Reaching for finish lines.

An image of a book with its pages fanned out.
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I’m nearing the homestretch on Entropy, the third book in the Kinetics Sequence. Writing a series is simultaneously thrilling and also aggravating. I get to spend so much time with these characters, pushing and pulling them in so many directions, allowing their characters to marinate in whatever stew I’m creating. That’s the thrilling part. The aggravating part is that it takes forever to finish.

I guess if I were a faster writer it would be a whole lot better, but I’m not fast. I am fast at certain aspects of the writing process and slow at others. This is just the process of writing. Everyone’s journey into and through writing is different.

Why a series for my first major writing project?

Kinetics was and is a passion project. It’s one of the first stories that I really believed in enough to want to finish it to completion. I fought long an hard with myself over how much space I would need to make the story work, and it moved from one book to two to three and then when I realized the potential of a series my plans exploded the series to something like seven books. But that in turn spooked me. Seven books was a lot and while I could potentially make it work it would be harder on me than something a little more judicious.

Eventually my plans and layout for the series brought it down to 5 books. Not as clean and casual as a trilogy nor as epic as a 7 book series. Five was enough to tell the story that needed and wanted to be told. When I get to the end of it, it doesn’t mean I can’t tell more stories within the universe, it just means that the most important story to me is told within a very concise box.

How and why did I pick 5 books?

When I was laying out all the plot points I wanted to hit, I found that there were 5 distinct “legs” within the story itself. Each “leg” being a complete circuit of conflict to resolution building up to the ultimate climax of the story.

My question was how many of those legs did I want to smush into one or two books and on the other side, how much did I want to draw those legs out across multiple books? I settled on one leg per book. This would allow me the room to create the stories around the legs and would also not overdo the journey from one to the other.

Did I come up with the story of each book during this planning process?

No. I had ideas for things I wanted to hit, beyond the legs of each story, like thematic beats with the characters themselves but I did not have the specific story of each book planned out in advance. I tried to do this but I found that it stagnated the creative process. I ended up just focusing on one leg at a time. Here, nearing the end of book 3 I’m only just beginning to think of the narrative around book 4. I wanted to go into each book like it was it’s own thing, it’s own book, with it’s own antagonists to confront the protagonists. Sort of like the mini-bosses before the big boss in a video game.

I especially am wary of the middle book slump that happens with trilogies sometimes, where the middle is just to get you to the last book or movie and doesn’t really DO anything so it’s super important to me to create each book like it’s a very important book in the series, which they all are but I think some writers get so excited for the end of a series they miss out on the potential of middle stories.

How much have I learned along the way?

So much! Each book has taught me something very important. Book 1 had pacing issues, so I tweaked those pacing issues in book 2. Book 2 taught me that sometimes, less is more. I tend to be a bit of an introspective writer in the sense that my characters really analyze their inner-most lives but I think not everyone is into that. Which is fine, trying to cater to every potential audience is a fool’s errand.

My first task is to write the story that I want to write and tweak the things I’m doing along the way to be the most effective. Book 3 is teaching me about characters and character journies. You would think I have already been here, but I have not. Up till now I’ve been the kind of writer that lets the plot drive characterization. So my major learning this book is how to make character driven books that drive the plot. Hard! So hard! But learning isn’t always easy.

How much longer to finish the series?

I don’t know. I have tried to be more careful with estimating when things will get completed. I’m not a machine with a consistent ANYTHING really. I am always working on my writing routine, but there are always things that fuss up my best laid plans. The longer I work on each book the easier it is to plan, plot, and execute swiftly. I don’t have to do nearly as much plot or character revision as I did at the beginning of Kinetics. Kinetics had 10 distinct versions before I settled on an amalgam. Forces had something like four or five distinct versions. And Entropy… has only had three. Who knows what I’ll do or find when I get to book 4. I’m trying to not think about it until I finish what’s already in front of me. And if I need a break from Kinetics I have dozens of ideas for things that are just waiting to be paid attention to.

In conclusion…

It feels so good to be at this point again, the finish line so close I can taste it. Which means I get to begin again, with a new story within my Kinetics universe to draw my characters further and further through the world. I wish I was faster, so that my readers could experience the stories sooner, but at the same time I’m glad I’m not rushing myself. I’m glad I’m just letting myself enjoy this passion of mine.

See you in the books my friends!

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