1. MrWisp
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    MrWisp Member

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    Satisfactory Conclusion?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by MrWisp, Sep 23, 2013.

    I'm just coming to the end of my first novel, which would ideally be the first in a series. Despite my ideas for a bigger, sweeping storyline, I tried to provide as much closure as possible in my first book.

    My question is, how many loose threads are too many loose threads? It's a bit difficult to explain, but I guess I could liken my story to a James Bond film. In the first film, Bond defeats Dr. No, but we are given the hint that there is a larger threat looming out there (SPECTRE). I'm sure that if that had been the only Bond film, there would have been some disappointment, but on the other hand, the main villain is defeated and the hero gets the girl.

    In the same way, my book won't end on a cliffhanger, necessarily. The hero saves the day, the main villain is defeated, and there is closure for most major characters. However, subtle breadcrumbs are dropped that could/will lead to other conflicts. Does the sense of possible future plot complications render the book unmarketable to a publisher? Or when people say to make the first book a stand-alone, are they mainly warning against leaving the hero with a gun pointed at his head on the last page?
     
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  2. Thomas Kitchen
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    Thomas Kitchen Proofreader in the Making Contributor

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    I'm one among the minority of writers (I think) that believes a novel in a series should not stand alone. If the person who bought, say, your second book is idiotic enough to think that the writer should be privileged to get them up to speed, then they shouldn't be told anything. I believe that a writer should write for the reader of the series, not for just the first book. If the reader doesn't like the first book, then they don't buy the sequel. Simple.

    Now, on to the answer. Personally, I don't see anything wrong with leaving a major cliffhanger in a book. In fact, it would probably make me buy the sequel. Having said that, I don't think you should do something like that in the first book, because if the reader doesn't like your writing style but wants to finish the first book feeling satisfied, they ain't gonna get it. So I think you must strike a balance - as we always must, in life. Write your book the way you want it to be written, first of all. Then read it as a reader would. Is it satisfactory? Would you be okay with the ending and immediately buy the sequel, or would you throw it away in disgust? Some series rely on previous reader experience to understand the current book (Wheel of Time) while others do not (CHERUB). In the end, you've got to realise that not every publisher or agent is going to see things the way you do, especially if you're a first-time writer.

    Bottom line to my long-winded answer: I would play it safe for your first couple of books, even if they get published. Once you begin to get a reputation, you are allowed more freedom as a published writer. My two cents. :)
     
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  3. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    I personally like books that lead directly to other books, and I dislike extensive re-caps within the second story.

    Of course the immediate loose ends of any plot need to be tied up unless you're writing an actual series (to be sold as: "Book One, of the Nincompoopery Trilogy.") But I AM a great believer in leaving a couple of elephants roaming the room, even in a one-off story. Issues that might escalate, characters who might 'turn,' a situation that might not remain stable, a relationship that is presently stable but has fault lines. A deep secret which has not yet been revealed to all the characters. These make great premises for follow-up books—or simply as food for thought.

    I am also a believer in a short synopsis of a previous book (or books) which can be presented as a separate introduction at the beginning of any second book. That can take care of anybody who hasn't read the previous book but won't impede anybody who has.
     
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  4. Thomas Kitchen
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    Thomas Kitchen Proofreader in the Making Contributor

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    I liked your post mainly because of this. ;)
     
  5. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    if you're self-publishing, you can do whatever your little heart desires...

    but if you want to maximize your chances of getting an agent and a paying publisher to take on your book, it will have to be able to stand alone...
     

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