Lessons I’ve Learned from NOT Writing a Trilogy

windmills san fran

My new book may or may not contain windmills.

In February, I finished the third draft of my non-Trilogy.  I was sure it was a three-part series but have been assured from very trustworthy sources that it’s not.  It’s a longish novel in three parts with three distinct narrative arcs.  Go figure.  It’s 425 pages, which pre-Harry Potter, would be a rule-breaker for length.

I wrote the “first book” in a feverish three months and then spent nine months bringing it through two successive drafts with Alison Acheson’s eyes (plug: editor alison@alisonacheson.com).  At this point, I believed it was safe to begin to shop it out.  Enter another editor and agent who patiently clarified my uninformed definition of a trilogy: each book has to completely stand alone so that if you pick up book 2, for example, nothing is lost.

So this Fall and Winter, I’ve ignored blog and friends to finish this entire project and am now workshopping it with a fellow author to find all the problems I can’t yet see.   Just give me time now to lose this self-satisfied feeling of accomplishment and I’ll find them myself.  Time is always a writer’s friend.

What’s unique about this book for me is that even though it is a stand alone, I could write my main character’s immediate future, even to nine months away.  Hinting at that without needing to overstate that chapter of her story was a fun way to end the book and it allows my readers to envision the character’s exciting and promise-filled future for themselves.  Maybe what I’m learning is that if you don’t spell the ending, the story lingers longer, even for the author.

It’s been the most creative and chaotic writing period of my life.  Since September 2011, in eighteen months, I have written this mammoth piece while juggling classroom and family life.  This story idea sparked from an unpublished book I wrote in 1999, one that was always my favourite project.  But I couldn’t make that book believable enough and the story frame was too flawed to fix so I had to cast on from the very beginning (to use knitting terms) and ignore almost every word I’d written before.

A weird thing happened as I was nearing the end of this project: I found I was shuffling my feet to finish.  I’d saved the hardest bit for last–researching a scene in Denmark–and I found I was avoiding this task primarily to avoid closing the last chapter.  Did I fear writer’s block or some kind of letdown?  Was that why I’d added in two other writing projects near the end to try to occupy the newly vacant space in my brain?  Yes, maybe, perhaps.  For this non-trilogy, it was a hard project to begin (see earlier entry about The First Sentence: Finding my Way In) tricky to end, but fun to print and see the whole stack for what it is: my favourite book, finally finished (again). Yippee!


My new book may or may not contain horses.


About pjsarahcollins

teacher, author, reader
This entry was posted in Writing Ideas. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Lessons I’ve Learned from NOT Writing a Trilogy

  1. Pingback: In the CWILLosphere | The CWILL BC Society blog

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