As I’ve reached a few key waypoints in the journey to completing a trilogy, I wanted to share some of what I’ve learned along the way. When I first started, I was so pumped to write an epic voyage spanning the content of three books, where I could create a massive buildup to an awe-inspiring conclusion. But there are some key challenges and things to keep in mind when writing three books that are linked together. By the end, you want to create a total package that you are proud of, and that leaves the reader feeling satisfied at the finish line of a wild ride.
So what’s my advise to those wanting to write a trilogy, or those curious about what goes into it?
Know that when you start out to write a trilogy, you will be going on just as long and wild a journey as your characters. Book one is fun. I hate to say easy, but really it is the easiest chunk of words you get to put to paper. You create everything from scratch—the recipe is a blank page, which you can add whatever spices, ingredients, and secrets to. But you HAVE to plant most if not all of your seeds so that when you get to books two and three, the reader does not feel like you are conveniently placing plot points. This is where you lay the groundwork for everything. Main characters need to be introduced. The main conflicts need to start unraveling. Kick the ball to get it rolling, and kick it hard.
In book two, your responsibility shifts from creation to keeping everything synonymous with what you put in book one. The recipe must stay the same. You lose some of the power of creation, and instead are tasked with detail and precision, beginning to tie together the loose ends you left in book one, while keeping characters, events, and places all the same. I’ve heard this stage called the bridge stage, the crossing point between the initial conflicts to the final conclusion. And we must think of this bridge as wooden and rickety, probably a hundred years old and about to come crashing down. It isn’t made of steel, so make sure the conflict and growth continue full force through this middle stage.
Book three must provide a conclusion to your story, and it must be one that you promised the reader in book one. If you set out to write an epic romance, you may take a rowdy path to your conclusion, but you must deliver a happy ending to your readers. If you write a heroic saga about good and evil, good must in some way triumph in the end. And you must tie up the loose ends and unveil every Easter egg you planted along the way to satisfy the reader and conclude the journey they chose to go on with you. Don’t introduce new characters. Don’t introduce new plots. You should have planted enough seeds in the first two, that the final book is simply unveiling the mystery to the world and solving it.
And finally, don’t lose sight of what you want the trilogy to be. Once your first book comes out, everyone will have an idea of what they want to happen in the second installment. How each character should proceed. Who should and shouldn’t die. Remember this is your story. It doesn’t matter what anyone else wants it to be. Of course some ideas will be great and if so, use them. But never forget this is YOUR story. So by God, tell the story you set out to tell.