Thursday, 18 July 2013


Hello, hello, hello Dear Readers! Today brings much happiness from me, because yesterday the final book of The Name of the Blade trilogy crossed the 50% mark! WHOOHOOO!

What that really means is, I'm half way to my estimated word goal for the first draft. Now, the book will almost certainly end up being a little longer or shorter than I've estimated (some of my books have ended up being literally twice as long as I guessed). And this is only the first draft - I often add up to 10-20,000 words in revisions, both on my own and with my editor. But because The Night Itself and Darkness Hidden were both 73,000 words long in the first draft, I feel pretty secure in thinking this book will be somewhere around that. Crossing that line is a big deal for me. Writing the middle and ending of a book is my favourite part - and I've got so much cool stuff lined up for this one. Three books worth of set-up, characterisation and foreshadowing, all rolling to their inevitable yet unpredictable conclusion! I'm going to blow your minds, my babies! *Evil laughter*

Now, onto today's question (which is extremely appropriate)! It was left in the comments by Shaun, and reads:
I'd love to write a duology or trilogy but my problem is finding what kind of story to tell in each and I can't seem to put pen to paper (or fingers to keys) until I have an idea of what each story may be. I have the world set. The rules. And a couple characters. But the actual story I am unsure of. How did you go about coming up with each individual story? Just brainstorming? It's really frustrating. 
So, to clarify a bit - you have an idea of the overall story arc that you want to take your characters on and explore your world with, but you're not really sure how to break that down so that each book has it's own story and distinct action.

Hoo-boy! Are you in a fix. I know just what you mean. Why isn't there more advice about this? It's so hard, I can't believe that all the authors of trilogies and series aren't talking about it constantly. I definitely struggled with it, and as a result I've already written a couple of blog posts that should help. Here are the links:

TURNING IDEAS INTO PLOTS - Part One, Part Two and Part Three 

Other Tips:

Mental Subtitles; For me, one of the things that helped was to give each book a little subtitle in my mind which summed up what it needed to do within the trilogy to make the overall story arc work. To tell what these are would be spoilery, but I'll give non-spoilery examples - let's say you decided that your first book was The Chase, the second was The Seige and the third The Battle. That way, you would know what ultimately needed to be achieved and could focus on bringing in elements to make each book a cohesive narrative that fulfils that mission statement.

Wriggle Room; Whether you're a planner or a panster, when it comes to writing a trilogy I think you need to give yourself some wriggle room. Don't fall into the trap of thinking you simply must know each and every little thing that is going to happen in books #2 and #3 because I guarantee you that the way things play out in the first book will give you all kinds of amazing ideas that you want to incorporate, and those need room to breathe. Those things in turn will make book #2 into a slightly different book and cast a new light on events in book #3 which will again cause you to have all kinds of new ideas for that story. Plan, but plan *loosely*.

Pick Your Essentials; By contrast, I believe that you definitely DO need to make some decisions now about the key points of your trilogy, because you need to know how to seed book #1 with hints and foreshadowings that will allow the development (book #2) and conclusion (book #3) of your story to be satisfying. Stories are more than just one thing happening after another. Everything needs to be there for a reason, and everything needs to be working together, which is especially hard to achieve with a series or trilogy because by the time you're editing the second book and drafting the third, the first book may be on shelves and so you cannot go back and ret-con it to make everything dovetail. I do know of one writer who pantsed their way through a whole trilogy, but I would not recommend it. Most of us just aren't that brave! Decide what your non-negotiable, heart-of-the-matter plot threads will be and make sure you love them enough to stick to them for three whole books without wavering. Each detail you put in the story now needs to pay off later. As Chekov said: 

"If in the first act you have hung a pistol on the wall, then in the following one it should be fired. Otherwise don't put it there."

I'm also going to refer you to the writing advice page of Cassandra Clare, the author of two of my personal favourite trilogies. I find her advice excellent, though I'm not as strict an outliner as she is.

I hope this is helpful, Shaun! If there are any more questions, please pop them in the comments for me, and I will get to them as soon as I can.


Paul Anthony Shortt said...

Awesome advice, Zoe!

I love your idea of having mental subtitles for each installment. That's a great tool for staying focused on what each book should be about, rather than just having one long story you've chopped into parts.

I love trilogies. They're easily my favourite story format, and I hope I can pull it all together when the final part of my trilogy comes out next year.

Zoë Marriott said...

Paul: Thanks! I think it helps to make each book/story distinct - you *have* to focus on themes that move the whole trilogy along, but once you've decided what you want each book to be on its own, you can also chose events and themes which are just for this book, to reinforce its individual story.

Paul Anthony Shortt said...


If I were to separate the books in my trilogy that way, Locked Within would be the Birth of the Hero, Silent Oath would be Identifying the Threat, and the third book would be The Final Battle.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...