Want to know how to write a trilogy?
Different writers have different reactions when they have to write trilogies. Some writers cheer up at the thought of a trilogy as they can explore more of their characters and their world. Others think of it as a lucrative opportunity to make more money, while others think of it as a nightmare because writing a single book was hard enough for them.
Regardless of what you think about a trilogy, you should know that it has a large reader base. A number of popular authors have written trilogies which worked perfectly for them. And, it can work perfectly for you too if you know how to write a trilogy.
In this article, you will learn everything you need to know about writing trilogies. From the basics to the advanced, this is your ultimate guide on how to write a trilogy.
Famous Trilogy Books
What is the first name that comes to your mind when you think about the best literary trilogies?
For us, it’s the ‘Lord of the Rings’. It is the perfect trilogy by J. R. R. Tolkien. There are also many other famous trilogies. Here are some of them:
- The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson
- Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare
- The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
- Inferno by Dante Alighieri
- The Star Wars Trilogy by George Lucas
- The Road to Jerusalem by Jan Guillou
- Twilight by Stephanie Meyer
How many of these have you read?
Writing a Trilogy
Can’t decide whether to commit yourself to write a trilogy or not?
We’ve got you covered!
In this guide, you will find everything you need to know about writing a trilogy. You will also learn how to plan and execute your trilogy and some tips and techniques that will help you out.
It’s going to be long, but interesting. So, bear with us.
Let’s get started!
But, Is A Trilogy Right for My Story?
First, you must decide if a trilogy is the best choice for your story or not. Don’t start writing a trilogy just for the sake of it. Remember, it is hard and tiring work. So, only commit to it if you are sure that it is the best-suited medium for your tale.
Here are 4 important questions to ask before you decide to write a trilogy.
1. Will It Suit My Genre?
Generally speaking, you can consider writing a trilogy for the following genres:
Expand your work into a trilogy if your genre is in this list. In fact, many readers are accustomed to reading trilogies or series for these genres and they expect you to do the same. A single fantasy novel doesn’t sell as much as a fantasy series. Many publishers will not be interested in your standalone novel if it doesn’t comes under the above-listed genres.
On the other hand, if you are writing in genres like commercial or literary fiction, then you are better off with a standalone book. While there are some exceptions, it is a commonly perceived notion that literary and commercial fiction works best with a standalone book.
If you decide to write a trilogy for a genre that isn’t mentioned above, then you must have a compelling storyline, plot and characters. Otherwise, your trilogy is set to fail.
2. Will My Plot Suit a Trilogy?
Some writers decide from day 1 that they must write multiple books to tell their story. However, they halt in the middle when they are unable to extend and stretch their plot and storyline any further. Don’t be one of these writers. You must decide if you want to write a trilogy or not before you set out to write it.
Think about your plot and storyline. Do you think they can be sustained over a trilogy?
Not sure what to do?
Here are some questions you should ask yourself:
- Is there only a single narrative in my story or are there separate threads that can be interwoven?
- Is my storyline spread over a lengthy period?
- Will I be able to develop characters intensively?
- Is there enough space in the plot for sub-plots and world-building?
Once you’ve answered these questions, you will be at a better place to decide if going for a trilogy is the best option for you or not.
3. Will My Characters Fit into a Trilogy?
All successful trilogies revolve around a protagonist. In addition to the main character, there are also supporting characters that are complex, compelling, endearing or evolving.
Readers are interested in the characters and care about them. That’s why they continue to read multiple books. They want to get to know the characters better by following them on their life journey and learning about their endeavors and conflicts.
Therefore, if you are writing a trilogy, then you must invest whole-heartedly in the character development of each of your characters. Your readers will immediately lose interest if your character development and transition are weak. If you are committed to writing a trilogy, your characters must evolve throughout each of the three books.
Simply put, your characters shouldn’t have the same personality and aspirations at the end of the trilogy as they did at the beginning.
So, if you are planning to write a trilogy, ask yourself these questions first:
- Is there enough room for changes in my characters’ physical and emotional journey?
- Is there enough room for character development throughout the three books?
Write a trilogy if you think you can handle the development of your characters well. If not, then it is best to go ahead with one or just two novels.
4. Will I Be Able to Write a Trilogy?
This is the most important question that you must ask yourself. Writing a trilogy is hard. You should only start writing a trilogy if you think you will be able to commit to it.
Writing a trilogy is also a lengthy task. It will take years before you will be able to complete it. So, ask yourself if you are physically, mentally and financially up for this task.
Writing a trilogy is not going to be difficult if you love and enjoy writing and have a great plot and characters to develop. You can pursue it if it is your dream and passion. You must remain committed to it because whether you realize it or not, it is a mammoth task.
Don’t start writing a trilogy only to leave it halfway through. Make a commitment to it after answering the 4 questions we just discussed. If you think you can keep up with the work and commitment and if it suits your genre and storyline, then go for it.
How to Plan Your Trilogy?
Now that you’ve answered all the above-mentioned questions, you must have decided whether or not you want to write a trilogy. If you are still reading, you must be keen on writing a trilogy.
But, where do you go from here?
You must be excited to start writing as soon as you can. However, it doesn’t work that way. If you want to create a successful trilogy, then you need some preparation at first. There are some crucial steps that go into planning a trilogy. However, everyone has a different process for writing. These are not concrete rules but just some guidelines to follow.
Work your way around these steps and do what suits you and your storyline the most. Nevertheless, we suggest you run yourself through all these steps at least once. You will surely be able to create a better trilogy if you follow these steps and tips.
Let’s get started.
Step 1: Work on Your Plot
Your trilogy is only as good as its plot. So, map out your plot before you begin writing your trilogy. Write a simple brief for everything that you have in mind. It is also preferable if you can come up with a rough chronology of the events right from the beginning.
You don’t have to worry about the structure right now. You are just listing all the important events you want to include in your plot. Give special importance to the beginning and the end of your story.
Do you have any inciting incident in mind that will be the forebearer of all major events in your book?
Have you thought about the ending and how it will tie all the loose threads of your story?
Some writers prefer to create these events as the story progresses. And, it is entirely fine to do that. However, having a rough idea about the beginning and end of your story is important. If you don’t, you will only be writing aimlessly, and it will become difficult to conclude the story.
Questions to Ask About Your Storyline and Plot
Here are some important questions that you must ask yourself about your plot.
- Will it arise enough questions to keep the story going? More importantly, will you be able to answer all these questions in the plot? Your readers will be disappointed if they don’t get answers to all their questions.
- Will the plot create any tension in the minds of the readers? Escalating tension keeps things interesting in fiction novels and is the driving force in these books. Your story must have enough spark and tension to keep the readers glued to it.
- Is there enough character-driven action in the plot? Do you see any deus ex machina in your plot? If yes, then you must think about how to avoid it.
Answering these questions will help you find any potential shortcoming and flaws in your plot. You will be able to write a better trilogy if you are clear about your plot from the beginning.
You must develop a larger story for the entire trilogy. However, each book in the trilogy must have a complete story of its own.
Step 2: Work on the Structure of Your Trilogy
Now that you have a rough plot for your trilogy, the next step is to think about how you are going to structure your trilogy. Since you will be completing your story in three books, you must break your plot down to see how it fits into three separate novels.
Decide on the Climax
As mentioned before, you will have a large story for the entire trilogy that you’ll be breaking into three parts. While there will be a bigger climax in the last book of your trilogy series, each book should also have its own climax.
Climaxes usually appear in the final part of the book. Work on your plot and decide about the climaxes that you want each book to have. If each part doesn’t have a clear climax, then you should rework all the above-mentioned points. You can go back and rework the plot and structure to make sure that you have a climax in each part of the trilogy.
Weave Different Themes
While there will be a bigger theme that will span the trilogy in its entirety, you must also include some themes for each individual part. All the themes in each part must then come together and answer all the questions of the readers in the last part.
Your readers will only stick around for more than one book if you give them exciting themes to follow. It helps them relate to the story and keeps them interested in it. However, while you are deciding on the themes, make sure that they aren’t too repetitive. It will bore the readers.
All writers are not able to decide on a theme for their trilogy right from the beginning. It, in fact, develops as the story progresses. Therefore, don’t force yourself to find and include a theme right from the beginning. It will develop once you start writing.
Step 3: Know Your Protagonist and All Other Characters
There are two reasons why readers read trilogies: they love the plot and they love the characters.
You must have an engaging storyline and happening characters in your story when you write a trilogy. The success of your trilogy depends on how much your readers love your characters and want to know what happens to them next.
Readers identify and connect with trilogies based on their characters. They want to know what happens to their favorite characters in the next book and that is why they will buy it. Therefore, you must invest in your characters as much as you can.
It is best to know everything you can about your characters before you start writing the trilogy. Decide on how you will develop them as the story progresses. This will make it easy to write a story that the readers can connect with.
Create Character Profiles
As the author, it is vital for you to know your characters inside out. Create rough character sketches for all your characters in the planning phase. Of course, you must pay more attention to the protagonist. List everything you have in mind about each character.
While all this information may not be a part of the book and the story, it will help you write realistically and effectively.
However, while your characters should undergo some transformation, you must have some consistent characteristics for each. You must not force transformations unrealistically. They must not appear forced or out-of-character.
Decide on Character Arcs
Character arcs are the journeys or transformations that each of your characters will go through as the story progresses. As mentioned before, your characters must undergo some transition and transformation at the end of the story.
Here are some questions you should answer for each character to develop better character arcs.
- What are the goals, desires and motivations of each character?
- What developments and changes will each of your characters go through as the story proceeds?
- What will be the key turning points in the journey of each character?
- What will be the relationship between different characters of your story? How will it develop in the trilogy?
- Are you going to withhold any information about a specific character and reveal it later on to make an impact?
Answering these questions for each character will help you determine the character arcs. This must go together with your storyline and plot so that you have a strong foundation for your trilogy.
Introducing New Characters
You should introduce new characters in the story to keep things interesting. While you must work on your protagonist, playing around with the same characters in all three books of the trilogy will only make things boring for the readers.
This can be avoided if you introduce new characters. Don’t introduce all the characters at once. You can introduce each one as the story progresses. Some key players may also be saved for the last part of the trilogy.
Step 4: Decide on the Setting of Your Trilogy
The setting of the trilogy is important and must not be ignored. Since you are writing three books, you want your readers to remain engaged throughout. You can achieve that if you have a rich and immersive setting in your books right from the beginning.
Your readers must be interested in and look forward to returning to the particular fantasy world that you’ve created for them. Therefore, you must pay attention to the setting right from the planning phase of your trilogy. Write everything you know about the setting of the book before you begin writing.
This list should include all the big and small details about the setting. Refer back to it throughout the writing process to make sure that you create something interesting for your readers.
The most popular genres for trilogies are crime/mystery, fantasy and science fiction. Let’s take a deeper look into creating the perfect setting in these genres when you set out to write a trilogy.
Creating the Perfect Setting in Different Genres
Science Fiction & Fantasy
Authors create new worlds from scratch in these genres. This is called world-building, and it is the essence of any good fantasy or science fiction book. Therefore, the setting is more important in these genres than in other genres. It is the technological, futuristic, dystopian and magical elements of your book that will set them apart from other novels and genres.
If you are writing a story in one of these genres, then you must think about these elements and how they can be incorporated into your story:
- Technology or magic
- Society and culture
- Power structures and government systems
- Environment and climate
It is best to create separate documents for these factors and then combine them while writing. It is important to know the world inside out before you start writing, and knowing all about the setting is an important part of it.
Another benefit of figuring out everything about the setting before you start writing is that you will have all the minute details while writing. Everything will be there already, and you just have to start writing.
Mood Setting in Mystery/Crime
You must create a detailed and vivid setting when writing mystery or crime trilogies so that your readers understand it. When it comes to mystery or crime trilogies, it is all about the atmosphere. You should create a mood so rich that the readers get hooked to it as soon as they read the first page of your book.
If you want to give your story a rich and authentic feel, then you must immerse yourself in the setting as much as you can. This will give it a consistent mood setting and will make it easier for you to write the story.
Work on the kind of atmosphere and environment you want for your story. Work on the elements then and describe them in detail to familiarize your readers with the setting.
Step 5: It’s Time to Start Writing
Now that you have everything you need to write a stellar trilogy, it’s time to start writing. There are some tips and tricks that you can use when you start writing a trilogy:
- Refer back to your notes on all the above-mentioned points when you start writing.
- Don’t write and edit simultaneously. This will only disrupt your writing process and will affect the outcome of the book. Leave editing and revisions for when you are done with writing.
- You may face writer’s block while writing. If you are on a specific chapter, leave it there and start working on the next. You can come back later to this chapter and complete it with a fresh mind.
- Don’t force yourself to write when you don’t feel like writing. It will impact your story and you don’t want that.
- Try to avoid clichés when you are writing for any particular genre. You will only be able to hook your readers if you have an original plot, character elements and theme.
Questions and Answers on How to Write a Trilogy
Almost all the authors have some important questions in mind when they begin to write a trilogy. As promised, we will give answers to all your questions about writing trilogies. Here are some frequently asked questions on writing a trilogy along with their answers.
1. How do I ensure that each book in my trilogy series is interesting and engaging?
Your books will only be engaging and interesting if each one of them has a different plot. If you are struggling to create a different plot for each book of your trilogy series, then perhaps your story shouldn’t be divided into three books.
You can consider writing a two-book series instead. If you have a good story, your readers will be interested in reading more. But there is no point of forcing a third book just for the sake of it.
2. What is the single best advice for writing a trilogy?
If you want to write a successful trilogy, then you must read as many trilogies as you can. This goes for all kinds and genres of writing. You must know what a trilogy entails before you begin the process of writing one.
This can be achieved by not only reading but also studying trilogies. By doing so, you will learn about the different techniques and structures that you can apply to your own trilogy.
3. Should I really write a trilogy?
Well, it entirely depends on the plot you have in mind. As mentioned before, don’t write a trilogy just for the sake of it. It will be a nightmare. If you feel pressured to write a trilogy, then you are killing its purpose.
You will only end up with three books that have meaningless drama and contrived conflicts with no proper storyline and character development. No one wants to read such books. Don’t try to create unnecessary and irrelevant turns in the story just to sell your books. If your story is only enough for one book, let it be one book.
4. What can I do to control pacing in my trilogy?
The right pace is necessary for a successful trilogy. Each book must have a major plot point. It should have suspense, acceptance and aftermath from the first plot point. Then, there should be another major plot point that you can follow through in your next book.
You must not rush things when writing a trilogy. Each book should go through each phase before you move on to the next book. Don’t rush introducing new plots. Take your time and develop one plot as much as you can before introducing the other one.
Remember, you have three whole books to write. If you add too much in one book, you may not have much in the next. Therefore, think smartly and decide on the major plots beforehand for each of your books.
5. How should I escalate tension in each book?
A good book keeps the readers on their toes. There should be some tension in the story to keep the readers engaged and interested in each book of your trilogy. However, many authors make the mistake of increasing the pace of the story in a bid to increase tension.
If you increase the pace, you will end up rushing through the climax. Don’t do that. See how you can make small things seem momentous. For example, everything that your protagonist has at stake for a certain action. You may deepen the impact of the antagonist’s threats. These things will increase tension in the story without increasing its pace.
6. How do I foreshadow big reveals and plot twists in each book?
When writing a trilogy, planning is crucial. If you have planned your trilogy well, you will be able to handle everything easily. Outline your trilogy and think about the major plots to some degree before you start writing.
If you want your readers to stay interested in your story, you must craft moments that foreshadow a major plot twist. Give hints here and there, but don’t spill it all. Many authors also add these foreshadowing elements in their books during the revision phase as they then know all the major events.
While adding hints, just make sure that the big reveal is left for the end so that the readers remain hooked.
7. How should I integrate foreshadowing in the trilogy?
Subtlety is the key here. Don’t paint the entire picture for your readers. They are smart enough and subtle hints should suffice. You should give the freedom to your readers to create their own theories. Don’t spell everything out for them.
8. When should I end one book and move to the next?
It depends on your plot and storyline. If you are basing your story on a particular arc, then your book ends when you have achieved that arc. You may also subtly hint at finding out more in the next book.
Some stories have multiple arcs developing simultaneously. If that is the case with your book, then your book should end when both plots end. You can include a couple of scenes to set up the next book in your trilogy so that the readers know that they should expect more.
For long arc trilogies, it is best to end the trilogy when your protagonist is in extreme emotional or physical peril. This will ignite interest in your readers for your next book, and they will want to know what happens to the protagonist next.
9. Do I have to plan all three books before I start writing the first one?
It depends on how much information you have right now. Some writers like to keep things systematic and plan beforehand for each book. However, others like to focus on one book before moving to the other. They complete one book first and then come up with the plot of the second.
You can do whatever you think is best. It depends on your style and preference. We suggest that you have at least a rough idea about each of the books before you start writing book one. This will give you enough information and a rough idea about how much you should include in each of the books.
Remember, you don’t have to outline the entire story of each book beforehand. You can simply plan the basic plots for all the books and develop them when you start writing them.
10. I have one massive book. Should I split it into a trilogy?
Yes, why not!
If you are working on a book and you think it has become too long, then you can split it into multiple books. However, you must make sure that each book has a proper beginning and ending. Plan each book accordingly.
11. How do I know if a trilogy is the best choice for my story?
As mentioned before in this article, you must outline your plots and the character arcs before you decide if a trilogy is the best option for your story. Only commit to writing a trilogy if you think you have enough space to extend the plot and character arcs into three books.
You must also pay attention to the transformation of your characters. They should not be the same as they were at the beginning of the book. If there isn’t enough space for character development and transformation, then it is best to wrap the story in one or two books.
Bonus Tips on Writing a Trilogy
It doesn’t end here!
We also have some bonus tips for you that you can employ to create the perfect trilogy.
1. Start from Wherever You Want
The best thing about writing a trilogy is that there are no set rules about where you should start writing from. You may start writing the second book first and then come to the first one. There are no hard and fast rules.
If you are starting from page 1 of your first book, great. But it doesn’t really matter as long as all the three books come together at the end.
2. Your First Chapter Should Have It All
The first chapter of each book of your trilogy must be perfect. It should be gripping and seamless. Edit and revise it as many times as you need to make it interesting enough. Your readers will only read more if you can gain their interest from the first paragraph.
Many authors prefer to write the first paragraph at the end. Do as you please, but make sure that it is your best work.
3. Read Before You Write
If you want to create a successful trilogy, then you must read as many trilogies as you can. In fact, don’t just read trilogies, but also look at different series and see how the authors have created the perfect structure and theme. Also, see how characters develop in each of the books.
You cannot be a good author unless you read a lot. You don’t have to copy anyone. Take inspiration from your favorite authors and then start writing. Your writing will improve as you read more.
4. Take Your Time
Don’t rush into writing a trilogy. Take your time planning each book. Also, don’t rush when you start writing. It will only make your writing flawed, and you will have to spend more time editing it. Take it one step at a time.
Remember, brilliant ideas cannot be forced. Just give yourself time. Great trilogies are never written in a hurry.
5. Deal with Writer’s Block
Every writer faces a writer’s block. It can last for any amount of time. If you face a writer’s block, simply take a break. There is no point forcing yourself to write when you are clearly facing a writer’s block.
Reading your own work is a good way of coming out of this block. When you read your work, you will come up with new ideas and then you can start writing when you feel like writing.
If you think your work is done when you have finished writing, think again. You must go over your work as many times as possible before you are finally done. You may find some flaws or come up with new ideas that can fill gaps in your story.
No literary work is complete without editing. You must go through your work and edit it extensively before publishing it. You will see how you’ve made some silly mistakes in your plots and writing. There will be some grammatical errors that you will need to fix.
Furthermore, ask someone else to edit or go through your work. It is best to get the services of a professional and qualified editor. Don’t worry if you see too many changes. Just make sure that they haven’t changed the plot or meaning of your story.
This was all you need to know about how to write a trilogy. We hope that you will be able to write a better trilogy after reading through all these steps, tips and answers. Now that you know everything, plan a trilogy and start writing.