There And Draft Again

A Fellowship of Fantasy Writers

The Rough-shod Middle Earth of Your Trilogy September 11, 2013

Filed under: Writing — thereanddraftagain @ 2:44 pm
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Yup. That’s me right now. Can any of you relate? For your sakes, I hope not.

They say the second book in a trilogy is the one that does you in, and I am here to tell you, believe it. The second book will rip something out. It might be your heart, or your brain, or your eyes, but seriously, you are not getting out of here unscathed.

Why is engaging in the drafting and revision of a second book so terrifying? Well, some simple reasons, for starters. The story must go on, but it can’t be the same. It has to be deeper and more powerful. The stakes must be raised. Whatever the characters were fighting for in book one must suddenly be more of a background issue. You need fresh problems, fresh challenges to face.

Right. That can’t be too hard, can it? Well, here’s where it all gets complicated.

Your second book needs conflict and resolution. It needs clean character arcs. It needs all the same story beats your first novel had. But it CANNOT TRULY RESOLVE. At the end, you need to still have another novel’s worth of even HIGHER stakes waiting. This is where I run into the greatest difficulty. My second book is different from my first in so many ways. It has a different main character. Most of the POVs are swapped. The stakes are crazy high by the time we get to the end — so high in fact that I’m not sure everyone won’t be staring at me with this look on their face:

Everyone goes through hell in this book. Everyone gets hurt. Everyone loses something dear. And yet, the show goes on. (And yes, I have a third book full of even crazier shiz already in my head.) But I can’t help wondering if this is going to be one of those, “Like, for real? You think you can get away with this?”

The thing is, no, I don’t think I can. I’ve been revising this manuscript by chopping it up and deleting and destroying and rewriting and then ripping up the beat sheet and starting a new outline with completely different events…*headdesk*. I just completed a rewrite of 40k of it. I’m still tossing out every version of the ending that I come up with. I tweak the dialogue. I tweak the dialogue again. I kill some darlings. I haven’t even sent it to my CPs yet because it’s too messy to be coherent. If all goes well, I’ll plague them with it later this month, as soon as I can string together all the madness.

Anyone else out there writing their middle novel? Lost in the mire? Neck deep in revisions? Dude, I raise my glass and wish you the best. This is where I’ve been lately, so I thought I’d share. At least we can all commiserate together, right?

Rachel O’Laughlin

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4 Responses to “The Rough-shod Middle Earth of Your Trilogy”

  1. Kate Sparkes Says:

    Sounds like it’s going to be amazing, though! I hate when the middle book is just a bridge between the first (exciting!) book and the last (resolution!). You’ve got the excitement there.

    I’m working on book two (though my focus is on revisions for book one). I actually really like the story, and things are shaping up well. That doesn’t mean that I don’t have loads of revisions to look forward to, but it hasn’t killed me yet.

    • *shakes your hand* Actually, *hugs you*. Thank you! It’s refreshing to be reminded that I’m on the right track, that it will probably be amazing if I can just do it justice.

      I’m glad you’re in love with your story! I loved this thing to pieces during drafting, and I think that’s the one thing that is carrying me through all of this wrestling and re-working. I still love it.

      Best of luck with your series! Keep us There and Draft Again folk apprised of your successes! 🙂

  2. Reblogged this on Rachel O'Laughlin and commented:
    Here’s why I’m living in my pajamas, over-using caffeine, skipping showers, and hiding from the internet. It’s not pretty, but it’s true.

  3. Marcie Summers Says:

    Oddly enough, as a reader, the middle book of the trilogy tends to be my favorite. I can’t really say (without making my nose lengthen considerably) that writing the middle book is without anxiety, but there *are* a couple of nice qualities to it

    * Most of your characters are already set up. (Introducing the whole cast of characters is always a challenge for me)
    * You don’t have to write the final hurrah yet. Which, yes, it’s tricky to come up with a plot at the right level of engaging, but the “End of all things” climax has a LOT of pressure tethered to it, so book II can slide by that particular headache.

    Also, just want to put it out there that not all readers dislike the middle book *raises hand*, so when your trilogies are on the shelves please know at least one reader is SO excited to see your Book II magic 🙂


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