|Is it all too much?|
I have finally finished my ninth Alafair Tucker mystery. Well, "finished" may be a bit premature. The manuscript is with my first reader, now. (Also known as Beloved Spouse). As fellow Type M-er Charlotte Hinger pointed out so truly, most authors have no idea if what they have just produced is any good or not. In that respect, I am very much like most authors. The new book took me a long time to write. I am not a fast writer, but this book was particularly time-consuming, mainly because I changed the beginning at least five times. I ended up at one point with three beginnings in one manuscript, and as any reader will tell you, it's a much more satisfying read if a story only begins once.
I wrote one version of the story with an ending so grim that I feared readers would be suicidal after they read it and never pick up another book of mine. Believe me, it was a very clever plot twist, but sometimes you just have to kill your darlings before your editor kills you. I have to admit that even if I do have the ability to write dark...and I do mean inky black...this traditional mystery series just does not call for that sort of book. So, I ended up rewriting the entire second half of the novel so that everything turns out all right. More or less.
So this is the conundrum faced by any author of a long series. What would happen if you went off the rails for one installment? Suppose a long-standing and popular character dies? Suppose a character who has been a good guy for eight books suddenly does something unforgivable? Suppose a spouse who has been faithful for a literary decade decides to cheat on his/her spouse? Suppose a formerly innocent and naive character starts cursing like a sailor? Will your readers forgive you if you shake up their expectations too much? Or is it a good thing to shake up expectations? It seems to work for Game of Thrones. Somehow I think if I want to write a novel that is wildly different in mood and tone from all my previous books in this series, I'd be better served to write a stand-alone or start an entirely new series.
Any thoughts on the subject, Dear Readers and Writers?
However...by taking out much of the shock and horror of the situation, did I water the tale down too much? Is it now a pale imitation of its former gut-wrenching self? Or is it now an infinitely more satisfying resolution. Beloved Spouse will give me the first clue. Do I have something or not?