I’m having a dilemma at the moment. I’m working on a manuscript, and while I’m nearing the end of it, I can already see that it is too long. And not just a little too long. It’s more than 100,000 words too long. The prospect of editing it down to a reasonable size is nothing short of terrifying.
When I mentioned this to a friend they said, “why don’t you just make it two books?”
A valid point. That would mean finding an appropriate climactic point to end the first book on, but I think I’ve got one of those, and could edit things to make it work.
The big obstacle is this: the book is a romance. Sure, it’s also an epic fantasy, but it centres around a love story, and as happens in most love stories, the characters get together at the end. If I cut the book in half, I have a fantasy romance novel where the characters don’t actually get together.
I hate the idea of ending a book without the resolution of the romance, because I know as a reader that would annoy the hell out of me. The sexual tension builds, you get to the end and… nothing. The characters are still not together. Sometimes they haven’t even kissed.
But then I thought about it a little more, and I realised I have read romances where the characters take three books to get together. Was I annoyed? Yes. But did I buy the next books and read the whole series? Yes.
That unresolved romantic tension enticed me to read on.
As I see it, there are three types of first-in-a-series books when it comes to resolving sexual tension:
The characters confess or show their love for one another in the end, kiss, and sleep together. Then it’s usually the break up of the relationship, or the threat of it, that keeps the tension high in the following novels (or a move to entirely new characters and a different romance within the same story world).
The characters might kiss and become romantically involved, but they don’t actually have sex or confess full love and commitment. They might dream about sleeping together, or almost sleep together… but they don’t quite do it. Thus the sexual part of the tension still remains.
The characters don’t properly get together or confess their love, and perhaps don’t even kiss.
Novels I’d put in this category are: Daughter of the Blood, Assassin’s Curse, Angelfall
(Angelfall is borderline semi-resolved, as they do kiss, but there is no sense that they are actually a proper couple so I’ve put it here)
Which is Best?
Needless to say, there are lot more first books that resolve the tension, or at least semi-resolve it, than first books that leave it unresolved.
And while I have continued on with the series and read the second book for many of the 1st and 2nd category types, I have also continued with those in the 3rd category. Furthermore, the ones in the last two categories hooked me in a way that made me want to read on straight away. In the 3rd category particularly, I had the distinct feeling the story wasn’t finished yet, and I needed to see it resolved.
I have always said I hated books where the characters don’t kiss/get together in the end and yet those are the ones that keep me reading, even if it is grudgingly.
Thus, I have a dilemma with my own book. Do I write a romance that doesn’t resolve in the first book, and risk annoying anyone who reads it? Or do I perform some serious surgery to wrestle my book down to size (cutting a lot of the story out, not just the chaff) to get the romance resolved, and just make it a one-book thing? I’m not really sure what would serve the story best, and I think it’ll take a lot of thinking and re-reading till I come to a decision.
Still, I am curious to hear what other people think about resolving sexual tension in the first book of a series. Do you hate books where the romance doesn’t resolve by the end of the book? Would you continue reading a series where this happens, or give up on it? Would you rate the book badly because the characters didn’t indulge in the magical kiss you were hoping for?