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Earlier this week I released Sins of Lust, the fourth entry in the Go-Go Boys of Club 21 series. The fifth book in the series, as yet untitled, will be the final entry. And with that decision comes a great deal of responsibility to my readers.
When writing a series, whether it is a series (in that each story is self-contained, but each subsequent story carries the characters and world forward) or it’s a serial (in which the story is broken into bite-sized pieces, each of which has somewhat of a narrative arc), there are certain responsibilities the writer must accept that he or she owes the reader.
The biggest of these is that the finale needs to be explosive. In a series, each entry must be better than the one before. And when you get to the finale, that entry needs to be, by far, the strongest of them all.
The next biggest responsibility, and I would hope this would be obvious, is that each storyline must be tied up. The main storylines are obvious, but over the course of writing all of the entries, little storylines have probably popped up and been carried forward. These little storylines need to be brought to their own conclusion.
So with the release of Sins of Lust, I’m preparing to start writing the final book. Overall, I know what’s going to happen in the book, particularly with the main storylines. However, over the past four entries, and particularly with Sins of Lust, I’ve introduced a whole host of minor characters and each of these has a minor storyline that will need to be addressed and concluded.
To prepare for this, I’ve loaded the first four volumes on my Kobo and am about to sit down and start reading through it. Of course, I remember all the main events as I wrote the whole thing and it wasn’t that long ago… but if I want to create an intimate scene between to characters that harkens back to when we first met them, well, I better be familiar with what was said and done in that first scene. As well, I know that a lot of the characters have expressed hopes, fears, dreams, and aspirations — and the more of these I can address, the stronger my finale will be.
Writing a series or serial isn’t just about taking the characters and seeing what calamities befall them this week. Yes, this is generally how television works, but it’s not how book series work. (There are some, of course, that follow this format. I’m a huge Star Trek fan and for years, the books were just like the TV shows — let’s shake things up, see what happens, and bring the characters back to where they were at the start. The books are far better now, though, because they’ve adopted the stronger underpinnings of a series.)
Characters grow, plots evolve, and the world moves on. The books must evolve and grow as well, the storytelling must get stronger and more compelling. You need to give readers the payoff they’ve been waiting for.
And believe me, when the fifth Go-Go Boys book comes out, readers will get that payoff. I’ve got intense sex scenes planned and deep emotional resonance with the characters — in many ways, I think it will be the strongest piece I’ve written to date. I’m quite excited to start this journey.
But how did I get there? I didn’t just decide to write a random book. No, I examined what happened in the series so far and projected where the plot could go. And from these projections, I chose the ones with the strongest payoff. I want my readers to be over-the-moon thrilled with what happens to the characters they love, and I want them touching themselves as they read these sex scenes.
And then the series will be over. Could I write more in the series? I could, of course, but I have to be sure it’s worth it and that I have a story to tell. We may, in fact, see some of the secondary characters feature in a spin-off series. But, at present, there are no plans to continue on with the Go-Go Boys of Club 21 beyond this finale.
That can be a hard realization sometimes. This week, I also released Men In The Hot Room: The Complete Series, an omnibus edition of the three Men In The Hot Room short stories. It is so tempting to continue this series, as Go Deep (a free download) was on Amazon’s Top 100 Free Gay Erotica list for about a year and has been downloaded over 11,000 times now, and the third story, Going All The Way, was a bestseller on All Romance eBooks. People obviously enjoy these stories and I feel like I should give them more.
But do I have a good story to tell? Can I tell a story that takes the series and amps it up a factor of ten? After all, every work has to be stronger and more compelling than the one before it. I currently don’t have story ideas that meet those requirements, so Simon and Brad are on the shelf for the moment. (Although, we may see them pop up here or there in a potential crossover series.)
Writing a series or serial isn’t simply an ongoing story. It’s a promise to the reader. It’s a promise that if they stick with it, your story will thrill them more and more with each entry and the payoff in the finale will rock their world. Keep that in mind when planning out a series. You owe it to your readers for sticking with you and, really, in the end, you’ll build a stronger and more dedicated readership.