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How do you know when to end your book? (1 Viewer)

Olivia Brine

Senior Member
I'm currently at 40k words with a goal of 80-100k. I can see the layout of my book but I'm not sure what point I want to stop and leave the rest of the plot for the sequel. If I'm hardly halfway through, then do I scrap the sequel and try and put all of the information into one book? Or do I cut it off at a certain point, go back, and fluff up the rest of the book to meet the word count?
 

Non Serviam

WF Veterans
Never fluff up anything! Readers are incredibly sensitive to padding. Keep the story moving to the ending you had planned, and if you need to add more, explore the consequences of the ending.
 

Lawless

Senior Member
My current novel is already way over book size (even though not yet as long as "Count Monte-Cristo"). I know I will have to split it into 3 or 4 novels. However, I have decided I'll complete it first and only then decide what to do about the size problem.

That said, I agree with the previous comment.
 

Cephus

Senior Member
I know absolutely everything that I'm going to do before I write the first word. I know the beginning, middle, end and everything in-between. Sometimes that changes in the writing, although not dramatically. I'm really good at predicting how long every book I write is going to be because I am so intimately connected with the story and my own style from day one.
 

vranger

Staff member
Supervisor
I'm currently at 40k words with a goal of 80-100k. I can see the layout of my book but I'm not sure what point I want to stop and leave the rest of the plot for the sequel. If I'm hardly halfway through, then do I scrap the sequel and try and put all of the information into one book? Or do I cut it off at a certain point, go back, and fluff up the rest of the book to meet the word count?
I'm not clear from your post if you think the story is at a point you could conclude "Book One", but you're only at 40K. So it might help for you to spell out your situation in a little more detail. It IS true that the majority of any book's content isn't essential action to move the plot. There can be a lot of scene building, mood building, character revelation, etc along the way. I personally prefer to do that as I write the first draft. Adding material after the fact is doable, but to me it's not ideal. For example, the way you build your characters can easily lead to how you shape future scenes, so it needs to happen sooner than later.
 

Non Serviam

WF Veterans
I know absolutely everything that I'm going to do before I write the first word. I know the beginning, middle, end and everything in-between. Sometimes that changes in the writing, although not dramatically. I'm really good at predicting how long every book I write is going to be because I am so intimately connected with the story and my own style from day one.

I plan everything out before I start writing, and then veer wildly off track. But I find I write much better when I have a detailed outline to ignore.
 

Bloggsworth

WF Veterans
Either when you have run out of things to say, or have reached a resolution - If you have nothing further to say, don't say it...
 

Ajoy

Senior Member
Do you already have a main plot and sub-plot that will resolve in your first book? If not, I would definitely think it best to write all the way through this longer term ending that you have in mind. Even the first book in a planned series needs to feel like there is resolution to the main plot.
 

Cephus

Senior Member
I plan everything out before I start writing, and then veer wildly off track. But I find I write much better when I have a detailed outline to ignore.
I virtually never do. There was one time that I thought I was making a major change at the end of a book, where I realized in the last couple of chapters that one of the major characters had to betray the rest and I figured I'd pepper in hints in revision, only to find out that I'd already teased the thing all along. Somewhere, I knew this was coming and it took my conscious mind until the end of the book to realize what I was doing all along.
 

JBF

Staff member
Board Moderator
My advice is to look hard at the monomyth/hero's journey.

I know....real original. Bear with me. I'm going to try and expand the scope of this into a Multi-Level Monomyth. To do that you'll need a concrete understand of your story and characters and a reasonably fixed grasp of how all the disparate pieces fit together from beginning to end, both at the micro and macro level.

So.

You know your hero should hit or acknowledge most of the points within the confines of each individual book. Most authors do that. They fall short with the sequel. Why? Because the major arc drops off hard at the end of Book I. What you usually wind up with is a kind of official fanfiction from the creator. The people and universe are the same, and it's nice to see everybody again, and through it all you can't shake the feeling that something's just off. Everything is familiar but somehow less than it should be. You know gut-deep that this second part could never stand alone or match the success of its forebear.

Remember that macro sense of story? That plays in when your characters have a continuity that spans multiple volumes.

In my case, my protag's journey is entailed in three separate installments. So far I have enough of the salient points plotted to have a solid, if incomplete, idea of what the story supposed to do and where it should be at each turning. Book I lines up. Then it hits a point where everything to date comes to a head, finds a natural pause, and stops.

Assuming I ever finish (and do a competent job of storytelling) readers should be able to close it with the sense they've gotten something complete in its own right.

Book II also has to hit those same notes. It must also be sufficiently different so as not to be a rehash, and it must notably and fundamentally shift the world and the characters' sense of their own place within. A reader will ideally be familiar with the story from reading Book I, but their enjoyment shouldn't be diminished if not. The writer has failed if Book II cannot function as a standalone.

Incidentally, these are the darkest parts of the timeline and audiences should begin to question some of those things they see reflected from the prior work.

Book III will return to the familiar surroundings of Book I - with a catch. The world may be similar, but the character is changed - older, wiser, either further along their downward spiral or advanced by hard-won knowledge, and entrusted with greater responsibility. This is dangerous territory; the hotshot kid from Book I who had to prove he was tough enough to survive now has to prove he's competent to lead.

There are days when angry narcotrafficantes with AK-47s are more inviting than the weight of the corner office.

Now Book III is a real trick because it has a strong foundation in the two preceding. The roots are good and solid, and now the readership wants to see how all these strands they've followed tie together in the end. Plus, you gotta have that hero's journey again. And it still has to be fresh and interesting, and it can't contradict established canon, and it demands proper handling of familiar characters, and...and...and....

Anyway.

Notice anything funny about those three highly-evasive synopsi?

Well...if you took the monomyth wheel and cut it into three equal parts, you'd find that each book also correlates to a different leg of the journey. Each is part of a cohesive whole which can be hammered together to form a larger, much richer story that (hopefully) rewards) the reader exponentially more than going it piecemeal. Interlocking the three means one both supports and is supported by the others.

In sum:

Your issue finding a breaking point may be more a factor of unseen weaknesses in your story. Thinking about a stopping point shouldn't be an issue, as a well-structured narrative (even for us panster types) should present one as a natural byproduct of narrative movement. When you hit it, you know.


If you're worrying about

  • where to break or
  • the loading of your plot relative to the break or
  • considering padding

...you might have some other stuff to work on first.

***

No offense intended, of course. I'm a horse's ass on the best of days, so take all that for what it's worth.
 
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