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Last versus First (or, the Post-Deadline Blues)

It's THAT time of year: I finished the manuscript for Ascendant's Rite (Book Four of the Moontide Quartet), right on deadline day - 30th November 2014 - and sent it off to Jo Fletcher, my Publisher-Editor-Goddess. Job done . . . sort of. Now comes the waiting!

Here's how it works: I signed up for four books. At that time I'd written Book One (Mage's Blood), and had a synopsis document for the remaining three in a four-book series. Mage's Blood needed to be revised and the remaining three written. So, although Unholy War (Book Three) has only just been released, it was submitted in November 2013, accepted for publication in January 2014, and edited during April 2014. Ascendant's Rite will follow a similar path. Right now I'm waiting anxiously to see whether Goddess Jo likes the submitted draft of Ascendant's Rite (or at least that it's close enough that any problems can be ironed out during the edits). Worst case scenario is rejection and a complete re-write. That would be pretty stressful, so I'm somewhat fidgety as I await that decision!

As Book 4 of a Quartet, Ascendant's Rite has added pressure: it's the last book of the series, and needs to finish things off memorably, excitingly and appropriately. Who lives? Who dies? Who wins and who loses? What are the outcomes, big and small? With so many characters and plot-lines on the go, I've had lots of decisions to make, and in many cases the synopsis doesn't actually help (see footnote below)

As a reader, I'd always regarded the last book of a series as the most important part, but the impression I have is that the world mostly cares about Book One. I found out recently that there are some review sites that ONLY review Book One of a series. Book One is the one that needs to capture the readers.

Certainly Book One is where the author's creation, introduced but not yet fully explored, is at its most enticing. A new world of ideas opens up, and our imagination fills in the gaps with all sorts of cool things that COULD happen. We're free to imagine the possibilities, and hypothesize how good the rest of the series MIGHT be. So it's no wonder some people judge a series just on Book One.

That's a shame - I can think of several series where the first one or two books were disappointing, but persistence further into the series was rewarded. Some writers grow into their creations, and turn them into something bigger and better than Book One even hinted at. I can also think of MANY series that petered out after a strong beginning, and never delivered on the promise of the first book, with my imaginings of all that could have happened left unfulfilled.

As a writer, I've found that all the books of a series are fun to create - Book One is full of freshness and energy - Middle Books gallop along, the world-building having been done and dusted - and the Last Book is full of power and emotion (and stress!). But I do think it's a shame if complete series aren't judged as a whole. Personally, my life would have been less rich had I abandoned reading certain series after a Book One that I was less than enthralled by.

Anyway, think of me as I nervously await the thumbs up or down from Goddess Jo – I'll try not to let it spoil my Christmas dinner. Season's Greetings, and wishing you a happy 2015!

Footnote: About synopses - by the time you reach the end of Book Four, the synopsis and the final manuscript only bear passing resemblance to each other as the cumulative result of left-turns taken in earlier books. This isn't a bad thing, as such: you can't think of everything right at the start. Some elements of a series grow organically as better ideas occur to you during the writing. I think/hope this is normal!) 

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