment is crucial, scary, time consuming, but how I’m hard-wired to write.
Today I’ll confess the pitfalls of my seemingly happy marriage to The House on Tenafly Road Series which started as an idea for a novella fling about destroying Native American culture but quickly turned into a 19th century love story between a morphine-addicted soldier and a fragile girl-next-door type which then morphed into a lifetime commitment to the Crenshaw and Weldon families.
Many writers struggle with what to do after happily-ever-after stories. I live in the less than blissful world often hidden behind wedding rings, cute kids and a nice house. The Weldons and Crenshaws have a ton of skeletons, passions and flaws. Basically they keep me getting up each morning.
So here are my reasons for not doing what I live to do:
Loyalty: the act of binding yourself (intellectually or emotionally) to a course of action.
This is where the trouble begins. You think you want the fling, but you can’t get your mind off the what ifs. What if this character gets married? What if this character hides their addiction? What if Buck Crenshaw was secretly abused by his mother as a child? What do survivors look like? How does Thankful Crenshaw let her own beauty bewitch and punish her?
It’s dreadfully like adopting a kid with reactive attachment disorder who has decided she loves living with you. You can’t send her back, can you?
There are times when the horrifying thought pops into your head: What if only I love Buck and Thankful Crenshaw? When marrying don’t we sometimes wonder if other people think our mate handsome? We want immediate reassurances that don’t often come.
I have one 80-year-old lady at church who begs for the next installments of my series and has written that Buck Crenshaw is her favorite dysfunctional character despite the scene where he watched his brother brutalize a prostitute and did nothing about it. I cherish this woman and hope she doesn’t die anytime soon (although she says she’s ready for heaven).
Loss: the amount by which the cost of a business exceeds its revenue OR: the experience of losing a loved one.
Both. You must make peace with both, and the sooner the better. The cost as a writer is in lost time with family, years and years of silence before your book is in print, cynical or condescending questions about your “career” as a writer (isn’t she really just a stay-at -home mother? Bet she didn’t even go to college). I did–and why do I care what the insurance salesman thinks, anyway?
And then there’s the COLOSSAL loss. The unexpected twist in the series that leads to the death of one of your favorite characters to write about. As in life, those you spend the most time with leave the biggest holes in your heart when they are called home (I like to believe I will meet them on the other side some day).
Every time you go over your books for editing you must experience the grief yet again. Each time is sadder because the person seems that much further away from you. Every fiber of you misses them for weeks and it clouds your real-life encounters even on sunny spring days. Where’s the grief counselor on such days?
Length(y): diffuse, long, prolix, tedious, verbose, wordy
I ain’t gonna read a book that heavy, some say. The series writer must listen to his own muse. People who don’t like long books or marriages aren’t your problem–unless you’re a first time novelist looking to be traditionally published. I have a few kind notes from editors and agents who warned me of the danger in writing long books. I tried to please them at my own expense but discovered I preferred to write the books I wanted to read instead and have never looked back (and yes, I still thoroughly enjoy reading my own books :)).
Long shot: A venture that offers a great reward if successful but has very little chance of success.
Seriously. Life is a long shot. There are so many things that can go wrong every day. Focusing on this will make you crazy. I have experience here. Trust me. My family is slightly off-put when I tell them I pray that I may live until I finish writing my series. Sometimes I wonder about that advice thrown around that says something like: “You won’t be thinking about _________ on your deathbed.
I bet I will be thinking about my series as the lights go out (unless I’ve finished writing the series and then I’ll be thinking about how I could have marketed the series better).
Admittedly I am at peace with the family members I love in “real” life so if I died tomorrow I’d have no regrets about them.
1. A strong feeling of affection and concern toward another person, as that arising from kinship or close friendship.
2. A strong feeling of affection and concern for another person accompanied by sexual attraction.
The danger here is that real life pales so greatly before the world you’ve created and spent years in. You’ve watched that willow tree planted in your prequel fill out and reach maturity. You’ve saved a visually impaired baby from Indians, married her off and then . . . you have to scrub the floor because you forgot to feed the dog and she has an upset empty stomach.
That addict in your first book is so much more attractive than the one in your living room. The shadows of imagination cast real darkness on less than stellar mates.
If you’ve managed to stick with the series for years and have wiped the tears from many a character’s eye after a good cry you must one day reckon with leaving this family behind, closing the series, possibly finding a new family when you thought this family was forever.
There is nothing pleasant about finishing writing a series when you’ve grown up with your characters. When you’ve found life and love and laughter with them. Nothing good about it at all.