This is probably one of the hardest decisions that I’ve had to make throughout writing the series so far – when is a good time to end each book? What is a good breaking point? What will make the reader be inclined to read the next book but not leave them feeling unfulfilled or frustrated?
Originally, I thought that the first book had a fairly clear ending – when Initiation was finished. However, the challenge with that was that I kept coming up with new tasks and new challenges for them to complete, thus adding a significant amount of length to the book. I had to remove many, many different scenes and even entire chapters because it kept becoming too long. That, and there were so many ideas that I had written into the first book that I felt would be more fitting in the second, third, or fourth books, and I didn’t want to utilize all of my favorite ideas in the first book.
But what made me feel it was too long? I know there are books that are significantly longer than mine, and I was tempted to just keep going, but I always felt like around 120,000 words was where I wanted to end the book. Of course, it ended up being more like 130,000 words, but I felt like that was close enough, all things considered. The truth is, when I went through each draft, if I felt like my attention was beginning to wander during a particular scene or felt like there was too much going on, I would either edit it down or delete it entirely, sometimes to be saved for later, sometimes to be gone forever.
The second, third, and fourth books were significantly more difficult to decide on the ending, but for entirely different reasons for each.
The most important thing for me in deciding where to end the book was whether it would feel natural to the reader. While I understand and respect the complete cliffhanger ending, I tend to think it is a little unfair to the reader for them to wonder if someone lives or dies for several months or years until the next book is published. The opportunity came with the first book where that was certainly a possibility, but I just simply felt it wasn’t in keeping with how I wanted the series to go. Honestly, unless I intend upon publishing the next book within a couple of weeks, I would rather end each book where the reader is left with plenty of questions and a desire to keep reading, without the pain of a complete cliffhanger.