I’ve written stand-alone books and stories and series books and stories. One advantage I’m finding with the stand-alone books/stories is that it’s easier to move on. Rather like the emotional difference between a brief fling and a long-term relationship. Note that this has nothing to do with either the quality or the emotional impact of a stand-alone book versus a series on the reader. I’m talking more about the length of time one spends in the headspace of a particular character or set of characters, and then one day, poof, you know you’re not going to be going there anymore. That’s the effect on the writer.
Some of you may have read a couple of my Eli Mothersbaugh ghost hunter stories. I wrote the first one, “Wrecks,” back in 1996. I wrote the last one (or rather I finished the last one, since it went through several iterations), “Diva,” in 2006. I’d spent ten years in Eli’s head, and when I finally realized that the story I was revising for the umpteenth time was going to be the last one, it was more than a little depressing. See, I liked Eli, and I liked reading about what he’d been up to, which was why I was writing those stories in the first place. Or to paraphrase The Most Interesting Man in the World (srysly?), “I don’t always write series, but when I do, they are not open-ended.” There’s always an overall story arc, even if I don’t realize what it is from the beginning. I finally realized that “Diva,” had left Eli in a good place, and he wasn’t inclined to budge from it. I haven’t written a new one in five years, so I must have been right.
Knowing where I’ve been, series wise, tells me where I’m going. The Laws of Power series, currently including The Long Look and Black Kath’s Daughter should eventually reach to four books, but that’s it. When I write the last one, Marta’s story will be told. I know I’ll grieve a little when that happens, since I’ve been writing about the character since 1994. The same thing will happen eventually with Lord Yamada. I’ll reach a point when I’ll know I’m done–or that he’s done–and that will be that. And it’s going to hurt a little when that happens. Yes, I know that none of those characters are real, but they were as real as I could make them.
The end has to sting at least a little bit, or I didn’t do my job.