Quitting While You’re Ahead

If you want a happy ending, that depends, of course, on where you stop your story.

-Orson Welles

I always found the concept of long-running TV shows to be fascinating to me. Apart from shows that rely on comedical elements like The Simpsons, these are shows with plots that must accompany the long-running nature of the show. This is more common in anime than anything else; Fairy Tail is in its final season and will finish with 321 episodes. In comparison, the average anime series only has about 26 episodes, or even 12. But even this pales in comparison to One Piece, which currently has roughly 875 episodes and only recently had announced a conclusion in the near future. Sure, these series are immensely popular and therefore can be allowed to last as long as they do…but if popularity wasn’t a factor in the run length….at what point do you decide to stop?
I’ve noticed that over time, a lot of authors either fall out of love with a former project of theirs, or even worse, actively speaking out against the projects. Don’t expect Stephanie Meyer to do another Twilight book, and JK Rowling will change the Harry Potter continuity if it means getting another headline out of it.
I’m having a lot of fun writing this book for my thesis, one that I hope to become a successful series. However, I do recognize that eventually I will have to, and will want to, write something else. Hopefully people will want to see more, and I’d be happy to keep people posted if so. But the last thing I would hope to do, is to write a novel for profit.

It seems to be a trap that even the greatest of authors have found themselves in. Arthur Conan Doyle killed off Sherlock Holmes, only to bring him back in after a publisher threw a copious amount of money his way. Money talks. And solves crimes.

Holmes is dead and damned! I have had such an overdose of him that I feel towards him as I do towards paté de foie gras, of which I once ate too much, so that the name of it gives me a sickly feeling to this day.

-Arthur Conan Doyle on his feelings on Sherlock Holmes, shortly after killing him off (temporarily) in “The Final Problem”.

I’m having a lot of fun writing this book for my thesis, one that I hope to become a successful series. However, I do recognize that eventually I will have to, and will want to, write something else. Hopefully people will want to see more, and I’d be happy to keep people posted if so. But the last thing I would hope to do, is to write a novel for profit. The one book I’m writing now, is the first in a planned series of 5, maybe 6 if I split the final story into two parts (remember when that was a trend with movies?) . However, I fully intend to complete the story at 4. Why is that? I feel that the best projects don’t pack everything conclusive regarding their plot in the very last book, at least in a coherent fashion. A fifth and final book would give a sense of finality and bridge the gap between the two large time gaps in my story (late 19th/early 20th century and the present day), but it would also answer some lingering questions that may have been overlooked in concluding the story with book 4. With this type of presentation, the tension surrounding the main story would be alleviated, but there would be room to introduce some new tension with the plot. It’s the stress that keeps on stressing!

This all isn’t to say that I don’t have plans beyond the planned books. I even have a forbidden high school setting for all my relatively adult characters to be de-aged and then interact in, and oh boy will that probably be a story that will either completely alienate my reader base or bring in an entirely new set of readers to my stories. But I think that I would like to eventually take a step back, and look at all my projects in retrospect, and leave enough time to think “hmm, am I satisfied with this”? It’s a little more flexible with writing I’d imagine than other arts; da Vinci couldn’t exactly tweak the Mona Lisa once it dried, you know? But I don’t want to be left wondering, or even worse, realize something needed work when it is too late to do anything. Douglas Adams was so irate by his fanbase wanting more Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy books, that he with “Mostly Harmless”, he basically tried ending the series on a final, depressing note. When he regretted this and set upon making another book that was way more pleasant, he kinda passed away before he could finish it. Guess life is also mostly harmless too. Mostly.
I’ll go a deeper into my thought process in having multiple books tell a simultaneously story in another blog post, but to sum up my thoughts on this whole thing; authors should always write what they feel like writing. However, if people tend to enjoy a certain book, I feel an author should think twice before burning the bridge on it, or at least consider engaging readers in active conversation if it is brought up. Some authors have thought they were done with a project only to go right back to it sometime later, or at the very least, have regrets about the way it ended. Others (that includes you, JK Rowling) either don’t know when to give it up, and oversaturate their series as a result, losing some potential value it may have with the reader. There’s a fine balance here when it comes to knowing when a series is complete or not, and it’s one that authors have been struggling to balance for ages now.
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