When you sign a three-book deal, it means:
1. You have to actually write three books.
I got that, of course. What I didn’t get is, when you (read: I) don’t write with an outline, it’s trickier than you might think.
2. Those three books have to actually go together.
Again, obvious. I love my characters, and it’s great that I get to keep writing about them, but that means I don’t get to keep my happy ending from book one—because bliss isn’t that fun to read about. Also, I think it’s important that the entire trilogy is cohesive. I talked about the concept of cohesiveness when I posted on critiquing, but essentially, I just mean that the concepts, characters, conditions and conflict should flow smoothly throughout the series. This means you should foreshadow key events where you can even if they don’t happen until much deeper into the trilogy, and past key events should factor into everything that happens from there on out. But, again, when you don’t write with an outline, and have no idea where the story is going, this is a bit of a trick.
3. Book three has to wrap up all those loose ends.
All those cool sub-plots and character twists? This is where they come home to roost. The end of book three needs to wrap up 1200ish pages of character quirks, foreshadowing and plot twists into a tidy little package tied with ribbon. Nathan Bransford did an interesting post a while back on what happens when you leave all that mystery dangling. This is the real trick, and the reason I wish I’d had some clue how this trilogy was going to end before I started book one.
With Personal Demons and Original Sin I could leave stuff hanging. As a matter of fact, as an author, you kind of want to leave some mystery in the first books of a series. Both of those books took under two months to write and another month to revise. The Novel Formerly Known as Hellbent has been started, restarted, burned and stomped on then restarted again, and again…and again, over the course of about a year. In December, inspiration (borne of necessity since my deadline was approaching) hit and I pulled it together. After all the angst, I was euphoric. It was The Best Novel Ever! Except, that’s not what my agent and crit partner thought. So I’m revising (More on revisions later this week.) and it’s sucking the life out of me. (Which is why I haven't been here much over the last few weeks. Sorry!) I struggled so hard with point #3 above--fitting all the pieces together just so--that it feels like my whole novel is a house of cards. If I mess with any one part, the whole thing is going to topple.
So…I’m indescribably grateful to my seriously cool editor and everyone at Tor for having enough faith in me to sign me to a three-book deal. But, I seriously need to learn to outline if I’m ever going to do this again.