The Making of a Trilogy
Planning a trilogy is not the same as writing a novel.
Especially when, like so many new authors, I wrote the first book without much of a concept on what would happen next – or even if there would be a next. I was happy to have written a book at that point!
There are so many problems with that mindset though. Not that I’m bashing my naivete. I’ve learned so much in the three years since I self published Born of Water. I’m a ‘leaper,’ not a ‘looker,’ tending to DO things before procrastination (or the voice of reason) can convince me not to. But writing the first book in a trilogy without a concept of the whole story arc is not something I would recommend.
One of the things that brought me to writing fantasy was my love of reading. I adore a good story, especially a long one like a trilogy that contains clues to events that might not happen until late into the story – even several books late. I love figuring out what might happen or, even better, that moment when you realize you should have seen something coming!
So I was disappointed when I wrote Born of Water that I hadn’t looked further ahead than book 1.To invest the level of strategizing I like to read into a series means you have to have a clue where the story is headed! Heck, an actual title for the series would have been a good start. Yah, I really hadn’t thought beyond book 1.
Which made me do a lot of planning before I wrote Rule of Fire, book 2! That work paid off when I wrote the final book, Spirit of Life. And I think things worked out. I’m currently re-editing Born of Water to upload it to CreateSpace and I do see some things I could have expounded upon, but the books link up nicely, even if some of the foreshadowing in book 1 was luck more than effort.
But, I’m not making that same mistake again. The world and story were still fuzzy for me when I wrote Born of Water. I missed the opportunity to develop story threads that tie the series together. Sure, I got to do that with books 2 and 3 while mining book 1 for ideas I could use in the later book. But when it comes right down to it, writing a trilogy is not the same as writing a stand-alone novel. There is a lot more plotting and world building involved. You have to know where the story is going and who the characters will become to foreshadow pivotal plot points that are brewing under the surface of book 1 to erupt in book 2. I can’t imagine doing this as a pantser… not for the type of story I have in mind.
The plot for a novel is often described as having three or five (or seven) ‘acts.’ Action builds, bubbles, falls to a simmer, and then explodes with a little wrap up for everyone to catch their breath (if you follow the ‘formula’). But the arc for a series… that is a different beast. Short plot lines must build, erupt, and entangle new problems. There must be an underlying theme carried through, a grand tension needing to be resolved while the shorter plots keep a reader’s attention.
Now, I understand that. Writing the first book without that in mind isn’t impossible, but it isn’t ideal.
Needless to say, my new WIP is pretty well scripted. It is a trilogy of sorts as well, though the first book is actually a collection of short stories. The world is near future, so I can say it is pretty well developed! But even though I know the ‘big’ events and can foreshadow, I’m often surprised what comes up while writing. Personality quirks give me new insight into characters. I’ve learned that the level of interconnected events that I am aiming for is something best brought out in editing.
Which means I have to write the whole darn thing (at least rough draft) before I get too far!
Eegads. There is one advantage to that, if I can make it work. Setting up the releases should be fairly easy as I’ll be in edits! Next week, I’ll talk about some of the specific things I might have changed in book 1 if I’d mapped out the trilogy earlier.
What is your method for writing a series or trilogy? Have you ever written one ‘on the fly’?