Ending a Novel Series: Wrapping It All Up

Please join me in welcoming authors Janet Elizabeth Lynn and Will Zeilinger as my guest bloggers today to tell us the ins and outs of wrapping up a series. Take it away, Janet & Will!

P.S. Isn’t their latest book cover fabulous?

My husband, Will Zeilinger and I co-write the Skylar Drake Mysteries, a hard-boiled detective series that takes the reader to 1950s Los Angeles and other areas of the West. Our new book, GAME TOWN, is set in Hollywood and exposes a scandal that rocks the toy industry in Los Angeles. GAME TOWN is the fifth and final book of the series.

People asked, “How hard is it to finish a novel series?” I would say bringing everything full circle is tough!

Since each of the five books stands alone, we needed to close the arc and tie up all loose ends with perhaps hints of underlying mystery for each character’s future. In other words, the reader needed to know the characters will be okay if we never write a sequel or spin-off. However, with multiple plots, characters, and sub-plots, it can be a monumental task. Having a co-writer helps enormously.

Throughout the series, we used a Genealogy Chart to map out our characters’ relationships, and the part they each played in the individual books, including their secrets and flaws. This happened by accident when we were finishing our second book, STRANGE MARKINGS, and discovered we used a name for a character we had already used in a previous series! Concerned we would “plagiarize” ourselves, we used this system. We also were able to track who was related to who through this system. (For cozy mystery writers this works well).

We also found if there is something that needs to be revealed, do it early in the last book. If you’re lost, well, you know what they say: Grab the bull by the tail and face the situation. After all, you are the creator of the world you write.

It was difficult ending the series. Both of us got attached to the characters. They lived with us for five years; it was sad.

GAME TOWN is the fifth in the series and yes…we are still married!

Website: Janet Elizabeth Lynn – www.janetlynnauthor.com
Website: Will Zeilinger – www.willzeilingerauthor.com

BIO: Published authors Will Zeilinger and Janet Elizabeth Lynn wrote individually until they got together and created the Skylar Drake Mystery Series. These hard-boiled tales are based in old Hollywood of 1956-57. Janet has published seven mystery novels, and Will has three, plus a couple of short stories. Their world travels have sparked several ideas for murder and crime stories. This creative couple is married and live in Southern California.

The fifth Skylar Drake Mystery, GAME TOWN, the final book in the series, was released April 15, 2019 and yes…they are still married!

How I Write

The last thing I like to do before hitting the sack at night is to find something to tickle my funny bone. A TV show, a book, a YouTube video, even a Twitter post. Ending the day with a chuckle practically guarantees a good night’s sleep and waking up with a smile. To find a way to make others smile or feel dandy – that’s the real bomb. And, it’s also my reason for writing. That’s me in the photo below with some of my favorite smiling faces at the Camarillo Library, after a wonderful author panel.

If you’ve read my books, you’ll note my pen barely touches the paper. Translation: I write light. My heroine, Corrie Locke, is mostly a straight-laced, newbie lawyer…when she’s not bending rules, wielding illegal weaponry (though she’s never actually shot anyone…yet) or beating the %#*& out of a villainous type. She’s not exactly an amateur sleuth, and word has been getting around about her case-cracking skills

I’m constantly on the lookout for offbeat situations for Corrie and her crime-solving pals. They’re always up for it since nabbing bad guys beats the mundane day job every time. For instance, in MURDER GONE MISSING, Corrie and former security guard/now Corrie’s legal assistant and night law school student, Veera, visit an animal farm and stumble upon a surprise murder suspect.

I usually start out writing each scene straight and keep revisiting until I can mold it into something more amusing. I need constant action on the pages or it’s just not entertaining enough for me. The average person may be capable of walking a straight line from point A to point B. Not Corrie. A lot has to happen between the two points before she reaches her destination.

My favorite part of writing is spitting out that first draft and then combing through again and again to determine whether:

– The characters (main and supporting cast) sound and appear as they should in each situation;

– Each scene involves as many senses as I can squeeze in ( for instance, what does Corrie see, taste, smell, hear and touch?); and

– I’ve excess material that can be deleted without affecting the plot.

If I just can’t get a scene to work, I take it out and move on. That prevents me from feeling hampered and promotes manuscript progress.

Author Self-Care: Sanity Boosters

Being stuck in traffic is not the most productive way to spend one’s time. Being stuck makes me contemplate my sanity, as I notice it dwindling away.

If I’m going to lose my marbles, there should be a more compelling reason, don’t you think? The last time I was immobilized on the freeway, I refocused my perspective on how to improve life. Especially my writing life. Self-care jumped to mind.

When I’m writing, my state of mind can get intense, especially when I’m feeling a different sort of stuck. Stuck because I’m unsure about what I’ve written, I need to clean up a scene, I’d rather be doing something else or… you fill in the blank. Instead of stewing or feeling pressure, it’s far better to:

1. Step away and relax: When I shift direction, I come back feeling ready to roll. The shift can be as simple as dish-washing (Agatha Christie credited dish-washing as, “The best time for planning a book…” or reading or walking or spending time with loved ones (human and canine/feline/even poultry, in my case). It’s because the focus slides away from writing and onto a task that doesn’t require as much mental finesse. The key is finding something to massage and unwind the mind.

2. Say NO to social media: You don’t have to shun it forever, but back off for a bit, if you’re feeling overwhelmed. Make sure time spent posting or tweeting is no more than 10-20 percent of the day. And make sure you make it fun. Otherwise, why bother?

3. Exercise: Back to the bit about walking. Scarcely a day went by that Charles Dickens didn’t “flee his desk and take to the streets of London and its suburbs.” . Dickens was onto something. Taking in the sights, sounds, and scents of a walk can be refreshing and stimulating on the psyche as well as the body.

4. Eat well: Your mind and your body are the only ones you’ve got. Doesn’t it make sense to take the very best care of them? That includes eating well. I have an urge to snack when writing because…what writer doesn’t love a distraction? Sometimes, I give in and other times I flex my muscles of self-control. When I do cave, I make snacks light and healthy. I can reward myself with more later.

When you find yourself tensing up, no matter what the activity, stop and find a way to switch gears to ensure a positive frame of mind. After all, how can we progress in writing and in life unless we keep ourselves in tip-top shape?