Writing a trilogy: From sequence to all at once

This time, I’ll share my thoughts about how I first believed that my writing will progress to how it actually went.

This post is inspired by a guest post by E.R Smo on Ari Meghlen’s blog.

First thoughts – a clear sequence

When I dove into writing, having no clue at all, my initial idea was quite simple. A trilogy with the grand goal of making it in 10 years meant pretty much 3 years per book with one year spare in case something goes wrong. By that logic, I’d work on #1 in 2015-2018, then move on to #2 in 2018-2021 and eventually #3 in 2021-2024.

Winds of change – partial overlaps

The sequential idea started falling apart somewhere in the late second (or maybe third) draft. The main reason was simple – I knew I needed some time before I dive to more editing but was not willing to let my imagination lapse. Hence, I started working on the first chapters of #2 in early 2017, the second batch of work was late spring and early summer of 2017 and eventually hammered out the remainder of #2’s first draft in 2017/2018 transition (mid-December to mid-January). Obviously, the ‘batches’ followed another draft of #1.

This probably shows one important aspect of (not only) my writing. While I have some rough idea – barriers of a kind it won’t leave – for the story, I improvise on the go quite often. That gives me the ability to adjust on the go – and work in fresh ideas I might have without having to make changes to… whatever planners use.

Current state – interwoven work

What the previous stage had shown me is that work on furthering the story had shown me which characters would shine – and how much – even though I did not plan such details beforehand. When returning to drafting #1, I could use that fact and try to do some foreshadowing – give a character a bit more screen time or point out some talent that will come to play later.

Realizing that, I put the first draft of #2 aside when it was done (after fixing some blatnatly obvious typos and reworking the ending a bit) and started writing the first draft of #3 in a similar style. After finishing what I call “draft 5.3” – or, third small revision of the fifth draft – I began some early work on #3’s beginning. When I got stuck there, I got back to #1 for its sixth draft. That done, I returned to #3 and squeezed out several more chapters…

It works well for me, so far. It’s likely I’ll continue this way for a while, though the details are in flux. It’s also hard to guess what I’ll do when the first draft of #3 is done and there’s only drafting two (or three) books at once. It’s possible that I’ll try to just focus on that but I sincerely doubt that. I might dive to working on the prequels, at least in some early stage. I probably mentioned that earlier – it’d be one standalone novel and something that’d be either a pair of novellas¬†(which I’d guess at ~2x 40k words) or merged into one shorter novel. All of that would be something to work on creatively between drafting. Obviously, the same issue would come anyway, just slightly later…

I’ll wrap it up here. Again, thanks to Ari and E.R. for the food for thoughts. Also, I’ll welcome any comments, experiences, and insights of other writers in the comments so feel free to share.

One thought on “Writing a trilogy: From sequence to all at once

  1. Personally, I prefer writing out a complete series before I go back for rewrites because it’s easier to hold onto the arc. I didn’t publish my first book until I’d written books 2,3, and 4 (part I) so I knew where I started and where I’d end up.

    Liked by 1 person

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