Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Why You Should Reconsider Writing a Trilogy

Here's one trilogy where the second installation was the best

I love trilogies. Lord of the Rings, the Space Trilogy, 100 Cupboards, on and on. Awesome sci-fi/fantasy trilogies. I love them forever.

To those of you in the querying trenches *points at self* you may have noticed that trilogies are no longer in vogue. Does that therefore mean you should't write them? No, of course not! But here's something to consider:

Have you ever heard of the sagging middle? Even if you haven't, you probably know exactly what I am talking about. The middle part of your book, the dragging, plot-point-lacking trek before The Big Twist. Well, here's the thing: sometimes, actually a lot of times (though not all the time!) the second book in your trilogy can become just a big lump of Sagging Middle *coughEldestcough*.

But not mine! you may say. Well, I used to myself. A couple years ago I was wrapping up edits on the second book in my own trilogy, and planning a second trilogy, both YA fantasy of very different veins.

Today? One trilogy is shelved, and the other is now only two books. My CP made a similar decision recently with an MG fantasy trilogy, and broke it down into two books as opposed to three. But why?

Well, for myself, I took the-once-trilogy-now-duo and created a timeline of the entire, sweeping plot of all three books. It was obviously too long for a standalone, even after I cut all of the Long-Pointless-Dragging-Parts-That-Were-There-To-Make-It-A-Trilogy-For-The-Sake-Of-Having-A-Trilogy. Without thinking too hard, I cut a line directly through the center of the sheet of paper, in the middle of what would have been Book Two.

The results?

I'd love to say a perfect place to split, but no, it wasn't. However, I saw the reality that Book 2 was about 50% filler material, mostly world building and false tension. And while world building is awesome, no one wants to read about that much world building.

Now your trilogy's second book may or may not be full of world building, but ten to one, with some darling slaughtering, you could distribute its most important plot points between Books One and Three. This may also force you to chop away at your word count, but you know what you'll have?

Tighter, faster-paced, punchier books. Two of them, shiny and fit and non-saggy.

For all you critical fans (or non-fans) of the Hobbit movies, you know that sometimes you can only spread so much plot over so much time. It's the same with books. Don't stretch your butter over your bread. Don't spend an entire book leading up to a jazillion-page long battle sequence *coughEldestcough*.

Did you ever read or write a trilogy where the second book felt like filler? What's your favorite trilogy?


  1. Of course, they do say The Empire Strikes Back is the best of the series. No Sagging middle. ;)

    1. Hence I used it as the photo for the post! :D