Thursday, September 18, 2014

Some Thoughts on Book Two of Trilogies

My first two published novels were both written with the idea they would probably be stand-alone efforts. Since then, The Dark Lady has turned into a completed trilogy, and I’m working on the second volume in the Queen’s Pawn series.
Which brings me to my topic. I suspect the trickiest part of any three book effort is book two, the bridging work. Volume one introduces the characters and leaves them with some unresolved problems. Volume three wraps everything, well almost everything, up with a nice neat bow. So, what happens in volume two? You can’t just mark time and bore the reader while waiting for the action to climax. If you did that your reader would be wondering why they should bother with book three, or better yet, why, if the author is short of fresh ideas, didn’t he/she simply turn it into a two volume set and get things over with.

With Dark Lady, I had little idea when I started book two of where I was going. My opening  assumption, if the characters are still alive and active, is that there was a lot more story that could be told. I concentrated on developing some of the minor characters more, and progressing events in a logical manner. Once I got started with number two I knew where it was all going to end. The main character survives her latest trials and tribulations, and just when you think things are getting better, I ended with a surprise hook that carries me through into the final volume.

In the case of The Queen’s Pawn, after completing the manuscript, I had actually written down two sentences, one for each potential future volume if it ever happened to turn into a three book series. I’m now halfway through book two, but the problems with a bridging volume are constantly in the back of my mind. My intention is to try and create something that can stand on its own, that a reader could pick up cold and enjoy, but will leave a hint of the possibility of approaching problems that will make them want to continue on into the final chapter of the saga.

I’d be interested in other writer’s thoughts. Do you always start a project, knowing you are creating a trilogy, or is it just something that happens with a story that begs for more? How do you avoid the problem of simply procrastinating in book two until you can get to the really fun stuff in the final epic? What do you do to make the bridging volume interesting and avoid the, just-marking-time, syndrome?


The Dark Lady Series:
The Dark Lady – Volume 1
Dark Days – Volume 2
Dark Knights – Volume 3

The Queen’s Pawn Series:
The Queen’s Pawn – Volume 1


Big Mike said...

I've created two series, one was intended to be a trilogy (or more) from the beginning (called the Cherokee Valley series). The other had a sequel at the request of the publisher. Before I did my first series, didn't thing I'd enjoy creating one, but I was wrong. Using the same people, in a strange way, keeps characters you've grown to like alive longer than a single, and I enjoy revisiting fictional events with old friends.

Michael Davis (
Author of the Year (2008 and 2009)
Award of Excellence (2012)

Anonymous said...

I've found it an interesting exercise. I had no problem with ideas for Dark Lady series, but slow going with Pawn.

Started wondering if I was dealing with one volume instead of two, but all of a sudden, the characters just took off and started to run

Ron Hore

Carmen Fox said...

I'm working on my first second book now, with another second book to follow next year. I don't have trouble coming up with a plot. But both first books rely on twists and on unusual book structures. They were experiments, if you like.

One was about, what happens if the heroes fail? It was an interesting concept to explore. But book 2 is as vanilla in terms of experimentation as you get. It's fun, twisty, digs into the characters. But for me, it's lacking the "something new." So as much as I enjoy reading book twos, I'm not a fan of writing them.