The Cliffhanger Myth

All right. So, as you all know, Sins & Nee­dles has a cliffhanger — a lot of books do, espe­cially in a series. If you can’t han­dle cliffhang­ers, we’ll I don’t blame you. But some­times they are a nec­es­sary evil.

Let’s take a look at The Out­lander Series…maybe KMM’s Fever Series? Lord of the Rings? Almost every dra­matic TV show?

I’m not sure why, lately, there has been such an uproar over cliffhang­ers. They aren’t a new con­cept at all. They’ve existed in books for a long, long time. And they aren’t always there to piss read­ers off or ensure them to buy the next book. I know peo­ple think it’s always a strate­gic mar­ket­ing strat­egy and, yes in some ways it is. But some­times — and this is the case with me — it is just where the book ends.

I went to school for screen­writ­ing and I write my books in a three-act struc­ture, which basi­cally means I have one cli­max and I stick to it (no mul­ti­ple orgasms for me!). I also think of the end of the book first and I work toward it. Some­times, that means a cliffhanger. But I swear on the Bible, I do NOT write cliffhang­ers for the sake of writ­ing a cliffhanger. It’s just the way it goes sometimes.

Sure, maybe there are some books lately that have a cliffhanger and the author gives no indi­ca­tion that it’s a series. Maybe there’s a cliffhanger in the form of a book that just kind of .…ends. Like, mid-sentence…like the end of The Sopra­nos. Or maybe it’s a cliffhanger that feels really out of place. I don’t know why there’s the cur­rent anti-cliffhanger back­lash, but it has me per­plexed. Why now?

Look, when I go into to read a series, I am pre­pared for one of those books to have a cliffhanger. Just like when you go into watch­ing a new TV show, you’ll prob­a­bly get a few as well.

The good thing — with indie pub­lish­ers such as myself — you don’t have to wait long for your next book. LOOK AT TRADITIONALLY PUBLISHED BOOK! Look at Diver­gent or City of Bones or what­ever “real book” and see how long they make you wait.A YEAR. A FUCKING YEAR! Self-published authors are work­ing their ass off to bring the reader that next book as quickly as they can.

Which brings me to the next point…some peo­ple say “why write a series then? It’s such a money-grubbing scheme” — well, I really don’t like hav­ing some­thing like writ­ing (which is an art and a pas­sion, con­trary to what some peo­ple might say) reduced to noth­ing more than a money-making vessel.

YES we need to make money. God, yes we do. Who doesn’t? In the heat of my nov­els, I’m work­ing ten hour days…I barely eat or bathe and I don’t leave the house. I make sac­ri­fices in the form of loved ones, fam­ily and friends. I have no social life. I need to be com­pen­sated for that sacrifice…

So why do we do series? So we can have a break…if it takes me a month of becom­ing an anti-social, mentally-deranged her­mit to pump out one book, there’s no way I could do it for three months straight and sur­vive. I couldn’t. Imag­ine sit­ting at a desk for ten hours a day, coax­ing your brain to work over­time in a whole dif­fer­ent world. It is exhaust­ing, to say the least.

By writ­ing a series you get to spread out your work­load. You also get to spend more time with your char­ac­ters. I don’t WANT to write one fuck­ing long as fuck book and then be done with it. I want to spend more time with Cam­den and Ellie and you know what, I think most read­ers do too. I mean, Dex and Perry have been in people’s hearts for nearly two years now as the series keeps going…I LOVE THAT!!! I’d be so sad if it was over in one go.

And that brings me to the next point: some books are bet­ter suited for a series. There are many dif­fer­ent sto­ries to tell, events, chal­lenges and tests. Not all sto­ries and char­ac­ters work the same way. Yeah maybe there are a few con­tem­po­rary romance stand-alones that shouldn’t have become series. Maybe authors shouldn’t mess up a book’s HEA just to sell more copies…but maybe it’s not about sales too. Maybe they miss the characters.

And finally, when it does come down to mak­ing money — if you spend a LONG amount of time writ­ing a book that should be split into three, and then you finally release it…it might not make you any money. It might not do well. Then there’s six months of your life gone. If you split up the book the way they should have been, at least you always have another chance to get it right. You have a chance to hook more read­ers and you have a chance to grow as a writer. I am not the same writer with Dark­house and Perry and Dex as I am with Into the Hol­low and Perry and Dex. They have changed — I have changed too. We’ve changed together. It’s pretty damn near poetic.

I mean, wouldn’t you rather spend $3 every 4–6 months or so then $9 once? OR if you’re look­ing at tra­di­tion­ally pub­lished books, $10 for each Mac and Bar­rons adven­ture or $50+ for one giant one. It’s almost like lay­away plan.

So the next time some­one points out that writ­ers are just in it for the money, that they write cliffhang­ers to piss peo­ple off and series so that they sell more books…you send them my way *cracks knuckles*