Monday, October 24, 2011


Writing a novel is much more than putting words on a page (as any and every writer can attest to).  There is an inherent subtlety to the craft that we sometimes overlook, especially in the early parts of our careers.  Once you’ve got a rhythm going, it’s hard to change gear let alone derail.  However, in the great journey that is the review and revision process, there is one thing we cannot afford to miss.  And that is Forgetting to Answer Questions.

The Agent M series as a whole was created to have a constant and continually intrigue.  I wanted to keep the reader’s on their toes while leaving certain elements hidden and others hidden in plain sight.  Along that path I had to keep reminding myself that Agent M: Project Mabus has to be a standalone story in and of itself.  There were some questions my test readers asked that I could easily answer and realized that they belonged in the context of the story.  Of course, there were a few others that I left out for the sole purpose of driving the series forward.  And therein lies the challenge.

Thankfully, in the eight years it took to get Project Mabus on paper, I had plenty of time to develop and shape the world of the Agent M series.  With that in mind, I could easily look at the story and determine which questions I needed to answer and which ones could be answered later.  I firmly believe that readers are more likely to give a series a chance that has a conclusive ending to the first story then to end on a cliffhanger.

Sure, some of you may be thinking that a cliffhanger ending will result in quick/easy sales of the sequel.  As much as I’d love to believe it, I know that isn’t the case.  Giving the readers your best efforts in a single story should be your primary goal.  Think about it like this.  Would you rather enjoy a 3-course meal or just the appetizer?  The answer of course depends on how hungry you are at any given point in time but logic is still the same.

A question you might pose to challenge me would be “but what if my story is too long? It’ll need a sequel or two in order to wrap everything up.”  Going back to the food analogy, is it better to spread out the meal in longer segments or give the diner everything they want in a single seating?  Sometimes it works.  My brother nearly flipped his shit when he found out how Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring ended but it still made sense.  As a self-published, and therefore un-tested author, it is harder to sell a big, drawn out meal than it is a quick fulfilling one.  The key here is not just to whet the appetite of your readers but to also get them to come back and dine again.

Nothing’s worse than having to pay for an unappetizing and unfulfilling appetizer only to be told the main course and desert will make up for it.  Do yourself a favor and give it your all with one story.  At least that way you will easily find the issues with your work rather than hiding behind the excuse of “but the sequel will make the story as a whole better!”

This little nugget of insight is brought to you by the letters FTAQ.


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