So I’m editing Taken at the moment, and I’m debating whether entire story lines fit into this book or the next. Or the next. The problem with writing a series like this one is that at some stage, you end up with a ginormous cast of characters and a lot of parallel storylines. Which is fine enough in a looooong, slower-paced book, but when it’s a shorter piece, it can become confusing. I’ve written book four of the Ava series, and for me, it’s my favourite, but it’s also completely ridiculous, what with all of the characters coming into play (and the various storylines coming together at once).
When I sent Tempt out to beta readers, the majority of them commented on the twins in some way. I was actually really surprised by the focus on these two characters. Out of those who made specific comments, two didn’t feel that the twins were needed in the story, while the rest were all positive about the twins, many saying they couldn’t wait to see how their story progressed. I went with the majority, but I did accept that there were already quite a few characters in the series. And now Taken really does have a pretty huge cast because, due to certain story lines, the vast majority of players (old and new) make an appearance. I can take some away, and reintroduce some in the next book, but either way, we will end up with a large group of characters.
The thing is, before Ava, there was another story. A story I didn’t write because none of the characters had “it”, that special something that made me want to spend an extended amount of time in their heads. I, personally, have to feel it. There has to be a reason for me to wake up every day and join a character on their journey. And although I enjoy every character I write, good or bad, not all of them are the ones I want to be joined at the hip to for months or years at a time. This probably makes no sense at all to normal people. 😀
I had this world in my head, and it was big and ready for a massive change; it just needed the right character. Peter, Leah, and a number of others all existed before Ava. It wasn’t until I found Ava that I realised she belonged in this world I had already come up with. I wanted to go back and write that first story again, except without Peter, and have those characters cross paths with Ava. Cameo roles for characters who are important to the world itself, and who I will write about again. But I’ve reached that crossover point in Taken, and I still haven’t written that other story. I seriously considered waiting to write Taken until after I published this other story, but I decided it wouldn’t be fair to those who weren’t interested in a crossover story, and I didn’t have the time to write/publish them parallel to each other. My editor has other clients, ya know. 🙂
There’s another issue with this series. All of the characters, even ones we haven’t seen yet, have their own timeline. I like to keep track of what everyone is doing in the background. It takes me longer to work this way, but it helps me focus on the timing of things and helps me add hints to future story lines. (And everyone has a massive back story which doesn’t make it into the book. I would love to have been able to tell Max’s story, for example, but it didn’t fit, and there was so much more to him than was seen in Thirst). But as the cast grows, so does my chance of messing up continuity. And it definitely slows down the editing process. There’s the potential for confusion, so I’m going to do my best to pare things down, but if I pare down too much, then I’ll need to write an extra book to finish the series, and that seems unfair to those who have been reading the stories.
I’ve also considered writing the six Ava books and completing her story arc, then working on some crossover stories, and finally bringing all of the characters, including Ava, into one large story. The problem with that is it might appear as if that final story is changing Ava’s ending. Which could seem unfair, too, and it might be my self-indulgent side talking and wanting to spend more time with Ava. I know I always say I write for myself first, but I don’t want to disappoint people either (this is going to happen no matter what I do, I know), and although I could keep Ava’s stories going for twenty books, I would hate to get to the point where people are begging me to just end it already.
And, seriously, after Ava I’m working on stand alone books for at least a year. Or stories with, like, three characters. 😉