Writing a book is exhilarating, frustrating, satisfying, challenging, fulfilling, and let’s face it.
Today I’m sharing some of the things that I learned while writing my YA trilogy. First and foremost: when you write a trilogy, multiply that exhilaration, frustration, satisfaction, challenge, fulfillment, and exhaustion by factors of three.
If you’re thinking of writing a trilogy, here are some questions you might want to ask yourself first. If you’re a plotter, you may find it useful to work out these answers in your outline before you start drafting. If you’re a pantser writer like I am, you can still be a pantser and write a trilogy. However, you do eventually have to sit down and think about how you want to answer these questions along the way.
1. What are the major themes for the overall trilogy? For each story?
Pick one or two common themes to weave throughout the trilogy, but also think about unique themes for each. Each story will build on the previous one so you don’t have to recreate the wheel with each, but you want to give your readers something new every time.
Star Wars had some great themes (e.g., the struggle to master The Force). Themes are essential.
2. What is significant (and new) about your characters’ struggles and challenges in each story?
The first story needs to suck in the reader and get him/her invested in the characters and their struggles. The stakes need to rise with the next story and during a good part of the third before the epic resolution. (Think Lord of the Rings: Return of the King).
The struggle should be significant in each story, not rehashing the same old thing.
3. What is the overall ending?
Even if you’re more of a pantser like me, you need to have an idea of the endgame for the trilogy. Where will your characters be in terms of development? How will the major issues that have been building in books one and two be resolved?
Elements of your story may change from your original idea as you draft and revise, but you should plan out your endgame from the beginning.
4. Do the first two stories end at natural and appropriate breaking points?
You shouldn’t be resolving all of the issues that your character’s have in book one and two. Most of that should happen in the last book. Yes, cliffhangers happen (remember The Empire Strikes Back?), but your characters should be developing and at least be working toward solutions by the end of book one and two. Your readers need something to keep them going.
Cliffhangers for the sake of cliffhangers are not going to make your readers happy.
5. Does it need to be a trilogy?
This is probably the most difficult question to answer, but it needs to be asked. Do you have enough story for a trilogy? Do your characters need an entire trilogy to deal with their issues? Can you build those necessary stakes and envision a resolution? Are you invested enough in your story and characters to run that long mile with them? Because they’ll need you.
Writing a trilogy is like running seventeen marathons.
As for me, I walked, ran, and stumbled through that VERY long mile with my characters. 390K later, and I’m thrilled (and exhausted) to announce that I completed my first trilogy!
(It might not even be my last, though I’m currently planning on writing a few stand-alones before I attempt another trilogy.)
In celebration of being DONE with my trilogy, book one is FREE through May 14.
Book two is on sale at $1.99. And book three? I just published it last Friday!
There they all are! I’m super excited that my characters all got closure at the end of the trilogy (except for the ones that died…okay, maybe even those characters) and also super sad that it’s over.
Helen Boswell loved to get lost in the pages of a story from the time she could sound out the words. She credits her dad, an avid fiction reader, with encouraging her to read ALL OF THE BOOKS on his shelves from the time she was a teenager. An author of both urban fantasy and contemporary romance, she loves to read and write characters that come to life with their beauty, flaws, and all. She is the author of YA urban fantasies MYTHOLOGY, THE WICKED, THE ETERNAL, and NA contemporary romance LOSING ENOUGH. She is also one of the authors of the YA/NA crossover anthology LOSING IT.