I have on several occasions mentioned how I hard I found writing the third book of the Magic or Madness trilogy and how it was way way way harder than writing the other two books. I’ve also seen others struggle with the third book of a trilogy so I don’t think it’s just me what finds them super tricky.
Okay, now I’m curious to know why the third one is always the hardest to write. I’d always thought it would be the easiest, because haven’t books one and two been pointing to book three all this time?
I didn’t answer then, but I will now.
When I first wrote the proposal of the trilogy I had a very clear idea of how it would end. However as I wrote books one and two they got further and further away from the proposal. When I got close to the end of the third book my original ending no longer worked.
But I wrote it anyway.
This was just sheer cussedness on my part. I had always had that ending in mind and by Thor’s mighty hammer I was going to have that ending!
It made no sense. I rewrote the ending at least six times. Probably more. And each time I changed the ending I had to go back and rewrite the rest of the book to match. More than six times!
I can’t imagine all writers are as stupidly stubborn as I am. But even if I hadn’t insisted on writing that wrong ending it still would have been a struggle. Cedar Librarian is right, books one and two do point the way. But they don’t only point in one direction, they point to lots of different ways to wrap up the trilogy. For two books you’ve been throwing a tonne of balls up in the air. In book three you have to some how catch them all and then arrange them in a way that makes sense.
That is brain-breakingly hard.
Also if the books in your trilogy are getting published as you go then you can’t go back and change things in books one or two to fit the changing storylines. You’ve created your bed and you have to bloody well lie in it.
As I wrote the third book there were many many things I wanted to add or change in the second book. But I couldn’t. It was finished and on shelves. It drove me mad!
If I ever write another trilogy (and I have taken a vow that I won’t) I’d like to write all three books first and only then sell them. I wonder if anyone’s ever done that? Very tricky. Cause it means writing three whole books with no money coming in. You’d have to write very quickly, or be working on other books at the same time, or be independently wealthy.
I’d love to hear from other trilogy writers. As I’ve only written one I’m hardly an expert. And I clearly made a stack of beginner errors.
Do any of you find the third book of a trilogy the hardest?
Do you have any tricks to avoid such trouble?
Do you prefer writing trilogies or series to writing standalones? (Diana just wrote very thoughtfully about series writing on her agent’s blog. I recommend it.)
I’ll admit I’m tempted by the idea of a series. But only one in which every book stands alone. There are continuing characters and the same world, but each book tells a complete story. I think it was the three-book arcs that did my head in.
I hope I’ve answered your question, Cedar.