The First in a Series: Not as Easy as it Sounds

Camp-NaNoWriMo-April2013-Winner-Lantern-Circle-BadgeSo sure, Camp NaNoWriMo is over for a few months. Yes, I did win it, but this novel is not nearly done yet. It still has quite a bit to go, and more importantly, I need to figure out how to end it. This must have been how Tolkien felt when he had to split up his epic storyline into three books. Not that I am comparing myself to Tolkien’s incredible writing, but it just isn’t always easy to break a tale into multiple, satisfying parts.

There’s a sweet spot for the first book in a series: it has to be both fulfilling in its own storyline and leave the plot open for expansion. I think Fellowship of the Ring was a good example of that. When the Fellowship itself was broken, the first book was completed, hence the title. Another book that was way more obvious with its sequel setup was Terry Pratchett’s The Color of Magic where you feel like the next page should show you how the story ends, but it doesn’t. That’s the cliffhanger he leaves you with. Now I haven’t read Pratchett’s second book in the series, but both of these series start in very different ways. How much of a cliffhanger is too much? How contained should the story be in the first book? Questions like these are tough to answer.

Personally I think somewhere in between is best: finish up some theme, some minor story plot, some point you want made and leave the rest of the storyline open. After all a reader wants to have some amount of conclusion with the first book. Otherwise it feels more like an excuse for a reader to pay twice for the price of a single book. Even in The Color of Magic, you get to find out that yes, the world does indeed rest on the back of a tortoise.ColorOfMagic_tortoise

Of course that raises a ton of other questions, but those are for later.

So here are the latest updates on Madam Cloom’s Garden, my other world fantasy novel starring the independent and sharp-tongued Shaleigh Mallett. When she and her father get into a car accident, Shaleigh gets transported to another world where stone lions talk, castles are invisible, and bridges can’t be trusted. The magical land she’s arrived in hides many dark secrets, and Shaleigh may not be as welcome as it seems.

Project: Madam Cloom’s Garden

Current Word Count: 52,816

New Words Written: 2,536

Progress: A little breaking and entering, then bit of recovery time leads to some awkward conversations about life and death.

Commentary: I’ve definitely slowed my pace since NaNo is over. I get about half the amount of words in each day, but I’m not interested in keeping that breakneck pace. That’s kind of a good thing though because I need to slow down more as I explain more features of the world and get into more complicated (and philosophical) conversations with the protagonists.

Total Words for 2013: 55,993

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