The Fantasy of an Uncomplicated Trilogy

IMG_1041I’ve been working on the first novel in my Ravensgate cycle for the better part of a year now. All and all, I’ve been really happy with the progress. I had a heavy outline done first, kept on target, and was closing in on about 75% finished with the first draft.

Then I encountered a problem.

I had no ending.

Let’s take a step back. I’m not exactly a stranger to working in trilogy-land, at least in concept. Both my Protectorate series and the Shadows of Architecture series are, at their heart, trilogies. The big difference is that they started as individual novels first. Bridge, the first of the Shadows of Architecture started out as a stand-alone screenplay I co-wrote with a friend, and it was only after I converted it into a novel that I realized it had the potential to anchor two more books for a richer story. And Cobalt City Blues was written as a stand-alone novel as a lark–I’d never written a novel before, so the idea of writing a series was insane until someone else suggested it.

But the Ravensgate cycle is the first time I approached a project from the very start, from the first word of the outline, to be a trilogy. And in doing so, I forgot one very crucial thing. All books in a series should be able to stand on their own as a complete book with a beginning, a middle, and an end. And as this was structured, this series didn’t do that.

Cue the panic and inevitable existential doubt.

The puzzle I had before me–nine characters split into essentially 3.5 narrative story arcs–turned out to be the solution.

Rather than tell the entire story chronologically, I could tell the story from beginning to end in a single book. Scratch that. I could tell the story from beginning to end in three individual books, each with their own point of view and their own portion of the resolution. Which actually works better than the original structure, as it allows each book to have it’s own tone (and much better title).

I realized that while the climax of the book took place in the same city, each arc had its own individual resolution within that city. They weren’t all fighting the same aspect of the threat. Preston the Lesser was dealing with some very real daddy issues. Ulls, the Yellow Wolf of Borandell was seeking redemption. And Preston, well, I don’t want to get ahead of myself. Those three arcs only really intersect in the sense that they’re all reacting to the same triggering event. But with the exception of the partial story arc, the .5 of the 3.5, there is very little personal overlap. And what personal story overlap there is helps tie the stories together into a greater whole.

I spent the last few days splitting the book out into three novels. Instead of being 75% done with the first novel, I’m 40% done with the first, 20% done with the second, and 15% done with the third. I’ve fixed the outline for the first book to take it all the way to the conclusion, and will be doing the same with books two and three today. It looks like nothing has been lost, but it does set me back a bit in several ways.

Then next week, I’ll be back to writing, heading towards the goal post on The Ravensgate Cycle: Book 1–Of Rooks and Ravens. Hopefully I’ll be able to finish it by the end of the year and move on to Redemption of the Wolf in 2014.

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