As planned, the current Uncle Mike saga was supposed to break into three parts. What I've done is excise part three, choosing to jump straight to the conclusion. This means a few big losses for me. Gone are the running gags of Jacob's V encyclopedia and Mike giving the kids coffee. Gone is a twist I had planned to set up over a few weeks. The big casualty of the change, however, is poor Sydney. Since she spends half of her time in the city, managing her apartment buildings and doing general businesswoman hobnobbing, this was my opportunity to drop in on her and show how she lives when away from family.
But here's the thing: Just because you CAN, doesn't mean you SHOULD. Bringing Sydney in would mean extending the city trip for dozens of strips - which is risky for a story that's already running long. Looking over the scripts, while I was having fun with her, it was clear Sydney's involvement ended up having zero impact on the story as a whole. No events depended on her triggering them, and she actually delayed some payoffs if I think about it that way. She's simply a fun character to write for and I wanted to use her.
My preferred method of writing is to set up a scenario and sit on it, letting its potential play out. This can easily lead to a "too much of a good thing" effect. I may write 20 good gags about the kids and Mike in a museum, but running them all risks joke fatigue. There's also the problem of pacing, should I devote a strip to every little silly detail just because I though I was clever for thinking of it. It's my nature to really be indulgent and revel in my stories, but this time I felt editing was the best option - especially considering all the indulgence I'd already placed in this story!
Now the questions is... what will fill that gap? I've had a story, set during summer break, that I could do. The timing would be right for it, and it will eventually rotate a few characters back into the spotlight. The downside to that direction is that I'll be subjecting the readers a long, drawn-out story again without giving them a gag-a-day break to cool off.
A second idea to fill the space is to create a series of one to two week vignettes that focus on some of the supporting cast, and ride those short stories through the summer. Those might be easier on the readers, but I'm not as prepared on my end to run them. At this point, I only have one solid vignette idea. There's also the problem of this idea bumping the summer story mentioned above to next year. (Which might not be a bad thing, in regards to long-term pacing.)
Clearly, I have to whip out my giant Word file of ideas and get some inspiration going again. The end of the Mike stories will come sooner than expected, and I must be prepared to move on!