So we have a guest post by Keeley Smith today who is the best selling author of the Pendle Hill and the Soulkeeper Trilogy. Keeley has written a post on writing a trilogy and the pros and cons of doing so. I hope this helps many of you who are interested in writing a trilogy.
Writing a trilogy is like running a marathon… once you finally get to the ending you’re panting, sweating and physically exhausted – but what great fun you had along the way!
People often tell me that it takes guts to write a trilogy, I’d never thought about it before now, and now that they mention it; it makes me feel slightly nervous. Actually thinking about the three books and plotting them down onto paper in detail sends my heart palpitating.
I knew from the moment I started writing Returned that it would be a trilogy. I knew that I couldn’t possibly complete Cora and Jack’s journey in one book. I knew that they needed more time and my first thought was a trilogy. My only problem was… I’d not set out the entire plot for the three books.
I thought, and still think, the book will plot itself out when I’m writing it. Personally I don’t believe I can think this far ahead otherwise I will freak out. A trilogy, 3 books, the dedication and time it takes to finish it will be hard. I know this, but what isn’t hard in life? Most things you want in life aren’t easy, why should this be any different?
I know that some authors have to plot the entire trilogy in great detail before putting pen to paper or fingers to keyboard, but I cannot work like this. I’m quite a chaotic, messy writer and a firm believer that my characters will tell me where they want to go. If I’d written the plot for my books a year ago I know that Cora would tell me that she’d grown out of that plot or that she wanted to go somewhere else with her life and the story. The ending of Returned was never plotted out and I found this rather exciting, like a reader who is waiting for the climatic ending to a book they’d never read before. I didn’t know the ending until the moment when my fingers actually started typing it and suddenly it clicked, it made sense.
Book 2 (yet to be named) in the Pendle Hill trilogy follows straight on from the ending of Returned; it will describe the next step for my characters, more heart ache, love and complications, but that was as much as I knew when I’d thought of it. Before I’d finished writing Returned I knew a basic idea of where my characters would go next, I just didn’t know the hows and whys of it, this all came to me once I began writing and things started slotting into place.
Ask me what happens in book 3 and I couldn’t tell you. I have ideas but that is about it. My fingers will type my characters dialogue that is running in my head, they will tell me the ending.
So, actual pros for writing a trilogy:
1) You can spend more time with your characters (or best friends!)
2) Creative stream is not interrupted
3) You can pick up threads of your story throughout the books.
1) You may lose the drive to push you through to the end, 3 books is a big ask, even of yourself.
2) Your first book might not sell so you may find the next two books are void.
Personally, I don’t think there is a right or wrong way to write trilogies, some will plot extensively, and some won’t even attempt it because they are far too nervous. I just grabbed the idea in one hand and now I’m rolling with the punches. Life is too short to be afraid of things, at least you can always say it didn’t work out, those words are much better spoken than the words, I never tried.
Here is an excerpt of Keeley’s book Returned – the first in the Pendle Hill Trilogy.
“Clay, Jack wants his first training session; shall we show him what we’ve got?”
“Sure, I’m up for a challenge,” Clay said throwing him a wicked grin as he stood up and followed them into the middle of the back garden.
“It is important you know how to defend yourself. I will start by throwing a few things you way and see how you handle it.” He nodded, okay, he could do that.
Before he was able to prepare himself, Jack saw something move, a blur of black and white. He didn’t really have much time to react as the thing smacked him on the top of his head and bounced a few times on the floor. Eli had cheated. He hadn’t been prepared. He opened his mouth to shout at him then realised he’d look stupid if he did. When you’re in a fight you don’t just stop and say: ‘by the way, I’m going to hit you now, just so you have a heads up.”
Something winked mischievously at him as it caught the rays of the sun. His heart jumped up into his mouth. He made a conscious effort to grab his power but he couldn’t feel any sort of stirring in his gut. What he did feel was pure undiluted fear. He nearly made a run for it but his pride kept him in place.
He could see that the gleaming tip of the fork was close. He was a dead man. He looked down, bracing his body for the pain. The fork would slide through his flesh like a hot knife in butter. Why had he worn a perfectly good top today of all days? Holding his breath and like the weak man he was, he closed his eyes and stood straight waiting for the blow. It didn’t come.
“You’re not ready. Now can you see why you need to train and prepare yourself?” Eli’s shout eventually registered through the pounding of the blood that was pumping around his head.
He opened his eyes and looked at the fork that lay laughing at him on the ground near his feet. He wiped his hands over his face. He knew he wasn’t ready. He knew that this first training session would make him look stupid. It was important he now moved on and started training.
“Okay, what do I need to do?”
“You need to build and hold your power even during times of fear. You almost always feel fear when you face someone but this should never stop you.”
He focused on breathing and then nearly whooped with glee when he felt the rush of power deep in his gut.
“Are you ready?”
Jack gave a curt nod. He looked around waiting.
Freezing water smacked him hard in his face, knocking the air out of his lungs. He made a huge mistake and opened his mouth in an attempt to breathe. Thousands of razor blades attacked his mouth and throat. He couldn’t open his eyes; the water was coming at him too fast. It was too strong. Opening his mouth, he took another mouthful of cold water.
This was test, he needed to get out of the way, but the lack of oxygen wasn’t helping.
Grabbing the power, he held his arms out and was instantly rewarded with the lightness he felt as his body moved upwards. He didn’t know how far he could go, he wasn’t bothered. He just needed air. The water had subsided making his lungs cry joyously as air reached them, he spluttered and opened his eyes.
He must have been suspended at least thirty feet in the air. He’d never been afraid of heights but he was usually strapped in to something. The only thing that stopped him going head long into the floor was his ability to control his element.
That wasn’t what you would call great odds.
Eli was laughing. “Come down, Jack. That was really good. Took you long enough to figure out what to do. We thought you’d grown gills.”
He wasn’t finding this whole experience funny. He could have drowned whilst standing up in the middle of his garden.
Jack slowly descended. What worried him the most was what happened now? Not once since he’d developed this power had he landed without some sort of thump. His heart pounded with each decrease in height. At around fifteen feet he felt his element sneakily retreat. He flapped his arms hoping that would keep him afloat.
He felt the intense pressure of gravity crush his body and he couldn’t do a thing to stop it. As his body hit the floor, his legs crumbled beneath him, he heard the crunch of his bones as they made contact. Pain exploded in his head and then he was blissfully engulfed by darkness.
“Christ, do you think we need to take him to the hospital?” Eli’s voice was filled with worry.
“Right, Eli, and how would we explain what happened to him? Well Doc, he was levitating and fell out of the sky.”
“Clay, you don’t have to be a smart arse all the time. He hasn’t moved at all.”
Jack could hear them bickering. He quite enjoyed it.
“We need to do something.”
“Jack.” Jack felt hands grip and shake him.
“Eli, I don’t think you should do that. You could cause more damage.”
“What else do you suggest?”
“Let me think? A doctor, like I suggested before.”
“Jesus,” Jack mumbled. “You two could wake the dead with your bickering.”
“Not funny. Where are you injured? Can you feel your legs?”
“My legs are fine; the fireworks exploding in my head are my main worry.”
“Right, let’s get you inside, Clay?”
Jack looked at Clay and caught him glancing at his watch.
“You got somewhere to be? Who is the lucky lady?”
Clay blushed. He hadn’t realised the man was capable of blushing. Clay had a different woman every week, to see the man blush over one woman made things a little more interesting.
“Oh, you like this one, do we know her?”
“Some other time, eh?” Clay said and smiled as he moved his arms under Jack to help lift him. He allowed them to carry him into the living. Of course, he could walk if he wanted to.
“Right, I’m heading out. Is there anything you need from the village?”
“No. Just go and have a good time.”
Pain lanced through his arm making him hiss. This is what he got for training but it meant he wasn’t good enough, yet. When he was ready, she had better watch out.
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