I’m finding myself at a bit of a crossroads right now. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I have an urban fantasy YA novel that I’ve really been struggling with when it comes to revisions. It seems like I’m constantly at that point where I find one large problem, but fixing it results in two more, even larger problems.
Now, I know exactly why this happened. I wrote the novel with no plan, completely free-writing the thing at the seat of my pants, if you will, as a NaNoWriMo novel one year. I talked a little about this with Scott in a recent podcast, in fact.
But I digress. In my frustrations I’ve taken more breaks from this novel over the last few years than I care to admit.
At least, I can say that these breaks have been productive. The last one (or perhaps, I could say the current one) has been especially productive. While stalling–er, brainstorming–I came up with a preliminary outline for a fantasy trilogy.
And from what I have so far, I think I’m in love with it. I’ve never written epic fantasy before, and to be honest, I’ve barely read any, so I know I need to do some serious research before I get too far into this thing, but that’s okay. Writing hasn’t been super-duper fun for me in a while, so if this new project is fun, then I have to go forward with it.
Well, not so fast.
I’m planning to attend the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers Colorado Gold Conference again this year, and I damn well better bring a completed manuscript with me.
The only problem is that the book I’d like to have ready now is the first of a trilogy. And how on earth are you supposed to pitch the first book of a trilogy?
When in doubt, I did what we all do. I went straight to the Google. (Or in my case, Bing. Can’t skip out on those Bing Points!)
I found this recent article at Writer’s Digest: How to Query an Agent When Writing a Trilogy (or Series)
Well, that seemed to be exactly what I’m looking for. Only, it wasn’t.
From the article:
Now this doesn’t mean you should keep your trilogy a secret, says Guide to Literary Agents editor Chuck Sambuchino. Just save it for a future conversation.
“If you propose your first book and they like it, they’ll contact you,” Sambuchino says. “One of the first questions they will ask, I promise you, will be, ‘What else are you working on or writing?’ And that’s when you say, ‘Well, I’m halfway through the second book in that series and I’ve got some outlines for other projects.’”
By following this method, you’ll avoid irritating agents who dislike queries about more than one book while doing no harm to ones that don’t care either way. And if you feel that you must mention it in your query letter, use the line “It’s a stand-alone book with series potential.”
I get what they’re saying, but I disagree with it. Let me clarify. I disagree with that when it comes to a trilogy. With a series, you can push each book as a stand-alone, yet related novel. But a trilogy is different. A trilogy is needs to have a complete story arc that runs throughout the all three books.
So, then, what’s the deal? How do you query a trilogy?
I had the pleasure of attending the Nebraska Writers Guild Spring Conference this weekend, and was able to talk to all sorts of writers and a couple of agents.
I figured you basically have three options when it comes to querying or pitching the first book of a trilogy.
Option # 1: Wait. Finish the whole series and pitch the trilogy as what it is: a trilogy. Fortunately, neither of the agents I talked to recommended doing this.
Option # 2: Pitch the first book, but treat it more like a stand-alone novel that has series/trilogy potential. Don’t really say too much about the sequels, but don’t hide from them either. This reminds me more of what the Writer’s Digest article said earlier.
Option # 3: Pitch the first book, and be very clear that it can stand alone, but be open about the fact that there is a larger overall plot that lasts for two more books. Mention that they are outlined (no need to have them written yet.) This option is the sense I got from the agents I talked to and I tend to agree.
This actually clarified things for me a bit. Even though there is one overall story arc, each book of the trilogy should still have it’s own internal and complete story. It’s kind of like Star Wars. While it is the first of a trilogy, it stands alone as its own film, and would do so just fine even if Empire Strikes Back was never made.
So with all that in mind, I’m planning to go ahead with this trilogy and get that first book ready to pitch at the next conference, at least for the time being. I’m feeling slightly down that I didn’t have anything ready for the NWG conference this time, but that only means I need to come back more prepared, and with a great novel in September for the Denver trip.
And you know what? Not only will I be able to get this written, I’ll have fun doing it.
I’d like to close out this post with a quick update on this blog.
Rest assured, I have no intention of shutting down this site, but as I reshuffle my schedule, I will take a small step back from a couple of things. With all of the responsibilities of real life, including the kids, the commute, the day job, Theme of Absence, and the podcast, something has to give.
Finishing a novel and getting it ready to pitch at the RMFW conference is probably my most important “extra curricular” activity now. So I will be scaling back a bit on this blog. I suppose I’ve already done that to some degree, but now I’m making it a little more official.
My current plan is to post here once a week, every Monday. While I finish the novel, I’ll be dropping mid-week posts and Five Links Friday. I know the 5 Links posts go over well, but you’d be surprised how much work actually goes into those posts. The Write Good Books Podcast will remain as is, on a bi-weekly schedule, but I’ll be shifting it back a day to Thursdays.
These changes are hardly a big deal, and most of you guys probably won’t even notice, but I just wanted to let you know where I stand on stuff and didn’t want to make you think I’m disappearing.
So thanks for reading and check back next week for a new post and another episode of the podcast.