Writing Series: When Do You Walk Away?
Come January (ish) the third book of The Saga of the Redeemed, No Good Deed, will be released. It’s still in the editing stages right now and needs a fair bit of polish, but I think it’s a fine follow up to The Oldest Trick and fans of the series will be tickled pink to go adventuring with Tyvian, Artus, Hool and company again.
But then what?
When I originally envisaged this series, when my expectations for my writing career were still glittery and untrammeled by the forces of reality, I thought I might write something like nine books detailing Tyvian’s story. Had the first novel been a runaway hit, I probably would have. Now, while it has sold relatively well, it is not a bestseller by any stretch of the imagination. Writing this series for the next seven years seems a poor career move at this juncture.
No Good Deed doesn’t complete Tyvian’s journey, but it does leave us somewhere comfortable-ish. There is still more to say, though. At least two books’ worth. If I could get a contract to write those two books with Harper Voyager, I’d be happy to walk away having completed a solid series with a satisfying conclusion (even if there was potential for more to be done at a later date). The question, though, is whether that’s the right career move.
There’s other books I’ve got that I can revise and get ready for publication. I’ve got some Urban horror/fantasy, I’ve got some multiple-reality stuff, I’ve got a space opera and a military scifi and another epic fantasy series all waiting in the wings. Maybe, if the Saga of the Redeemed isn’t taking off, I’d be wiser to let it go and get a new title ready instead.
If I had an agent, perhaps I’d ask her. That’s part of the problem, though – I don’t have one. Can I get one when I’m midway through a series? I’ve got some leads on some agents, but I don’t yet have a complete manuscript to send them (book 4 is still very rough), so e-mailing them seems premature. Of course, if I wait too long, then they’ll forget who I am. Strike while the iron is hot, they say.
I’ve gotten conflicting advice on this, too. On the one hand, some folks say finishing what you start shows you’re a professional and a reliable person. On the other hand, some folks think it’s a mistake to get locked into a series this early in your career. They both make good points. Also, a sale to continue a series that hasn’t flopped with a publisher I already have a relationship with is probably a lot easier than selling a brand new idea to somebody I don’t know, even if that new idea might be a hit. There’s just no way to tell.
The conundrum reminds me of that oft-misunderstood poem, “The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost. Most people assume, given the last line, that it is a story about bucking convention and making your own way in the world. It’s not, though. A careful read reveals that the speaker has no idea which road is actually less travelled and, furthermore, it is notably ambiguous that choice that made “all the difference” is even a positive thing. The poem is more about the arbitrary nature of fate and the illusion of self-determination. It is far darker than all those commencement speakers would have you believe.
And so here I am, at the diverging of a road. Do I keep telling the story of Tyvian (whom I dearly love), or do I go somewhere else and resolve to come back (“Yet knowing how way leads on to way…”)?
For now, I press on with Tyvian and his gradual, theoretical redemption. I have a bit more time yet. Hell, the decision might be made for me – The Oldest Trick could become a sleeper hit or my publisher could turn down a request to extend the series cold. Who knows? I do, then, what I have always done as a writer: put one foot in front of the other, place one more word on the page, and let the gods decide my fate.