Pros and Cons of Writing a Trilogy

Posted On February 3, 2014

Okay, so maybe I’m jumping ahead of myself here, but then maybe this is the best time to post this topic. About 3 years ago, I wrote the first book in my Tanner trilogy, Of Art and Air. It sat for a long time. Life created some tantalizing distractions, and I bought them, hook, line, and sinker. Once I drug myself back to the shore and figured out how to write again, I went about finishing the second manuscript, Of Hoof Prints and Heartbeats. Of Art and Air was finally published in June 2013, after 4 months of editing. Of Hoof Prints and Heartbeats has begun the rewriting process, but is a long way from completion. Because I thought I’d try NaNoWriMo in 2013, I worked a bit more on the as yet unnamed third manuscript in the trilogy. I completed the second story over a year ago. The “hard” part of writing the first draft is done. I know that there is some work to be done in the rewrites, so perhaps that is why I’ve been more creative than usual in my excuses for not sitting down and doing what needs to be done to give my readers what they’re demanding: a follow-up to the first story. I thought perhaps the rewrites might go easier if I wrote the third story, but now I find myself filling in blanks in manuscript number 3 that have yet to be fixed in number 2! Oh, the insanity!

My Muse decided one day to hand me the idea to write a trilogy around 3 siblings. The oldest, Carli, is what Of Art and Air is about. It takes place in contemporary Wyoming (and no, I’ve never been there). The second story (written but needing edits) tells the story of the middle sibling, Samantha, and is set in Durango, Colorado (been there once several years ago). The third manuscript that is started but comes in pieces that I seem to have grapple with, takes the readers back to Wyoming and completes the tale of the Tanner siblings with Shaun’s story. I have previously written 2 stand alone novels and 2 where one is the sequel of the other, so I have a bit of experience with using the same characters from book to book. It’s very helpful to have good notes!

Here are the pros that I’ve come up with in regards to writing a series:

*No need to create a whole new list of characters for each book, as most continue through the series.

*No need to create a whole new setting, though mine changes between 2 places, it might be easier if it was in 1 place.

*The author and reader both get the opportunity to learn more about the characters, since the longer they’re with us, the more we reveal them.

*After the initial description of the town/house/ranch, less is needed in subsequent books.

*If it’s the same antagonist, then there are many ways they can employ to foil the protagonist.

*Conflicts, internal and external, can be many and multi-layered.

Here are the cons that I’ve come up with in regards to writing a series:

*Hard to keep track of some secondary characters, and details of the main characters, so a list is essential.

*The same setting can sometimes lock us in and limit what happens to our characters.

*Hard to come up with new and wicked ways the antagonist tries to foil the protagonist.

*As the author, we sometimes have to dig deep to continue to give characters reasons to keep trying and conflicts to have them overcome.

*Sometimes we begin to dislike the story, the characters, the whole thing and wonder why we thought writing a series was a good idea to begin with!

Regardless of the pros and cons I’ve settled on here, there are many rewards to completing a series. It seems to force me to write more tightly, to be sure that the details are consistent, the descriptions are the same, and that my voice varies little throughout each of the books. The first book has been well received by those who have read it. They have been clamoring for book 2, which is stressful and exciting for me the writer. What if book 2 doesn’t measure up? What if “it’s not as good as the first”, like a movie sequel? What if my readers dislike the second set of characters? What if they can’t relate because they’ve never been on a ranch or because part of the mystery was solved in book 1? These questions and more arise in my mind when I think about not only completing this trilogy, but of the other trilogies that continue to bang away in my head wondering when it will be their turn to land on the page.

Should you decide to try writing a sequel, a trilogy, or a longer series, be ready for a commitment. Writing one novel is huge in its own right, but continuing the storyline, keeping track of characters, creating new and more difficult conflicts, and making it interesting enough to not lose readers along the way is certainly a challenge. I suggest that one book be written at a time, not what I tried to do with writing one while editing another. Keep working on one until it’s done. The longer it takes, the more the story threads begin to fade and separate, thus making it more difficult than it needs to be to complete each story in its own turn. Keep writing! Thumb your nose at distractions! Even if you only write a page a day it might be enough to keep each thread of the story in your sight, for to lose one is to lose an important piece of what you’re trying to create.

Have you written a series? Do you have suggestions on how others can keep things in order to make the writing easier? If so, please share them below. I have the first of the Tanner trilogy in print and e-book format, and you can read the prologue and first 2 chapters on my website:

Written by Michele Venne

Writer of immersive and intriguing stories.

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  1. arranbhansal

    So very true….I’m a third of the way through my trilogy

    • michelevenne

      I wish you luck in finishing it! It’s a long, long road, but worthwhile at the end. At least that’s what I keep telling myself 🙂

      • arranbhansal

        Thank you!! You will get there, have faith


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