Saturday, 3 October 2009

Writing a trilogy #1

I've just finished writing my new book which is coming out in December - it's called "No Never", as you might know, and it's the third part in a trilogy. So I thought I'd write a little bit how and why I've been writing this set of books and what writing a trilogy involves in general.

I started writing this trilogy about 18 months ago in March 2008. Just a little back story - my band F451 had finished a few months before, and I had some vague plans, but I definitely lacked purpose. It was on a train journey from Slovakia to Poland, via every snow-covered hill and village (yes, even Zywiec), that I had an idea solid enough to start creating an entire trilogy from.

I started writing the trilogy like I write all books - with the end first, and maybe the start too. Some authors wax lyrically about how they just "let the story flow", how they're just guiding for the characters and don't really know where the book will end up. Excuse me, but this is mostly claptrap. Yes, it's important to give your characters flexibility and let things like conversations and connections develop naturally. But any published writer who doesn't know how their story ends either a) is lucky to end up with an exciting read or b) has written a godawful boring story filled with dozens of pages of characters having everyday thoughts and doing everyday things. And believe me, there are lots of these books around.

That said, I have a personal taste for starting with the end - my favourite films include Fight Club and The Usual Suspects, and I've definitely been inspired the last couple of years by Iain M. Banks' sci-fi books. These all have stories with a big plot twist right at the end, which almost demands that you go back and read it or see it again. This "watch/read-again" tactic isn't just satisfying from a creative point of view - it also increases the dedication of fans who appreciate skilful craftsmanship, and doubles the reader's value for money. They can read the same book all over again and get a completely different experience from it, watching out for cleverly-laid hints and ambiguities that had them fooled the first time round.

Talking of tactics, I must admit, straight up, it really is technically only one book. One main reason for splitting it into three small books was getting the extra coverage (and maybe a bit more cash). Imagine if it was one book - author spends 12-18 months slogging his guts out to write one big book, everyone looks and says "meh", then forgets. This way, I've brought out 3 books in one 12-month period - people say "meh" at first, but then they say "meh?", then they say "meh, I've heard of him twice now, let's have a look at this book". Furthermore, publishing each chapter for free every week after release gives me a chance to keep shouting about it.

Actually, if we're doing confessions, here's another one: I really started with the title. I just had a single word phrase in my head, "noupnoliesnonever" - I thought it could be a futuristic thriller or something a little bit cheesy. But this merged with ideas I already had for a story, and it turned out to be the 1 in every 100 ideas you have that works and becomes something you can run with. True, I've had to work hard with this 3rd book to fit the title "No Never", but a) it's a trilogy, 2/3 ain't bad, and b) it sounds COOL. Which is sometimes way more important.

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