25 April 2015 - 11:06 pm

End of an Era: Starwalker Book 4


Starry: she go ‘zoom!’
(Picture: mine)

This week, I posted the final update for Book 4 of Starwalker.

It was a liberating experience. More than any other book of the story, this one feels like it has had the longest journey. It has taken the longest to write (over a year and a half, from August 2013 to April 2015) and had an unfortunate detour in the middle, so that feeling is probably right.

It’s nice to finally get to the conclusion, to reach that point I’ve been striving towards for so long. I can sit back and smile, because I finished another novel-length story, and I like how it came out in the end.

The end of Book 4 was also destined to be the end of Starwalker. I’m not sure how public I made that over the time I’ve been writing the web serial, but that was always the plan.

Similarly, The Apocalypse Blog was only ever supposed to run for a year. With that serial, I got to the end and I was done. For Starwalker, when I started it, I had three novels planned out, and an idea for a fourth. By the time I reached the end of the third book, I knew what the fourth one should be. That was the bonus extra story. That was supposed to be it.

This is the point when I’m supposed to be closing up the web serial and moving on to other projects. I have a whole list of things that I’m working on quietly in the background, most of which I don’t want to stay in the background. I have a list of things I have yet to get to. Characters that I haven’t drawn fully yet and want to meet. Worlds I have sketched in my head but haven’t walked in. Stories and plots that bubble away in the back of my brain and try to push to the surface.

And yet… and yet.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve found myself less and less planning to say goodbye to Starry and her crew. I’ve found myself planning for a break instead (because after 5 years, I need a real break!). I’ve found myself pondering just where the story will go next, the paths that the ship will fly, and some of the things she’ll trip over on the way.

I probably shouldn’t have written in a freaky kitten and left it on the ship. Because who doesn’t want to find out what happens when you squeeze a black hole into a tiny, fuzzy cute thing?

Over these past few weeks, I have been second-guessing myself a lot. There has been a voice telling me that I should stick to the original plan and turn my focus to something else. Like those things that have been piling up, waiting for me to have time and energy.

Because why do I really want this story to continue? Is it sentimentality? I adore the characters in that story and I love poking them with sticks, but is that all I’ve got now? Is it that I don’t want to disappoint my readers by drawing the curtain closed and refusing to open it again, no matter how big their eyes get?

Or is it that I still have stories to tell here? Is there more in Starry’s journey that I want to explore?

This, really, is the crux of it. You see, I firmly believe that a story shouldn’t be drawn out past its natural end. I believe that if I don’t have a story to tell, I shouldn’t be writing it. I don’t want to write it because of pressure, or obligation, or to make a buck (my story is free; I’m referring to the books in a series that have clearly been written because someone wanted to sell more of the series, not because the writer had more to do there. You know the ones I mean.).

I don’t want to write the heart out of it. I don’t want the story to meander aimlessly, or for it to lose that spark that people connect with and love. I would rather end it with people wanting more, on a high note, than drive it into the ground and have it peter out before a dwindling and disinterested audience.

I want to be passionate about the story, and I want to be sure. That’s why this has taken me so long to figure this out. The short answer is: I am. I have more I want to explore here, and there are stories yet to tell.

[Warning: I’m going to get a bit spoilery here.]

When I think back over the four books of Starwalker, Starry’s journey has been a rollercoaster, but is it complete? In the first book, she figures out who and what she is; not an easy task, given her nature. The second book is about understanding where she stands in the bigger scheme of things and deciding to fight for her freedom. The third book is about setting things right and breaking free of the circles – and company – that made her.

The fourth book is less about Starry herself and more about how she and her crew might define themselves now. It’s something of a pause in Starry’s story, the place they stop to try to put themselves back together again after the battles of Book 3. They’re not entirely successful, leaving the story almost as physically damaged as they started it. It’s really more about Cerces and who he is, when it comes down to it.

After four books, there are many questions left unanswered. Questions like: now that Starry is free of her company bonds, what will she do? What will her crew choose to do? Will they stay outlaws or try to build a life for themselves? The presence of Cerces opens up some options for them, most of which involve leaving human-settled space behind them. Will they honour their promise to him?

Cerces himself has a lot of adjustment and growth ahead of him, and his journey will be pretty important to the ship and her people. Plus there are some other dangling threads to be cleaned up, like the issue of the pirates and the evacuation of Earth.

You may start to see how, when I think about where the story of Starwalker will go and how much I want to write, I am starting to suspect that there are another two books in it.

Right now, it’s just a suspicion. What I am sure about is that there will be a Book 5, because I want to write it.

I have some work to do before I start, though. My approach to planning is loose at best, but I do like to do at least some. Book 4 suffered from a lack of it, I think, and wound up with a retcon to get it back on track. I don’t want to do that again. I need to get my head straight, have a clear idea about where this story is going, because it has a habit of blasting ahead regardless. (I blame Starry.)

To get the necessary pondering and planning done, I’m going to take some time out. I’m going to line up the next set of storylines so that Book 5 starts fresh and fast, with energy and purpose.

First, though, I’m going to take a break. I’m going to do my best not to think about Starwalker too much for the next few weeks, and focus on some other projects that are clamouring for some attention. I’ve got a few irons currently in the fire, and I’ll be posting about them very soon. I’ve got ebooks to re-release. Promotion to do. I might look at editing Starwalker Books 1-4 and publishing options.

I’m definitely not going to be idle!

I’m not going to rush things, which means that it’s going to take some time to get through my backlog and set up the next phase of the web serial. Like I said over on the announcement post on the Starwalker site: the story will be back in more than a month but less than a year. Right now, I’m not putting anything more accurate on it; let’s just see how things go.

The best thing is that I’m feeling really good about where my writing is right now. I’m so happy with how the end of Starwalker Book 4 came together, and I’m confident and optimistic about where it’s going in the future. I’m enjoying the release from the weekly deadline (though I’m still writing like crazy when I can), and I’m enthusiastic about the other stuff currently lining up to be written. Plus I’ve got some fun events coming up, a bustling social calendar with my writer friends, and I might get the chance to beat the publishing beast with a stick again.

So yes, the end of Starwalker Book 4 feels like the end of an era, but it’s also the start of something good. I hope to come back to writing the serial with this feeling (and who knows, maybe even a buffer!).

Like I said over on the serial site, thanks to everyone who has taken the time to read Starwalker. I write for you: it makes me happy, and I am incredibly grateful to have you as a reader. I hope you’ll join me when the story returns, and maybe enjoy some of the other stuff I’ll be working on in the meantime.

Onwards, dear friends! May the words dance to your bidding.

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  1. Francisco says:

    As much as I want to see more of Starry and friends I think you are making the right decision if you feel you need a break. You don’t want to end up like Arthur Conan Doyle — towards the end of his life he referred to Sherlock Holmes as “that damned detective”.

    April 29th, 2015 at 4:32 pm

  2. Mel says:

    So true! The last thing I want is to resent the story or its characters. Write what you love, and write it while you love it. 🙂

    April 29th, 2015 at 6:33 pm