Monday, 5 November 2012

Trilogy Anxiety

 The book I'm currently working on was originally planned as part of a trilogy but the more I learn about them the more I wonder if it's the right move.
 It might seem like a good idea of course because sequels and trilogys are big business at the moment , they're everywhere, Harry Potter, Twilight, Hunger Games - and I can see why they're popular :
 For the writer it makes good sense, financially and career wise a popular series can make all the difference.
 For an agent or a publisher it almost guarantees a long term, lucrative return on any investment plus there's also the possibility of film rights and other merchandising so they're bound to like them.
 Finally, for the reader it offers the chance to spend more time in the world you love, more time with the characters you relate to and with any luck a guarantee that the next book will be as good as, if not better then, the last.

 Sometimes that last part is true, sometimes a series is completely fulfilling...but not always. Recently I've read some long awaited for sequels and unfortunately found them a real disappointment.
 Blood Red Road by Moira Young was one of my favourite books and I waited eagerly for the sequel Rebel Heart but it didn't grip me in the way of the first, I found it quite hard to finish it in fact and felt rather downhearted after such high expectations.
 Part of the problem with sequels is when they're not  actually designed to have a sequel - so, for example, you have a fast paced story such as Saba in Blood Red Road who must go on a journey to find her brother Lugh who's been kidnapped. At the end you have a resolution, the bad guys defeated and the siblings are reunited just as you would expect but what do you then do for the next book? You split Saba up from her true love of course so now you can create a fast paced story where Saba must go on a journey to find him instead...but, now you're in territory that the reader has already seen before only this time it's not fresh and exciting but convenient, contrived and slightly boring.

 Another book that I loved was Divergent by Veronica Roth - a great concept, intriging idea, appealing voice, good story so of course I was keen to read the next but Insurgent never really held my interest in the same way. The big concept was already gone of course, we knew how the world worked so now we were just traipsing around in the midst of it and it was nowhere near as exciting.

 My last and perhaps biggest disappointment was the final part of Kristen Cashore's trilogy. The first book Graceling was amazing and the second Fire was just as good so I was sure Bitterblue would be well worth the wait. I was so excited I waited until I had a free weekend so I'd be able to read it in peace... but...(sigh) failed to deliver what I was hoping for.
 The first two books focus on young women with remarkable gifts, Katsa is a fighter without equal, Fire has the power to look into other's minds and control them. Bitterblue on the other hand has no gifts, she is a Queen trying to cope with the legacy her gifted but evil father Leck left behind. They're all well written, they're all set in a fascinating world but our third heroine never beguiles in the same way and is limited not only by her lack of gifts but her position as Queen.
 Part of the problem may be expectations - if they're very high then it's much easier to be disappointed, or if you imagine the story to go a certain way and it doesn't that can also be difficult.

 The best series in my opinion seem to be the ones that were always planned that way. Lord of the Rings was written as one book and only split into three by the publisher because of the length. Harry Potter was meticulously planned to be one of seven books.
 But one of the problems for writers is that all the advice suggests that books must be written as standalones with the "potential" to be a series. It seems that agents and publishers don't want to be pitched whole series but they want you to be able to create one if necessary, without the proper foundations however I think this can lead to problems.
 The other opposing issue is that if you do create a series to start with it often means you split your story up into parts and therefore each part may leave unresolved questions which your reader will need to wait to have answered and this can annoy readers.

 So, what do I do? Go for a standalone or a trilogy? Concentrate on number one or plan out three stories? I, more then anything, would hate to disappoint my readers and the pressure of having to write a second or third book that will fit in perfectly with the first would be huge.
 And yes I know the chances of my book ever being published are minimal but do I need to consider these things now just in case? Or can I just worry about it later?
 Are any of you writing sequels or trilogies? Do you have any advice that might help or words of warning perhaps? Please share!


  1. It is a tricky one! Lots of YA reads seem to be part of a trilogy but I agree with you sometimes the sequels are a little disappointing or have lost some of their initial impact. Afraid I don't know the answer but I would say if you think your book is going to be part of a series maybe leave some titbits in the first book that could be picked up in subsequent books without being detrimental to the first. Something like a minor character, place or object. I have used a letter as a link in the past. Good luck and happy writing.

    1. Hi Suzanne, thanks for your comments, hopefully I can find a way to make it standalone but with sequel possibilities??

  2. I think the story is what the story is and it takes the form it needs - I honestly believe that - maybe Bitterblue kind of lost it's way...

    1. Hi Kathryn, yes and just because Bitterblue didn't work for me doesn't mean that other people didn't like it!
      I guess I'll just have to follow my gut and see what happens!

  3. I agree with Suzanne - keep it subtle, almost like a treasure hunt, tidbits that only get picked up as and when ... having said that, I've read the first draft of the story you're working on. It can totally work as a stand-alone, while at the same time crying out 'sequel to follow!!' ... so just keep going with where you were! x

  4. Hi Larisa, thanks for the advice, it's so difficult to anticipate what agents and publishers want and at the same time create what feels right to me...better keep trying I suppose!x