Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Three Books, Three Balls In The Air - By Lari Don

I’ve learnt a lot about writing trilogies in the last three years, mostly things NOT to do. (For example, don’t start more subplots in the first two books than you can tie up in the third book. I spent a lot of last year slashing out minor plotlines.)

But I recently discovered something else about trilogies, especially trilogies that your publisher wants to publish in autumn, spring and autumn (ie 6 months apart).

Bringing three novels out in quick succession (even if they are all basically drafted before you start) can mean the writer is experiencing a different point in three different books’ life cycle at exactly the same time. This month, for example, I’ve been promoting Book 1 of the Spellchasers trilogy (The Beginner’s Guide to Curses), dealing with the final edits of Book 2 (The Shapeshifter’s Guide to Running Away) and tackling the first major redraft of Book 3 (The Witch’s Guide to Magical Combat).

This means I’ve been talking to kids about the decisions behind an action scene in one book, while perfecting the language in an action scene in the next book, and trying to decide whether I should radically rework an action scene in the final book.

So the opportunities for getting tangled up in timelines and for blurting out spoilers to classes of 10 year olds are vast and varied! Particularly given that that one of my characters is a different shape, with different powers, in each book...

I’m having to think about each book in a different way. I’m thinking about Beginner’s Guide in terms of introducing the story, performing readings and discussing creative processes. I’m thinking about Shapeshifter’s Guide at a pernickety level, chewing on word choices and punctuation decisions. And I’m thinking about Witch’s Guide in a broad brush way, reducing wordcount and sewing up plotholes. This feels like slicing myself into three separate writers, each doing different things with the same overarching story at the same time...

But being three different writers at the same time is nothing compared to the challenges I regularly set my characters, so I can’t complain! Also, I love chatting to young readers about stories, and I love editing (yes, actually, I do love editing). So this month has contained many of my favourite things about being a writer!

I thought writing the trilogy was the hard bit. It turns out that promoting and editing a isn’t simple either. I’m juggling three books: each at a different stage in its life cycle, each a different weight and shape, each spinning and falling in a different way... I’m just waiting for one of them to bash me on the head!

But the joys of spending all this time with the characters, the magic and the story still outweighs the many challenges of writing a trilogy. (I suspect my next story idea wants to be a trilogy too. I’ll have to get used to keeping timelines untangled, stamping down on spoilers, and keeping all three books in the air!)

The first book in the Spellchasers trilogy, The Beginner’s Guide to Curses, is out now, the Shapeshifter’s Guide to Running Away will be out in spring 2017, and the Witch’s Guide to Magical Combat will be out in autumn 2017, all published by Floris Books.

Lari Don is the award-winning author of more than 20 books for all ages, including fantasy novels for 8 – 12s, picture books, retellings of traditional tales, a teen thriller and novellas for reluctant readers.
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Patsy said...

It hadn't occurred to me how confusing it would be to talk about and promote the first book whilst writing another in the same series. Hope you don't get too tangled.

Penny Dolan said...

I am so impressed that you can juggle - and often in public - with all these versions of your trilogy, Lari!

Lari Don said...

Thanks Patsy! I'll try not to get completely tangled, mostly by the power of lists! And Penny, don't be too impressed - I'm almost staying on top of the books, but forgetting a lot of family things! (breakfast, lunch, tea, christmas presents...)