I was so excited when I started my series, and now I feel like I might lose the will to live if I have to write any more. The problem is that I have a big fan base and they are clamoring for the next book. Writing is my sole source of income, so I need to continue to write what the fans love. How do I fall back in love with my characters and series?
Out of Love in Obura
Dear Out of Love,
I’m sorry, that moniker is too long. I’m going to call you Obura. Yes, that’s better. Obura sounds like an excellent name for a character. You know, sometimes my mind and fingers wander and, so inspired, I started to create a character sketch for a female warrior called Obura.
It haunted me like it was familiar, somehow, so I hit the source of all truth: Google.
And there was Obara Sands, a character from the legendary series that is Game of Thrones. I accept the reason I found Obara was because I mistyped Obura, but it was a happy coincidence because it got me thinking about the answer to your question.
George R. R. Martin.
That’s the answer—or, rather, he is.
Admittedly, this answer is almost as cryptic as the answer to the meaning of life in Douglas Adams’s The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and though I’m not going to spoil it for you in case you have yet to read this humorous masterpiece, please stick with me, my dear Obura, because I will reveal all.
Whether you like epic fantasy, you would have to have been living in a cave on an isolated island in the middle of the Indian Ocean with no Wi-Fi connection to have not heard about the success of Game of Thrones. This incredibly popular TV series was based on Martin’s book series A Song of Ice and Fire. Now, I could fill up this letter giving you the timeline of Martin’s books, but you can check it out on Wikipedia. The gist of it is that he started writing his first book in 1991. It was finally published in 1996 and was meant to be part of a trilogy. That morphed into a planned seven-volume set. Book five, A Dance with Dragons, came out in 2011—a full six years after book four—and we are all still eagerly awaiting the last two books.
George R. R. Martin is now in his seventies, and maybe fans will remain disappointed. However, by scouring through articles, interviews and even Martin’s own blog—cheekily named “Not a Blog”—we can pick out Martin’s writing process. He writes from twenty different points of view and will only write on days when he has nothing else but writing to do. That’s a lot of characters to stay engaged with, but it still takes phenomenal writing endurance to stay interested in your story and the people who inhabit it for that long.
You state that the income from your books is your only source of income, so it seems to me that you have four options:
- Become as successful as Mr. Martin so that you lock yourself in a log cabin and write for six-plus years on the next book in your series. He has, after all, demonstrated that your fans will keep buying and will wait if they love what you do.
- Give up writing and get a proper job. The suffering of the mind-numbing nine-to-five will make your boring characters appear much more attractive.
- Suck it up, and remember this is a business. Yes, it’s a creative business and you need to reengage with your muse somehow, but at the end of the day, this is a job, and sometimes you have to do stuff at work that is mundane and kills you slowly on the inside.
- Ignore the fans, write a fresh series, and hope they follow you on your next adventure with no ill feeling. (Have you watched or read Stephen King’s Misery?)
What you have to ask yourself, my dear Obura, is which of these options feels most palatable?
Alternatively, you could try falling back in love again with your series. Take your characters on a date. Wine and dine them. Have fun with them. Put them in a new situation—maybe they could go on a vacation or meet someone new. Could they nip across to a spin-off series for a bit of extracurricular fun?
Why don’t you try sitting down with them over a coffee and get reacquainted? They will have changed; we all do. Perhaps they need an opportunity to grow. If you really can’t stand them anymore, torture them a little. Throw them a massive curveball. Relocate them. Kill one of them off. Send them off to work abroad. What I beg of you is not to just send them upstairs in one scene for them never to be heard of again. They have served you well and deserve better than that. Still not engaged? You could always write away everything that has happened to them in the past as a dream.
Whatever you do, make it fun. Enjoy it, and your fans will too.