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Ralf_Smith
05-29-2009, 12:35 PM
My first and only story is an epic, I wish it weren't as it wouldn't be such a monumental task. This work is my Opus though, I haven't written it because I want to be a writer, I'm devoting my life to becoming a writer because I'm going to tell this story.

I won't declare my work will be bigger than the bible, that'd be crazy... so I'm not going to mention how strongly I feel.

I would estimate its word count at roughly the size of Anne Mcaffrey's Killashandra, a good thick book with three acts or three good single novels.

I've come to understand that not having a reputation means I can neither expect it to be picked up as a single entity, nor pitch the first book of the trilogy unless it completely stands alone?

The story neatly breaks into three parts, each part has its own stand alone storyline with enough depth to be a novel, however readers would not be satisfied with just the first installment, it is part of something bigger and readers will know it. Is this truly an insurmountable hurdle for an unknown author? I'm delusional enough that I'm writing it against all that I've recently read. But to bolster my resolve, would any agent here consider representing such a first book? (I'm not asking here for an agent I'm just looking to find hope this 'rule' is not an industry wide 'law')

Mumut
05-29-2009, 01:25 PM
The first book of my trilogy was published before the second was started. The second was published but the third is only three-quarters finished. So don't let people tell you anything is set in concrete as far as being published is concerned. Just keep writing and good luck to you.

Danthia
05-29-2009, 03:34 PM
If the books are stand alone, especially the first book, you're fine. Agents and editors will take on series books from unpublished authors, it's just sometimes harder because the author has no track record to offset the risk. Especially if the first book doesn't resolve the story (but it sounds like that's not the case for you, so you're good) Having two other books in the series gives an agent a good foundation to try to sell a multi-book deal as well.

My book was a stand alone, but the story could be a trilogy much in the same way you describe. A bigger story in three parts, but each part had it's own story. I got an agent and a three-book deal with it. Plenty of other first-time authors have done the same, so it's perfectly possible for you to sell your entire trilogy. Just make it the best it can be and get it out there :)

Ralf_Smith
05-30-2009, 06:59 AM
No Danthia it's not that stand alone, I think I am in for a hard time. My story is not Star Trek, but picture my book as the new film (Hopefully you've seen it). It starts with Kirks dad, progresses to show J.T Kirk entering Starfleet academy and my whole first book would be his time in the Academy.

The book would be a stand alone story about his time before he even sets a foot on the Enterprise, the Enterprise would be introduced and Kirks ambition to captain it would be part of what drives him. It would have all the necesary archtype characters and rising conflict and sub plots and the like, reaching a great resolution where you see the MC prevail. However the whole Romulan mining ship throughline would be completely left unresolved, the reader would know the 'Main' story has only just begun.

I see my trilogy as having 'potential' to be part of a series of trilogies. Akin to Feists Riftwar Saga, Mistress of the Empire Saga, Serpentwar Saga.

I now see that this is the 'Standalone' definition needed to get my first book of the trilogy published, and it doesn't have it. :cry:

I had speculated that my trilogies backstory has enough depth to be written into a novel all on its own. ( not necessary - just open ) My trilogy leaves the world on the cusp of change, and that's a whole new blank canvas too. I get now that this level of 'completeness' is what is required of my first published work?
It needs to be an entity that has 'potential' for other books that 'Could' be written, rather than 'Need' to be written?

It's still my Opus and I still plan to write it, if I have to shelve it until I write something else to develop a following, then thats what its going to take. Besides I was scared I wasn't going to do my story justice, I'll write it/shelve it and in doing so learn skills I dont currently possess. Using these skills I'll just have to write something that will get me published and THEN go back, no doubt seeing ways to improve how I painted my picture. (The picture itself is great, I'm just not an artist yet) And being a published 'Name' get it out hung up where it belongs. Geez this road just gets longer and longer...

Libbie
05-30-2009, 07:17 AM
If you find that it's not getting the attention you feel it deserves once you begin looking for agents, be open to editing it and making changes suggested by professionals. They are professionals for a reason; they know how to sell quality fiction. Listen to their advice if it comes to that.

You obviously feel very strongly about your book, but I suspect that your emotional involvement with the book is more likely to hold you back from successfully publishing than the fact that it's a trilogy. As writers, we have to be willing to make changes to even our greatest works.

As for what's "stand-alone" and what is not, a novel that stands alone is one in which the novel's biggest conflict is resolved. I'll use an example I often turn to, because it's so well-known: Ender's Game. The big conflict in Ender's Game is wrapped up by the end of the book, although there are several more novels in the series that continue exploring other conflicts within the same milieu, and over it all is the common thread of Peter as Hegemon of Earth and the Hive Queen trying to do her thing on her own planets. Although there are several interesting storylines to explore in the Ender milieu, each novel has its own conflict that sees resolution by the end (the exception being the later Shadow books which are a trilogy within a series, if you will.) However, the first book that kicks off the series, Ender's Game, tightly wraps up the primary conflict that appears on its own pages: The Buggers must be defeated (or so we think....)

Now look at Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series for a contrast. The big, main conflict is clearly set up in the first book: Rand must defeat the Dark Lord! That doesn't happen in the first book of the series, although some interesting smaller conflicts are resolved. The series drags on for eleven books (soon to be twelve, I guess) without Rand ever actually confronting the Dark Lord. The first book does not stand alone, because the primary conflict it sets up does not resolve in the first book. This, incidentally, is why so many people have come to despise this series. There have been plenty of interesting conflicts along the way, but because Rand vs. Dark Lord was clearly set up as The Big Problem from the first book, and it hasn't been resolved, none of these books feel as if they can stand alone.

I hope that helps.

Ralf_Smith
05-30-2009, 02:02 PM
I AM emotionally invested in my story, too much truthfully. However I like to believe I'm humble enough about my writing that I will have no problems making changes to make it better/get it published.

As for The Wheel of time getting published I cannot begin to pretend to be on a par with Jordan. "Robert Jordan" wrote tree loads before 'Eye of the World' As well as the books he wrote under two other names. Most people think Eddings and Feist aren't the greatest wordsmiths, scoffing when I tell them my favorite fantasy epics are still The Belgariad/Mallorean and the Riftwar/Mistress of the Empire series, these epics though they published after having books like High Hunt and Faerie Tale under their belts.

This raises my challenge to you, someone here has to know an author (besides Rowling) who published a series with nothing else under their belts?

Please give me something to throw in the teeth of the next person who tells me it CANT be done.

waylander
05-30-2009, 02:07 PM
Both Joe Abercrombie and Tom Lloyd have published big epic trilogies in recent years with no track record.

Danthia
05-30-2009, 03:56 PM
Does book one have a problem that needs to be solved, and by the end of the book that problem is solved? That's what I mean by stand alone. The issue driving the plot is resolved. The reader feels a sense of satisfaction that their time was well-spent and they didn't just read 500 pages of setup. Other issues can be left hanging, bigger issues can be introduced, it can be clear there's more going on, but there is a sense of something accomplished by the end of the first book. Even if that's a first step to the bigger goal. Imagine if Star Wars ended as the rebels geared up to attack the Death Star, but you never got to see that fight until the next movie. That wouldn't have been satisfying at all. If your book does that, you might consider finding a way to let them have the battle and resolve it, using that to set up the next big hurdle of the story and larger story arc. If you finish the battle, but that battle raises more questions or causes more problems, then you're probably fine.

I'm sure there have been debut authors that have been successful with a non-stand alone first book. I can't think of any off the top of my head, but that doesn't mean anything since that's not something I pay attention to. And remember, even books that ended up being a series might not have started that way when they were submitted. My book had a slightly different ending before my editor bought all three books. She had me tweak the ending some so it led into the next book. There was always a larger story in the book, but the first book focused on a small part of it.

Bottom line, if you feel strongly about the book as it is, polish it as best you can and send it out. Just because it's traditionally harder for a debut series doesn't mean it's impossible, and you shouldn't let that stop you. If the book is good, it's good, and that's what agents and editors are looking for in the end. Worst case, agents say no and you write something else. If that sells, you can pull out this story and try again when you're on more solid footing career wise. You won't sell if it you don't send it out, so what do you really have to lose at this point?

Cyia
05-30-2009, 06:49 PM
There are a lot of authors who got multi-book deals for their first works, but most of them had 1st novels that could stand alone.This doesn't mean that everything was solved in book 1.

You used Star Trek, I'll use Star Wars:

A New Hope is a stand alone story, though it's the start of a trilogy. The Empire isn't defeated in the end, and if anything the characters are ready to embark on a great adventure, but the core story - Luke's first steps toward becoming a Jedi - is complete. He wins a big battle; he's a hero.

Empire was NOT a stand alone story. It ended on a cliff hanger, with Han locked in that frozen block and the others having to go rescue him. People were invested in the characters at this point, so a cliffee was excusable. Had something like that happened at the end of the first movie, people would have been angry.

DLDouglas
07-13-2009, 10:27 AM
I wanted to reopen this thread because I myself am a new writer and I have just finished the manuscript on a sci-fi novel that is the first part of a trilogy. But my biggest problem is that Book One ends as a cliffhanger. To summarize, some of the characters get marooned at the end, and the situation does not get resolved until Book Two. If I try to resolve it in Book One it destroys the running plot through the next two books. Is this doable?

lucidzfl
07-13-2009, 09:14 PM
This thread is relevant to my interests.

I have written 3 books of a trilogy. All first drafts. Time travel is a factor in my series (Albeit not heavily) and I have to make sure that all the threads match up. Especially since the series occurs in a loop. IE: At the end of the third book, everything resets again, except for the one man who knows the differences. (He's been trying to accomplish something for 10's of thousands of years, but is always foiled)

I heard that trilogy books were REALLY hard to get published. Also, I know its tossed around a lot, but this series is my magnum opus. I don't WANT the first book published if the other 2 are going to be shat on, or disregarded.

I will only submit this series for publication on the off chance that I ever achieve any modicum of success as a writer and KNOW that they'll be read.

I've spent too much blood sweat and tears on this trilogy and I have plenty of other stuff with less emotional involvement thats probably more publishable anyways.

Kalyke
07-13-2009, 09:44 PM
why not write a few more books, get pubished, and then publish the triology when you have more of a track record.

bettielee
07-13-2009, 09:54 PM
I write fantasy, and there are few stand alone books in fantasy.

I worry about my trilogy, too. I have an ending in book 1 where part of the prophesy my story is written around happens... but I worry it isn't strong enough. Still need to rewrite...

MsGneiss
07-14-2009, 05:01 AM
Reading the success stories on this site leads me to believe that it is absolutely possible to sell a trilogy, even if you are a nobody. Of course, if you try and fail, or don''t feel up to the challenge, you can always write a standalone, sell that, and then ride the success wave by pimping your epic.

TrixieLox
07-15-2009, 03:38 PM
2-3 book deals are being made all the time for debut writers so don't fear! But I think what others are saying is that an agent will (in most cases) only take you on based on the strength of ONE BOOK and one book alone. So that book needs to work on-its-own. Like Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone and Twilight did (sorry, just using examples from YA which I write in).

It's fine to mention you are 'working on a sequel' in your covering letter but it's generally not until you meet with your agent that they ask about your plans for any sequels etc.

This is why it's strongly advised that, if you want to eventually get published, it's better not to write Books 2 and 3 until you get a deal (fine to outline them) because if Book1 doesn't sell, they will never see the light of day (unless, like someone said, you sell a totally different book). So it's much better to write Book 1 then think about a totally new book unrelated to the series to work on.

Saying that, mainstream publication may not be your goal in which case, write as much of your series as you wish! And there are no rules, this is just what people advise

Torgo
07-15-2009, 04:09 PM
Do you actually have the rights to write Star Trek novels? That seems to me to be the first hurdle.

wheelwriter
07-15-2009, 05:15 PM
No Danthia it's not that stand alone, I think I am in for a hard time. My story is not Star Trek, but picture my book as the new film (Hopefully you've seen it). It starts with Kirks dad, progresses to show J.T Kirk entering Starfleet academy and my whole first book would be his time in the Academy.

The book would be a stand alone story about his time before he even sets a foot on the Enterprise, the Enterprise would be introduced and Kirks ambition to captain it would be part of what drives him. It would have all the necesary archtype characters and rising conflict and sub plots and the like, reaching a great resolution where you see the MC prevail. However the whole Romulan mining ship throughline would be completely left unresolved, the reader would know the 'Main' story has only just begun.

If book one is more back story than "main" story, it might make sense to try to sell book two first. Just explain enough back story to make it work. Then, (I'm an optimist, so I'll say "when" instead of "if") when your manuscript is picked up and widely popular, you can eventually sell a prequel. Just my thoughts.

ChaosTitan
07-15-2009, 07:18 PM
Do you actually have the rights to write Star Trek novels? That seems to me to be the first hurdle.

He was only using Star Trek as an example of his story structure.

2Wheels
07-18-2009, 04:08 AM
Trust me, there's a very real possibility that somewhere along the line a professional in the industry is going to suggest a revision that
a) You completely agree with and think will make your story better

or

b) Is required for them to feel confident about selling your work, and which (while you don't consider it necessary to the story) is still in keeping with who your characters are, your themes, etc., and therefore is a worthwhile compromise.

That's all well and good, but sometimes the story is what the story is, you just don't want to change it because then it wouldn't be the story anymore, especially if it's a story that flowed through you, rather than from you. In large size works it's a lot more difficult to institute acceptable changes sometimes because the domino effect from a small change can be monumental. I sympathise with the OP completely.

eqb
07-18-2009, 05:39 AM
That's all well and good, but sometimes the story is what the story is, you just don't want to change it because then it wouldn't be the story anymore...

It's true a writer must decide which hills to die on, and the hill might be "My story is what it is." In which case, he or she might have to accept that they won't make the sale, because they refuse to edit their work.

But...

Newbies without much experience in judging their own works do have to be careful they don't mistake "my true story" with "golden story syndrome."

2Wheels
07-18-2009, 06:02 PM
Newbies without much experience in judging their own works do have to be careful they don't mistake "my true story" with "golden story syndrome."

Quite. I think it depends on the "source" of the story. Did I dream it up from the get-go, (mostly) in control from the start, or was it one of those "channelled from beyond" works, where you really don't think about it, you just write it. Those are the tough ones to change - it's like taking a gifted flower arrangement, pulling the flowers out, cutting them down, throwing some out altogether and adding others. It's no longer the gifted flower arrangement after that! Do you risk offending the person (or muse) who gave it to you? :)

eqb
07-18-2009, 06:20 PM
Do you risk offending the person (or muse) who gave it to you? :)

Sure, if it means the story I write is better than the original idea.

But figuring out whether the rewrite would be better is the trick.

Kivandrohex
07-18-2009, 08:20 PM
I AM emotionally invested in my story, too much truthfully. However I like to believe I'm humble enough about my writing that I will have no problems making changes to make it better/get it published.

As for The Wheel of time getting published I cannot begin to pretend to be on a par with Jordan. "Robert Jordan" wrote tree loads before 'Eye of the World' As well as the books he wrote under two other names. Most people think Eddings and Feist aren't the greatest wordsmiths, scoffing when I tell them my favorite fantasy epics are still The Belgariad/Mallorean and the Riftwar/Mistress of the Empire series, these epics though they published after having books like High Hunt and Faerie Tale under their belts.

This raises my challenge to you, someone here has to know an author (besides Rowling) who published a series with nothing else under their belts?

Please give me something to throw in the teeth of the next person who tells me it CANT be done.

Dear ralf! I know an authro who published three books or more! his name is Neil Hartley, he published the books called "tired of death" you can find him at tome city with the name chinaren. Goodluck to you!

robbrichards
08-15-2009, 08:47 AM
My first and only story is an epic, I wish it weren't as it wouldn't be such a monumental task. This work is my Opus though, I haven't written it because I want to be a writer, I'm devoting my life to becoming a writer because I'm going to tell this story.

I won't declare my work will be bigger than the bible, that'd be crazy... so I'm not going to mention how strongly I feel.

I would estimate its word count at roughly the size of Anne Mcaffrey's Killashandra, a good thick book with three acts or three good single novels.

I've come to understand that not having a reputation means I can neither expect it to be picked up as a single entity, nor pitch the first book of the trilogy unless it completely stands alone?

The story neatly breaks into three parts, each part has its own stand alone storyline with enough depth to be a novel, however readers would not be satisfied with just the first installment, it is part of something bigger and readers will know it. Is this truly an insurmountable hurdle for an unknown author? I'm delusional enough that I'm writing it against all that I've recently read. But to bolster my resolve, would any agent here consider representing such a first book? (I'm not asking here for an agent I'm just looking to find hope this 'rule' is not an industry wide 'law')

i'm new at this, so take it for what it's worth, if anything. but i just wanted to support you in your quest. ahh! quest for the golden fleece, the first title i chose for my autobio, which like your work is what my editor called a 'monster'. he said that i've found it necessary to add another chapter. now its about 400 pages, 14 chapters. as well, i've continued it only this time creating my life's story under the guise of a fictional character. in fact, in the second book i combine souls, egos, charaters, persons, two men becoming one: ah, but they always one! but even the autobio i wrote as three different accounts and one was a fiction using a character instead of me, i found that gave me the freedome to tell the truth. detail is not truth. detail is detail, and sometimes can mask the truth. is shared this with someone last week and they told me they would want to hear from a published author. okay, goodbye. she has 4 fictions which she can't finish because she can't see the end. I MUST BE ABLE TO SEE THE OUTCOME, KNOW WHERE I'M GOING. Now she's going nowhere. It's ironic. I just finished my book! ha ha ha! some people's kids.

rudolph

hey, i hope that helps

Raspberry
08-15-2009, 03:46 PM
I am selling a series, after I found the task to sell a trilogy taunting. I backpedalled fast once I learned about the industry.

My agent says: we will sell book 1 as stand alone book, but show the publisher, what the concept of your series is and the synopsis of the next book. The publisher will then decide whether he wants to go with one book first, or buy both books with the option to do more.

To be brutally honest, you lower your chances to sell your book by offering an epic as a beginner. You do yourself a favor if you let your work rest and write a small book first. Even Tolkien did it that way. Rowling too, HP1 could have stood alone. She got an one book deal at first, and after her success, the publisher went with the series. Star Wars could have ended after one movie. Even Pirates of the Carribbean. Pullmann was established enough to do a trilogy from the get-go.

Of course, there are always exceptions, but it's hard to count on that.

And even more of course, you should go with what your heart says, because you never know what could happen.

Ralf_Smith
01-18-2011, 06:27 PM
Thanks for all the replies and encouragement over the last years, my story is better in 'MY' mind than ever. But the sad truth is it's still far from the light of day.

I wasted many months after accepting that staying true to the story I wanted to write would be my downfall and that I could not succeed unless I conformed... Forced it (and myself) to fit a saleable mould.

I've written versions of my manuscript with that in mind, dozens of different basic premises, versions written in different voices, versions starting at different stages of the overall arc...

All of this has made me get to know my characters better, know my story better... And I'm now happy to say, it's a monster! And I love him. (dont think it's a him but its certainly not a her??)

I tried to put makeup on it, tried to give it a haircut, capture it with a soft focus. I started this thread by stating 'I am not writing this story because I want to be a writer, I am trying to become a writer because I have a story to tell' or something similar... I realise I will never compete with all the other talented writers in the market based on my writing skill, I'm going to succeed because my Monster is beautiful :)

Will it sell?? Perhaps not, and I don't like that. I don't know where this story came from- divine inspiration/a Muse/some Chinese food in the fridge I reheated one too many times? Wherever it came from it's the only one I got. I have only this one story in me and it's a trilogy.

I'm going to go back to lurking now, thank you to all the members of this site for unknowingly helping me realise my dream. I'd LIKE to be published, I'd LIKE its commercial success to benefit my family, I'd LIKE it to be made into a movie. I'd LOVE to get those royalties :) But my Dream is complete and its thanks to info I got on this forum.

Anne Lyle
01-18-2011, 07:10 PM
Glad you got some good out of the site, Ralf. The truth is, not everyone's cut out for a writing career - the fact that you don't feel you have a single other story in you suggests maybe you aren't. There's no shame in that. Maybe you could get a nice hard copy printed via Lulu.com or similar, then at least you'd have a tangible souvenir of all your hard work!

Filigree
01-18-2011, 09:00 PM
Many writers have 'core stories': personal narratives so deeply ingrained that part of our identity either comes from, or is imbued by, this internalized story. That's fine. New writers and old have made serious bank by exposing their souls.

The problem, mentioned before, is that 'my story' may not be a 'golden story'.
Agents and publishers of genre fiction are looking first of all at entertainment:
"Is this a great story? Did the partial keep me up after midnight, and now I want the rest of it Right Now? Can my marketing department spin this into a blockbuster?"

'Core stories' are often more related to self-therapy and philosophical exploration, than entertainment. Not a bad thing, just something to understand. If I'm writing a sf&f novel that's a fictionalized rendering of my own life, it HAS to be entertaining first!

Filigree