[GUEST POST] Pamela Palmer on How to End a Long-Running Series
Pamela Palmer is the New York Times, USA Today, and international bestselling author of more than a dozen novels including both the Vamp City and Feral Warriors series. When Pamela’s initial career goal of captaining starships failed to pan out, she turned to engineering, satisfying her desire for adventure with books and daydreams until finally succumbing to the need to create worlds of her own. Pamela lives and writes in the suburbs of Washington, D.C.
by Pamela Palmer
The first rule of any story is knowing where it starts and where it ends. Of course, authors are nothing if not rule-breakers and we often dive in with only a general idea of where the whole thing is going to end.
When I started my Feral Warriors shape-shifter series, I’d anticipated writing nine books. After all, the story was about the last nine shape-shifters left in the world, each of whom shifts into a different animal. And, being paranormal romances, each character would get his own book. Ideally. The trouble was, I love plot every bit as much as I enjoy romance, and I ended up telling one big urban fantasy tale. Each story focused on a different pair of main characters, a different couple, but ultimately, it was all one tale as the shape-shifters battled near impossible odds to keep the Daemons from escaping their magical prison after five thousand years.
Some writers approach a series with enough detailed plotting up front to know precisely how many books they’ll have when it’s through. Not me. I do enjoy plotting, and I do a lot of it ahead of time, but I can never anticipate everything that’s going to happen. And this is a good thing! It’s much more fun for me this way, to be writing along and suddenly-wham!-something happens that I never expected and the story goes spinning off in a direction I hadn’t anticipated.
When I started the Feral Warriors series, I knew, more or less, how it would end. After all, this is genre fiction and the good guys needed to win. Beyond that, though? I really didn’t have a clue. The story unfolded for me only a little ahead of my readers. With each book, I’d climb back into the skin of the Chief of the Ferals, the lion-shifter, and plot out the military campaign based on what had happened up to that point. Very real world, in a way-as real world as you can get when you’re talking about shape-shifting immortals. Once I figured out what move the good guys were going to make and how the bad guys would have to respond, or vice versa, I’d get the ideas for the plot of that particular book. Right up until book 8.
I didn’t realize the eighth book was Wulfe’s. Nor, when I started plotting it, did I know it was the finale. In fact, I knew it wasn’t the last book, because there had to be nine. Or maybe ten, or eleven (because new Ferals had arrived on the scene that I hadn’t known about when the series started). Not until I beat my head against the desk for a couple of months did I realize why the book wouldn’t come together. I was trying to shoehorn in additional complications when the story had already hit critical mass and was barreling toward the climax. Trying to push it off the track and onto a detour just to prolong the series long enough to let another couple of characters get their books wasn’t working. Forget that it was the wrong thing to do. It flat out wasn’t working. I was chatting with my editor about something else about this time and mentioned that I was having trouble. Wise woman that she is, she saw the trouble immediately. And when I stepped back and looked at it with clear eyes, I did, too. Book eight was the climactic finale. And it was Wulfe’s book. There was no fighting it. Once I gave in, the book came together effortlessly. It was all there, eight books worth of building the story, of weaving the threads that all needed to come together for a powerful, explosive ending. And, if early reviews are anything to go by, it worked.
Long time fans of the series aren’t happy that it’s ending, of course. They aren’t pleased that a couple of the warriors didn’t get their books. I do have plans to write those books eventually, either as stand-alones or as part of a new Feral series. But not just yet. For now I’m enjoying the immense satisfaction of completing the story I set out to tell.
It’s a wrap.
Filed under: Books
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