A couple of weeks ago I penned the last sentence in the True Born Trilogy. Now that I’ve finished a draft of the third novel (whose title I’m not sure I’m at liberty to tell you yet – but book two, True North, is slated for release in April 2017) I feel like I’ve really accomplished something.
A trilogy. Three. It seems so incredible when you put it that way.
I’ve been asked by more than one person how it’s done. How do you write a trilogy — isn’t that different than writing just one novel? And so: for those of you looking to be initiated into the (slightly sadistic) world of trilogy writing, this post is for you.
You don’t sit down to ‘write’ a trilogy unless you’re a George R.R. Martin type with a coffee addiction. You start with an idea, a little story – in just the same way that you decide to write a novel.
Once you have your idea you are then at liberty to honestly assess whether the story is “big” enough for a trilogy. Be honest with yourself here.
I’d never really considered writing a trilogy until I first penned True Born as a short story. I took a look at the arc and realized the story didn’t stop where I had artificially ended it. Oh no – there was so much more to the story of Lucy Fox and her twin sister, Margot – so much more story that I knew instantly this was at the very least a trilogy of novels, with room and story to spare. For me this was a very organic realization, though of course, everyone’s process is different.
Keep thinking big.
Though you start small, you always need to keep the big picture in mind. I knew how the series began; I also knew how I wanted the series to end. From there, what I needed to do was fill in the blanks.
Like many writers, I found mapping out each novel – even in the most general of terms – was really helpful for this. By articulating a story arc for each novel I was able to assess whether or not the story line for each book would hold enough weight to merit a novel.
I taped the arc to my office wall for a mess of months. This so-called map became my reference point, so when I sat down to plot out in detail the storyline for books 2 and 3, I was really clear on what had come before and what needed to come after. This can be fluid and change with your needs but the basic concept remains sound.
Organization is everything with novel writing, no matter how many you’re attempting.
Don’t look up.
Writing a trilogy or series is kind of like ziplining when you’re afraid of heights. My advice? Close your eyes and don’t look down.
Of course, the same can be said of every writing project. But the long ones – the multi-book series – are special. These require a kind of extraordinary blind devotion.
Don’t think about the reviews book 1 are getting (I know, easier said than done). Don’t lie awake at night wondering whether you’ll have any success with books 2 or 3. Just keep going. Trilogy writers are finely tuned long distance runners. Pace yourself. Remind yourself that each breath, sentence, page, matters.
And then? Ta da!
In the end, what surprised me the most was how natural it felt. In fact, I still feel as though I can inhabit the flesh of my characters as easily as my own. I’ve grown so much through the process of attempting this rather remarkable feat. Like a graduation day, it’s something that can never be taken away from me. I did this.