The Unbearable Lightness of Being Done

For the first time in months, my desk is clean. Not “clean” in the sense of “dusted,” mind you – let’s not get crazy here. But I’ve put away all the papers I used as reference material for writing my urban fantasy series: the pocket calendar; the Wikipedia printouts (some more accurate than others); the rough outline that I followed, more or less, for the last book; and so on. It’s all back in the file folder that I labeled “Notes for Book 5” back before I had a working title for book 5 and never bothered to change, even after I decided the book would be called Annealed.

It’s a curious feeling, to be done writing a series of novels. My original goal was to write an urban fantasy novel – just one! But then I thought, why not make it a series? And if I structured the series on the concept of a Native American medicine wheel, I would have five books: one for each cardinal direction, and one for the heart of the wheel. So that’s what I decided to do.

And now I’m done.

Well, not completely done. I need to do one more editing pass. And I need to make the ritual sacrifice to the formatting gods so that the book will make it through the various meatgrinders without taking a piece of my soul along with it. And then, of course, comes the part where I get to try to convince people to buy it.

But I’m done with the inventing part. Naomi’s story is told, and I’m feeling bittersweet about it. On one hand, I’ve had this huge project hanging over my head for the past year and a half, and I’m relieved to have the weight of my own expectations lifted from my shoulders. On the other hand, Naomi and Joseph, their friends and their enemies, have been part of my life for many months now, and for part of this year, the calendar in their world met up with ours – which is to say that their story was more or less happening at the same time as I was writing it. Now their timeline has reached its end, but mine is still going.

Big Al put up a quote from Thomas Helm on the Books and Pals Facebook page the other day: “My test of a good novel is dreading to begin the last chapter.” As a reader, I know exactly what that feels like: the number of pages (dead-tree or virtual) dwindle, and you stall, savoring those last bits of prose before the story is done. Who knew it happened to authors, too? With this book, I found myself dithering over when to start writing it, and then I slowed down partway through. I told myself it was because I was dreading the Big Mediation Scene – which was true. But I was also dreading having to come to the end.

Or maybe it’s not the end. I can’t possibly be the only person who’s ever finished reading a book, hoping that the characters lived on in some parallel universe. That’s how sequels are born, right? And there’s no reason why I couldn’t write a sequel to the Pipe Woman Chronicles someday. Naomi’s baby arrives in this final book, after all, and the kid’s gotta grow up. But for now, I think I’ll just appreciate my clean desk. And I’ll raise a glass to my dear friends Naomi and Joseph, who are going on with their lives without me.

Author: Lynne Cantwell

Lynne Cantwell grew up on the shores of Lake Michigan. She worked as a broadcast journalist for many years; she has written for CNN, the late lamented Mutual/NBC Radio News, and a bunch of radio and TV news outlets you have probably never heard of, including a defunct wire service called Zapnews. But she began as a fantasy writer (in the second grade), and is back at it today. She currently lives near Washington, DC. Learn more about Lynne at her blog and at her Amazon author page.

38 thoughts on “The Unbearable Lightness of Being Done”

  1. It’s never easy to let go of characters that you have been through so much with, and that goes both for reading and writing. Congrats on completing the series. Soon you will have new characters just ready for you to fall in love with.

  2. Wow, Lynne, you are my hero! I can’t imagine how it will feel when I wrap up either of the series I’m writing now. Congratulations on finishing and knowing when to let go…. 🙂

  3. Wow! did I misread, or did you write five books in a year and a half? Even if it was only the last one, many congratulations. I use the term ‘only’ lightly. It takes dedication to see even one literary project through, let alone a series. Well done you!

    1. Thanks, Veronica! 🙂 Yes, the first book was my NaNoWriMo project in November 2011. Even I have trouble believing I’ve written five novels in less than two years. I keep saying that it’s too bad I didn’t get serious about this earlier, or I could have as many novels as Joyce Carol Oates, lol.

  4. Congratulations Lynn. Quite an achievement! You described to a “T” my feelings, fears, and deadline stress to finish book three of my trilogy. And I said the exact thing, “Why not write a Trilogy!” Little did I know what waited for me in the Wikipedia jungle of information. Congrats again and good luck.

  5. Well done, Lynne. I haven’t actually seen a series through, yet. Not something I actually planned on doing but I’m already considering two now from what was originally one offs. I do know that bitter sweet feeling of saying goodbye to, what becomes for a while, friends; personalities we spend an inordinate amount of time with would have to be classified as friends, wouldn’t they? The suffering, because living with the constant conflict is a form of suffering, is over. However, afterwards, there follows something almost akin to a period of grieving. I am of course speaking for myself here and assuming that I’m not Robinson Crusoe.

    Excellent post, Lynne, happy travels with your next project.

    1. Thanks, TD, and you are definitely not Robinson Crusoe.

      To make matters worse, I’ve done a couple of Fourth-Wall Friday posts at the Cabin Goddess’s blog. In this feature, the author gets to meet his or her characters. So yeah, Naomi and I are buddies. 😉

    1. Thanks, Lois! My only problem is that because the current series is set right-now-today, I’d have to set the next one in the future. And I’m not very good at writing sci-fi. I may have to get some pointers from TD McKinnon and Kathy Rowe. 😉

  6. Conga Rats, Lynn! When will the last book of the cycle be available to us?

  7. Congratulation, Lynne. The sweet saudade when the words — The End — get written. I’m doing the last editing pass of volume 2 of my trilogy, and I already feel the dreading to begin the third and last.


  8. I know just what you mean, both as a writer and a reader. Somehow the characters become real. I’m sure that each time your books are read they continue to live on, a little differently as each reader sees through their subjective eyes.

  9. I know the feeling, Lynne. I just finished and published Hunter’s Moon, the third (but not last) in my Moon Mystery Series. I had vowed I’d clean house when I got that accomplished, and now I’ve finished that, too! Ready to start another cozy in the series, Moonflowers. My house may not get cleaned till that’s done. 🙂

  10. Congrats, Lynne.Five books in a year and a half is impressive. I have a hard time writing two posts a month.

  11. My goodness, Lynne! Five books is a wonderful creative achievement, weather in two years or twenty! Somehow, I think it won’t be too long before your desk fills up with research files for your next book – heck it might even be another series! Congratulations ;))))

  12. *smiles* I’m there with you. I’m working on the last book of the “Space” series, and like your character, there will be a baby born. I’m not sure if I want to chase that story, or let it settle into space dust forever and move on. I think that’s the best part of being a writer- we CAN continue our sagas. Being a reader, once it’s over, it’s over, and all the wishing in the world won’t get that author to write more (especially if they are no longer of this earth). Congrats, and enjoy basking in the warm light of serene completion. Then it’s off to the next adventure!

    1. Thanks, Kathy! 🙂 I’m of two minds about following the baby’s story, too. If I do, I think it will be some time before I pick up that thread — there are plenty of books out there in the little-kid-hero’s-journey category already, so I’d want the child to be grown up first. But yes, it’s a great feeling to have the control, isn’t it? Muahaha…

  13. You’ve taken your characters through so much adventure, is it hard to shut off their growth in you mind and turn your focus elsewhere?

    1. A little, yeah. But I wrote this series in first person, and there’s a big, world-changing event toward the end of this last book. So it might be more interesting to explore the aftermath of the event from someone else’s PoV. Naomi seems to want to sink into obscurity and raise her kid for a while. Or that’s what I’m hearing from her right now, anyway….

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