spin the bottle

[editor's note: there will be four books. I think.]

I'm just dialing in to bitch about the length of my fourth book, which currently sits at 800 pages and 165,110 words, not including the title, which is a working title only and probably of little consequence. Tad ironic, isn't it: my writing a quiet little rant about my own prolificacy?

I didn't want to get into it at all yet. But while writing this series I've been in the habit of studying the next book in the process of editing the former, and it's served me well, lo these many (two) years of working on it.

The first two hundred and fifty pages are workable, engaging stuff. Situations and danglers are set up properly in well-thought-out scenes (ok, for a rough draft. Of course it needs work), and if I simply follow the leads for another thirty thousand words, I could have myself a decent book. (Still miles away from the defeat of the demon, you understand, but a decent book nonetheless.)

But then the second part and even the third really are pretty well a fuck-up. More leads. More questions. Oh, there are some great scenes. Moving, meaningful shit happens. I mean, these guys are pretty fun to hang out with, even when they're lounging around, drinking too much whiskey, and contemplating the dire consequences of failure. (My struggle with finding the Big Finale was obvious even then. Does fiction imitate life or life, fiction? Hard to say.) Needless to say, they're really fun to hang out with when somebody's shooting at them. And I've learned not to disregard a compelling scene, no matter how off the wall it is.

Faulkner says to "kill your darlings." In other words, got a wonderful scene that you love, but it's disjointed from the rest of the book? Hit delete long and hard. I happen to disagree. Those darlings just may hold the key to the entire plot. At least in my experience they do. Why does Jason have so many earrings? Why does his father so disapprove of tattoos? Why does Aidan dream about a deep dark pit? Who knows? I certainly didn't when I met them. But four books later we learn there is a pretty good reason behind all those piercings and tattoos and dreams.

I've been told to keep the series going beyond four books by my readers, and yeah, there are inumerable directions the characters and situations could take. I could write about them indefinitely. They could never quite defeat the enemy and I could sit back and collect the money. Well, that's the concept, anyway. Everyone wants it to be a television series. Yea.

But picture an aging surfer. He was hot once. However, the beads around his neck are faded. His blonde hair, bleached by waves and sun and now peroxide, is straw-like and graying at the temples. He wears twenty-five-year-old OP. His wrinkles are tanned and the finish on his board is crackled. The young, hip set on the beach regard him with respect; they will watch him take his turn and let him think that he still teaches them just by proximitiy. But when they tell stories about him, it's not of the waves he caught today or even last year, but of ten years ago, and there's a hint of condescension in their tone.

Even though Harry's not as compelling as he was when he was eleven and twelve, we'll all read him to the bitter end, right?

That's what I fear. I'd hate to see my readers tire of my beloved characters. Ok, perhaps not to the tune of a few million bucks in royalties, but come on. There's a valid reason the series is meant to be four, and that reason has held firm since nearly the beginning.

The thing is, I'd have to be an idiot to not see the potential for a fifth book. The last section, which I just broached today, reads like a brand new book.

In fact, it reads quite like a fifth book.

I've no idea of what to do at this point. I mean, I could do some serious cutting, though the characters must get from point A to point B in some reasonable fashion. (Just hopefully they don't need thirty thousand words to get there. They don't get very far in fifty thousand words, sorry to say. Or even fifty.)

Well, it's time to line up the damn ducks up and see how many I've got. Got to look for patterns and all that; pick out what's important; tie off the bleeders, so to speak.

And that means.... doh doh dooooh.... writing a synopsis.

Perhaps I just go for five books and be content that I can I sit back and collect the money and (try) to ignore potetially lackluster reviews. But somehow, having not made a dime yet, I still want to put my craft ahead of those dimes to come. (It's the mantra of starving artists everywhere, right?--don't bastardize your work to make a buck.)

I suppose the answer will come to me eventually, hopefully in the form of good advice from an agent and an experienced editor, and also in fat royalty checks.

Baring that, does anybody know a good psychic?

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