Completing an Arc in Life and Literature
Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Eight years ago, when I first got the idea that I might be able to write a book and sat down with my pencil and notebook to consider what kind of story I'd like to tell, I came up with The Magicsmith. It wasn't called that at first, and a lot of tweaks have been made over the years as Alex's story developed into the books that were eventually published, but the basic concept I came up with that day in my living room is still intact. The story I told myself that first day was too much for one book. It was even too much for a trilogy. The day I decided to start writing my book, I decided to write five. That was the minimum number of volumes I decided I needed to tell the story of how Alex grew to know herself and find her place in the world. The reason I'm writing this post today is because book five in The Magicsmith series came out last weekend.
The first Magicsmith book, originally called Crossroads and eventually published as A Drop of Magic, took three months to write. It then took five years of revising, editing, rewriting, and querying before an agent agreed to represent it. During that time, I joined a writer’s group (Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers), studied the craft and techniques of writing, attended lectures and workshops, and generally tried to figure out how to be a better writer.
It took a full year after gaining agent representation for my book to find a home with Bell Bridge, but when I got the contract I was thrilled to see they wanted not just the completed book, but the promise of two more. I remember thinking, If I do well enough with these, maybe they’ll agree to publish the last two. And of course, on the flip side, If they decide they don’t want more from me, I might never get to finish Alex’s story. But, I had my arc outlined. I knew which characters I was going to introduce in which books. I knew which antagonists would carry over and when Alex would make the all-important discoveries that would carry her forward into the next book and the next. I had hints and clues littered throughout the early books that 90% of people would probably forget by the time the finale came around, but I was okay with that because I knew they were there. So I wrote my story the way I’d envisioned it with the hope and assumption that someday I would get to tell it all.
What really floored me, and still makes my head spin when I think about it, is how readers responded to my stories. They wanted more. My first books did well enough to earn a second contract. I was going to be able to publish Alex’s whole story! But that wasn’t all. The publisher wanted me to extend the series! This was amazing news, but it was also terrifying. I had (and still have) plenty of other story ideas outside of The Magicsmith series, but I’d designed Alex’s story to be a five-book arc.
I sat down with my pencil and my notebook again (while I write on a laptop, I prefer to brainstorm in a more tactile form), and I considered what would happen to Alex once my original arc came to fruition. The story I was telling up to that point was how Alex learned the truth about and came to terms with herself. It was about family, friends, secrets, and growth. But people don’t die just because they reach a moment of self-realization (unless it’s a really sad story). They struggle with the new reality they’ve created for themselves every day, finding new hurdles to overcome. At the end of the fifth Magicsmith book, Alex has grown into a different person compared to who she was at the beginning of book one, and she has a new role in the world. Closing her original arc doesn’t bring her to the end, it sets her at the beginning of a brand new adventure.
When I started this journey with Alex, I was just a nobody typing on a computer, telling a story with no idea if anyone would ever read it. As Alex found herself and became the hero of her story, I became the hero of mine. My revelations might not have been as flashy or dramatic as hers, but my transformation was no less true. I’m an author. I set out to write five books, and I did, but this isn’t the end. Alex isn’t the only one with more story to tell, and I’m excited to send more of my creations out into the world for years to come.
You can find all of Alex's adventures in the MAGICSMITH SERIES tab on my website.