Thursday, June 27, 2024

The Challenges of Writing a Trilogy by Amanda Cabot

The Challenges of Writing a Trilogy
By Amanda Cabot

I love writing trilogies, and judging from readers’ reactions, they love reading them. There’s something very satisfying about returning to a town and reconnecting with characters who’ve become as real as your own friends. But, speaking as an author, there are also challenges. Although there are many challenges, for me, three stand out.

Maintain consistency from book to book. Readers are intelligent. They’ll remember that Susie had green eyes in Book One, and if those suddenly change to brown in Book Two, unless you mention that she’s wearing colored contacts, your reader will be disappointed in you. To avoid this problem, I keep a chart with all characters’ ages, hair and eye colors, and other dominant characteristics.

If you’re using the same location from book to book, I highly recommend having a map that shows where houses, rivers, and other landmarks are located. Once again, readers will notice if you change the street names between books. Even if you’re using a real town, it’s important to know where the characters live so that you’re consistent. Maps are my friends!

Create each book as a stand-alone. I know, I know. We’re talking about books in a series, so why am I
suggesting that each one be a stand-alone? For me, there’s nothing more frustrating than picking up the second book in a trilogy and feeling as if I’m a stranger at a party where everyone else knows each other. They’re all talking about people and events that are unfamiliar to me. If you write each book with the idea that it can stand alone, you’ll make readers happy. The key is to ensure that each reference to a prior book has a brief explanation, bringing the reader “up to speed.” The challenge, of course, is to not give away key plot points from previous books. Is it easy? Of course not. That’s why it’s a challenge.

Make each book as compelling as the previous one. For me, this is the most difficult challenge of all. I’ve read so many trilogies, including some written by New York Times bestselling authors, where the first and third books were excellent, but the middle one fell short that I started asking why. Was this an extreme case of the sagging middles that we’re all told to avoid? Was it like sophomore slump? I suspect part of the problem is that, as authors, we’re excited about the first book, but when we get to the second, we’re anxious to finish the series, and the second book suffers. Don’t let that happen.

I wish I could give you concrete advice on how to avoid the middle book doldrums. All I can say is to be aware that this is a potential problem and one that afflicts even bestselling authors. If you have critique partners, ask them whether this book is as good as the previous one, and if the answer isn’t the one you wanted, ask yourself what you can do to improve it. Your readers expect excellence. Don’t disappoint them.

For me, although there are undeniable challenges involved, writing trilogies is great fun. I love the challenge of creating a town and peopling it with interesting characters, then returning to it a second and third time. I love introducing characters in one book, then following them into a second book. I love every aspect of it except one: saying good-bye.

Writing trilogies can be a fulfilling experience. If you’re at all intrigued by the idea, I encourage you to try it.

Into the Starlight

Neither of their lives has turned out the way they planned—and they certainly never planned on each other

After more than a year in Europe, Joanna Vaughn returns to Sweetwater Crossing, her dreams of becoming a concert pianist shattered. As if that wasn’t enough, her husband, whom she married after a whirlwind courtship, has died. The only thing sustaining her on the journey back to Texas is the thought of her childhood home. But to Joanna’s dismay, the place she once loved no longer feels like home.

When personal and professional crises throw his entire future into question, Dr. Burke Finley believes it’s time for a change. A quick trip to Sweetwater Crossing with his almost-aunt Della Samuels turns into an extended stay to discover what happened to his uncle and her would-be husband. But the beautiful and musical Joanna makes it more than bearable.

As the two join forces to help Della, there is no denying the attraction felt on both sides. But ghosts from the past are coming to call—and threatening to destroy any chance at happily-ever-after.

Amanda Cabot is the bestselling author of more than forty books and a variety of novellas. Her books have been honored with starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and Library Journal and have been finalists for the ACFW Carol Award, the HOLT Medallion, and the Booksellers’ Best.

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  1. Linda - Thanks so much for inviting me to be a guest on your blog. I hope your readers found my post helpful.

  2. Thanks for visiting! It's always a pleasure to host you.