A series takes a long time to write, and it's interesting to see how much of your original plans
totally change (or downright unravel) through the process. Take Chasing Echoes for example. Originally I had planned for it to be a standalone book. I wanted to read a novel about a teenaged girl who was trapped in a time loop with a guy she didn't like. That concept seemed ironic--and funny--to me. But sadly it didn't exist anywhere. So I decided to write the book myself. Again, as a standalone. Yet as I was outlining it, I realized I needed to provide a reason for my MC and 'some guy' to be stuck in a time loop. The brainstorm went something like this:
Okay, how about my MC has a supernatural dad who--for whatever reason--curses the guy into a time loop? And somehow said-guy drags her into the loop too? YES. This gives her even more reason to hate him. But...why is her dad supernatural? Who or what is he that he can manipulate time? Hmmm. How about we say he's Father Time? Awesome. Done. But wait a sec...if he's Father Time, shouldn't she, as his daughter, be something too? Shouldn't she have powers? Ughhh. Fine. She has three sisters, and each of them is the human embodiment of a season, with coordinating powers. Awesome! Great! This is SO original! But--oh crap--how am I going to incorporate all of this info into ONE book? And why would one "season" get a story but not the other three? *bangs head against wall* FINE. I'll just write one book for each sister...
And that's how Chasing Echoes went from a standalone to a four-part series.
After publishing Chasing Echoes, I did a detailed outline for the second book (Black Lilies). But despite my totally beautiful outline, I went into panic mode and decided I wasn't going to write it. Here's a post I wrote about it: Why I'm Not Writing My Sequel, in March 2016.
And that's how Chasing Echoes went from a four-part series back to a standalone.
At this point I started working on a totally unrelated dystopian manuscript that I simply adore, The Apathetics. I reached the 12% mark with that manuscript, when for reasons unknown, I got a weird itch to write the first chapter of Black Lilies. Then the second. Then the third. And pretty soon, I was writing the whole dang novel. My writer's block was gone, and I felt excitement for the series again!
And that's how Chasing Echoes went from a standalone--again--to a four-part series--again.
As I was writing Black Lilies, I started outlining the third book, Spring of Crows, which was going to be Krystal Aevos' (Winter's) book, and I came across two problems. Well, three, really.
An editor friend of mine told me that, due to her age, giving Krystal Aevos her own book switches my genre from YA to MG --an awkward thing to do mid-series. After researching it, I discovered he was correct; young-adult readers don't want to read about a 14-year-old.
After Black Lilies was drafted, I realized I only had enough Chasing Echoes material for about another book-and-a-half, not enough for two full books.
The thought of writing two more books was making me want to curl up in the fetal position and die.
That second point was quite the conundrum. With only 1.5 book worth of material (if even that), I was faced with forcing prose without enough of a storyline. Aka: Sagging Middle Syndrome. I decided taking away that fourth book would solve all of my problems...including problem #3, which was the stupidest one, but the loudest. Yes, I'd have to tighten my prose, but maybe that would be a good thing. It could lend itself to more intensity for the final novel.
And that's how Chasing Echoes went from a four-part series to a trilogy. (And also how it was diagnosed with bipolar disorder.)
This decision doesn't come without a little residual sadness. The Aevos sisters are so...real for me, and they each deserve their own book. As a compromise to point #1 (Krystal being too young to be the MC of a YA novel), I decided to split the difference. Book 3 is told through first-person narration from Phee's point of view, but it alternates with Krystal's point of view--told in third-person narration. This gives Krystal a voice, but allows Phee to be the official MC.
This was the best writing decision I have ever made. Knowing that I am now working on the last book in my series feels amazing. Writing Black Lilies was one big homework assignment; writing Spring of Crows is a joy. It's amazing how much your perspective changes when you can see the light at the end of the tunnel. I'm so excited at the prospect of having one major work complete because honestly, I don't feel like an author of two books. I feel like an author of one incomplete series. There's no satisfaction in that. But now I'm sprinting to the finish line (in my slow, sluggish way) and am that much closer to having the freedom to work on other projects. Almost-freedom tastes pretty dang sweet.