The Pros and Cons of Writing a Trilogy
I love to read a series, where characters I learn about in the first book, show up in a second, third, fifth. Nothing pleases me more than discovering a sibling, or friend, introduced in one book as a secondary character, has come to life in his or her own story later. I’m invested in this character and want to see how his life unfolds.
This is why I chose to make my first publication with The Wild Rose Press part of a trilogy. My series, The Three Wise Men, tells the stories of three men who meet, as students at Harvard. Their love of computers brings them together. Their common goals and principles bond them.
The Pros of writing a trilogy are obvious. If I do a good job in the first book, not only enticing my readers to invest in my male protagonist, but interesting them in his two friends, I have readers eager to read two more of my stories. I also have a beginning for book two and much of the groundwork around my protagonist in my second and third book in place.
To hold my readers’ interest I have the opportunity in books two and three to let them peek into the ongoing life of my protagonist from the first book, seen as a secondary character in the second book. This resurrection also illustrates the passing of time and the changes in the lives of the three friends, as story one progresses to story three. It creates the continuity many readers seek.
The cons? Well, just try to keep those characters contained. You give them enough of a story line to make them interesting in the first book, then suddenly they want to race away on their own adventure. While you’re trying to plot out book two, the friend in book three is demanding attention. He knows just what he’ll do in a certain circumstance and wants you to write about it immediately.
You end up like a remote controlled vacuum, bouncing off one idea and knocking up against another. Soon you have small piles of detritus accumulating around the original task. Your clean manuscript disappears, while your mind attempts to head in all directions at once.
A trilogy can prove a detriment by forcing tight writing windows and deadlines on you. Readers wait to buy the next book in the series, anxious to find out if Josh is saved, if Sam finds his life mate. With the promise out there, you no longer have the luxury to doddle.
Writing the second book interferes with the need to publicize the first book. Anyone plugged into social media knows this has the potential to take great chunks of time out of a writer’s day.
I’ve come up with a few practices that aid me to keep focused on my priority piece. I set specific writing times for the story. I select one day a week when I don’t work on the book, but instead do all the publicity, social media, and office work accumulating through the week – yes, one of those piles of dirt my mental vacuum created rather than cleaned up. When the other characters and their stories intrude – generally in the middle of the night, or driving down a highway, I listen and take notes. I might rise and write the scene out as it unfolds at 3:00 am, or I might speak it into my tape recorder as I make the long drive between one prairie city and the next. Often I just grab a scrap of paper, jot down the most important points to keep my brain from shredding valuable content. This scribbled note sits by my laptop till my clean-up day comes around. I don’t so much as look at it again, on a day scheduled to work on my priority piece.
Using this method, I have completed Josh’s story, book two, High Ground. Sam’s story, High Seas, is scheduled, with several scenes written, and many snippets noted to stimulate another scene or add richness to the story.
Finding balance in life is important, and so having focused intently on writing High Ground for five weeks, I am now taking a week to see some new country, loll about in a spa and spend time with my husband (financial adviser, manager, techie and sounding board). This reprieve provides the distance needed to bring objectivity to the roll of editor.
Yes, High Ground waits to have its cliché’s sheared away. It begs me to carve in clarity, chemistry and conflict. “Mold distinctive metaphors,” the form calls to the master, “and for goodness sake, soften the shape of their sensual attraction.” All this takes as much time, and work than writing the first draft. But there is an excitement in addressing each issue, and in challenging yourself to create something uniquely your own.