View Full Version : Tips on Trilogy Writing?

02-09-2010, 07:36 AM
I'm new here and have just completed the first book in my trilogy. I would love some tips and tricks from you seasoned writers out there who are writing (or have written) a trilogy.

My story is a YA romance / contemporary fantasy. I have the MC and her romantic interest together at the end of the first book, but have left some pretty big questions unanswered on purpose. I've tried to tie up some of the smaller loose ends. How many of the rules of the fantasy world should be established in the first book? Should the reader be given most of the rules so they will know how the world works before they move on?

And finally, does anyone know of any good books or articles on this subject?


02-09-2010, 08:36 AM
Outline the remainding two novels. Then write something else. Remember, its better to have diverse projects to sell. If you only write your trilogy and the first book doesn't sell - it's likely that the others won't either.

02-09-2010, 10:10 AM
I'm going to be real. It's fairly common for beginning writers to mistakenly think that what they're writing has to be a trilogy. Before you move on to the next novel, really sit down and ask yourself, "Are these 3 books that I have planned all equally good? Is there anything I can trim?"

That said:



02-09-2010, 04:49 PM
Publishers don't usually buy triologies. They buy inidividual books. So bear that in mind. And even if they give you a three book deal, that doesn't mean they are going to buy or publish the other two books in the trilogy.

So, be sure to treat each book as a single book. I wouldn't leave loose ends, especially big ones. Each book should be able to be read and understood as a stand alone. That's a good rule to keep in mind. Especially as, in the course of your career, your editor might change etc.

In terms of the rules of fantasy, you should establish the rules in the first book if they apply to that story. Be wary of adding new rules as you go along though. You as the writer should have a clear idea what they are.

As for writing the actual writing and planning. When I wrote my trilogy I did it one book at a time. When I started I had no intention of taking the story past the first book. But at the end of it, and after a break working on something else, I started to think of a story that could happen to them after the events of the first book, and it sort of went from there.

02-09-2010, 06:39 PM
Map it out. Map it out. Guess what -- map it out. That's the biggest piece of advice. If you can't see exactly where your story is going to go throughout the other two novels, then you don't have a trilogy and forcing such a thing can hurt.

With that being said, if you feel as if your story needs to be a trilogy, then do it. Publishers only want "series potential", not a trilogy. Knowing that, if you still feel as if you need to write the story -- do it.

I still wrote all of my books before doing any serious edits to the first. Some might look at it as wasted time, but what I've learned about my characters and about my story after writing 300,000 words on my plot, characters, and world, I look back to my first one and know exactly what has to be changed, why, and how to make it much better than what I originally wrote. I find that priceless.

02-09-2010, 06:48 PM
I just went through this, so here's what I learned. I'll answer your questions first.

How many of the rules of the fantasy world should be established in the first book?
Whatever rules apply to the book you're currently working on. Readers need to understand how your world works pretty quickly, though fantasy readers are more patient about this since they know it takes time to build a good world. But any critical rules need to be there early on.

Should the reader be given most of the rules so they will know how the world works before they move on?
If they're important to understanding the events driving the plot, yes. If the rules don't affect the plot, no. You don't have to explain the entire world right away, since most likely there's stuff that isn't relevant to the first book.

Each book needs to be it's own story, especially book one. Establish the world and the rules that are critical to understanding your protag and their current problem. Make that current problem clear and have something the protag is trying to resolve in book one. There can be a larger story arc that spans all three, but the first needs to be able to be read on it's own and still be a satisfying read. They shouldn't be working all book to solve a problem and not solve it. Let them at least solve the first step of the bigger arc, and let book one be all about that.

The next two books should also be able to be read on their own, even though there will be some things that new readers won't fully get. Like you need three major steps in the story arc. One per book. One story broken into three parts is an almost impossible sell for a debut author.

The middle book of a trilogy is one of the hardest things to write. It's a lot like the middle of a novel, where things tend to bog down. It's often ends up a set up for book three, so it doesn't feel like its own book. A solid "stand alone" plot here will help combat this a lot. (I rewrote my book two five times before I got it right). The plot can still be part of a larger story, but there's something specific that needs to be done that's driving your story, and that's resolved by the end of book two.

Trying to figure out what back story and info from the previous books to put in will likely drive you nuts. I found using only what was relevant to the current plot helpful in knowing what to put in. You'll also need to remind readers about any world building and world mechanics and how that works. (and do it without re-doing what you did before. This can be a challenge finding new ways to show this). I also found that thinking about book one as "backstory" and looking at the goal your protag has for book two helped a lot in keeping me focused.

Character growth is important as well, not only for your protag, but for the secondary characters. Second and third book are great places to develop the best friends and sidekicks. Be wary of adding too many new characters. Only add ones that are critical to the next step of the story. I found recycling old characters very helpful here. Throwaway ones or very minor ones could fill bigger roles in later books.

Stakes need to continue to escalate, but be wary of starting book two off with too high of stakes. This is easy to fall into if you treat it like the next chapter of book one, since book one ending with super high stakes (or it should have). New information about your characters, the world and the problems also need to be revealed over the course of the trilogy. There has to always been something for the reader to discover.

You don't need to have the full trilogy written before you submit to agents. A one or two-page synopsis for the next two books is enough for your agent to sell the full trilogy. (that's what my agent did). However, if you're in no hurry to submit, having all three done so you can edit book one if you think of something really cool while writing book three has its advantages. There's stuff I wish I could go back and add to one that I can't since it's already on the shelves.

02-09-2010, 11:30 PM
I completely agree with people that said that maybe publishers won't buy your stoy as a three book deal. I've learnt this from experience. I was just starting out with one of my novels when I read a thread discussing something similar to this. I had to reall re think my novel ending, to make it a single just incase it wasn't bought as a trilogy.

02-10-2010, 07:59 AM
Thanks everyone! Such wonderful comments and advice! You've addressed many of the thoughts (and fears) I've had while creating my story. I know that writing a trilogy is no small undertaking. I started out with an idea for one book, but the story kept expanding so I decided to add two more books.

I've also experienced something interesting. My back story is becoming, in some ways, as interesting (or more so) than the original story. I wrote a back story prologue for book two that is almost better than the first chapter of book one. Not sure what to do with that yet, but I'm hoping that will gel as I begin to write book two. It's possible that the back story can be a standalone book (or a possible series) at a later date. All in all, it's an amazing (and often surprising) experience.

My first book is finished and is being read by several beta readers. It's gotten very positive feedback so far. I'm leaning towards completing all three books before submitting, so I have the option of going back and adding foreshadowing or other clues that could enrich the story as a whole even more. Fantasy is difficult to do, but so much fun. I'm not in a huge hurry and have a full time job, so I have the luxury of taking my time (not TOO much though) :D