Welcome back and welcome to 2021.
In my December blog, I said 2020 had been a crazy and stressful year. But it is December, and soon it will close and make way for 2021. I suppose I harbored the delusion that changing the year would change the crazy. Brilliant.
I have tried to stay away from the news in the U.S. and around the world in my blog. You don’t need me for that, and my time is better spent sharing my experience with writing. However, the events of 1/6 have knocked me a bit off nick (British for kilter. Obviously, I picked nick – just for fun).
In discussion with a friend (I believe he is still a friend) about the events of January 6, 2021, he compared 1/6 to the property damage to windows during protests this past summer. I, of course, said this is nonsense and a poor attempt at deflection. I would not characterize 9/11 as “property damage”; it was an attack on America. So too, 1/6 was an attack on America. I mention 9/11 not to be hyperbolic, but at that moment it struck me that on 9/11, the brave men and women on United Airlines Flight 93 gave their lives and prevented the assault on our Capitol by Al-Qaeda terrorists. How horrendously shocking that 20 years later, American terrorists completed Al-Qaeda’s mission on 1/6 with the intent to abolish our Democracy. While all violent-protests and riots are disgraceful and abhorrent to a free society, 1/6 like 9/11 is simply not in the same category.
I believe tomorrow, January 20, 2021, will be a rebirth of America, with President Biden and Vice-President Harris taking the helm and guiding us through the murky waters of finger-pointing and soundbites to a place where we will face our challenges together. I do not believe that we, Americans, are divided. I think we’re united and facing anti-American domestic-terrorist cabals. Donald Trump invited them out of their dark alcoves into the light, where they found support from cynical and gluttonous Senators and Representatives. Our work is cut out for us. At this point, my friend simply walked away. “Wait, I’m not fini –”
So, these were the horrors filling my head and demanding my almost constant attention. Also, I am finalizing “Nunzio’s Way,” which is a stand-alone sequel to “Weepers.” I found writing a sequel to be both a challenge and great fun. So, in the remainder of my 50-minutes (thank you for listening, you helped me a lot), I will say a word or two about writing a sequel. I spent more time on the topic of ending your novel in my May 2020 blog, and this is a small piece from that blog with a wee bit more added.
Let me start by saying, I do not think all series or sequel fiction should also stand-alone. This is something that each author of a series must decide for herself. In some respects, it is a choice between ending with a cliff hanger or complete the story with a few dangling questions and a sense of continued character development. Most importantly, I want the reader to love the ending, the story, and the characters enough to want more.
Now, all of this assumes the reader is starting with the first book in the series. Many authors manage to do this as an art and have also developed an extraordinary ability to give just the right amount of backstory threaded seamlessly (I prefer that to “organically”) throughout each subsequent novel in a series to inform the reader who picks up the third novel first. This reader will understand the story as “free-standing” while at the same time wanting to read earlier books in the series. This is not easy, even for the best writers, but you have a winning sequence when it works. (Think Connolly, Patterson, DeMille, and so on).
A final thought, when there is a time gap (from book one to book two), ask yourself three things,
1. What have they (main characters) been doing over the past, let’s say, three-years, (a) that is consistent with the characters, (b) of interest to the reader, and (c) moves the series arc along.
2. In what ways have the main characters affected the story’s environment, including each other. And finally,
3. How do you show all this to your reader without using an “information dump,” not even a “as you know, Bob” dump.
According to James Patterson, the secret to a great ending of a book and a chapter is to write down everything that could happen. Think through everything that happened in the story, bullet point every possible ending – each one down a clean page. Then pick the most outrageous one that still makes sense concerning the story and the characters. That’s your ending.
If you’re looking for support groups for writers, I highly recommend the Wisconsin Writers Association. Go to, https://wiwrite.org/
Thank you for sticking with me throughout 2020 and for joining me as we start 2021 together. Keep writing, and please stay brilliant, healthy, and hopeful, Nick