Beginnings, Middles, and Ends (Writing Guide 143 pages) by Nancy Kress was the next book on my required reading list for my MA in Writing Popular Fiction through Seton Hill University.
The big reason why this was one of my required texts was because I’ve been struggling with a good place to end Accept Fire and Blood because I am designing this book to be the first in my Wildlands series. Since my thesis is currently under review by my two final readers, I feel as though this is a bad time for me to go through the book and make changes, either in concept or to the ending. I have very little to no faith at all that my thesis will receive a first time pass for this course, which is fine because then I will have the month of November to make it perfect.
Beginnings, Middles, and Ends is well structured and easy to read. I think as soon as my thesis comes back from my graders, I will actually use all of the exercises at the end of each chapter. I’m very curious to see how well my manuscript will hold up to the promises intended and promises delivered. In fact, there are large portions of my story that I really don’t remember writing. So in a way, I’m also looking forward to rereading my story as a reader and not as the author. The last time I did that, I learned that my first six chapters were so incredibly boring that even I as the writer was falling asleep and I knew what happened!
What I’m learning about series books is that it still has to be a stand alone novel, with a beginning, middle, and end all by itself. The section in chapter 7 “The Special Case of the Series Book” brought up several key questions for me, and then I had to take into account that this book, while extremely helpful, has a copyright of 1993. Most of the series books that I read these days, Jim Butcher‘s Harry Dresden novels, Carrie Vaughn‘s Kitty Norville books, David Weber‘s Honor Harrington space opera, are all examples of the ongoing series using mostly the same main characters. In these books, I’d have to say that it’s all about character arcs. Throughout each series, the character changes just a little. Sure, they more or less stay the same as when we started, but the bad guys keep getting more encompassing and the good guys keep having to do more and more despicable things in order to defeat them. I absolutely love this about all these novels.
Using these books as a prime example of what I want to do with my series, I’d actually disagree with Nancy Kress when she says “… that readers who enjoyed her in one book won’t find her with a different personality in the next book. If you write this kind of series, you need to make sure your protagonist ends up in roughly the same professional and emotional place she started. You’ll have to emphasize plot over character development.” (page 115-116). All of the series I mentioned above have drastic arcs for the characters, and it’s taken several books in each series to get a full scope of what the characters would and would not do, given certain circumstances.
Overall, a good book on craft and one I look forward to using once my graders decide if my thesis passes or fails.