Writing a Trilogy: The Lessons I Have Learned [#AuthorToolboxBlogHop]

It’s a new year, a new decade, and here I am starting on book three of my Stolen trilogy, the first series of books I’ve written. As I ease back into the world and the characters that give this series so much life, I realize how very different it has been for me to write each book. I thought it might be helpful to share what I’ve learned in this month’s Author Toolbox Blog Hop.

AuthorToolboxBlogHop Title Image

This hop is made up of a bunch of authors all sharing advice and experiences to help out other authors. I’m always thrilled to be part of this, and I hope you’ll take the time to go check out some of the other author blogs!

Cover for Stolen, Book 1 of the Stolen series
Stolen, Book 1 of the Stolen series

Book one (Stolen – now available) had its own challenges, as I explained way back in 2013 when I struggled with drafting it. It sometimes baffles me when I look back on that post at how much I’ve learned since then, and how much more refined my writing has become. Somehow it was easy for me then to talk about how books ought to end, how stories ought to progress, and how characters ought to evolve. It’s really different when the blank page is staring at you and you realize that you’re the only one who can create those things and finish the story. When the stakes are higher you suddenly understand why writing series is so difficult.

Cover for Broken, Book 2 of the Stolen series
Broken, Book 2 of the Stolen series

Book two (Broken – coming April 7th) had its own set of problems. I thought I had handled all the loose ends in book one quite well. I thought the sequel would just continue the story, but then details came up during writing like they do, and I couldn’t remember a character’s eye color or the color of their hair. Where was that scar again? What was that background? I have the utmost respect for people who have written ten and twenty books in a series because I think I might need to write a reference book just for myself to keep track of all the details. Needless to say, it was a learning experience–though the end product was so very worth it.

Now here I am, finally on book three (Chosen – coming soon), and I have once again a whole new challenge. All those parts and pieces I dripped in those early books now have their calling. All those last minute scenes I want to include need to be written. And this is the last call for character development. It’s honestly daunting but also thrilling at the same time. As a pantser, I too want to see how these characters get to where I want them to be. I’m looking forward to wrapping up this series and preparing for new projects, but I’m also worried about the finality of this tale coming to a close. Of course I can write spin-offs and extended universes, but this will be the end of the main story for these characters that I’ve molded and directed for eight years. I want to do the right thing for them.

This will certainly not be the last series I write, I’ve already started gathering inspiration for the next one, but I’ve learned a lot during this time and wanted to share some of my takeaways with other authors who are starting their first series. Hopefully my experiences help you!

Lessons Learned from Writing 2/3 Books in my Trilogy

  • Use a comprehensive writing system like Scrivener if you can, or make really organized folders.
    • I know, I talk about Scrivener a lot, but being able to keep all of my writing in a single file has been so helpful to keep things straight.
  • Take the time to make those character sheets.
    • You’ll miss them so much if you forget to make one for your background character in book 2. Not that I’m speaking from experience or anything…
  • Know generally where each book should start and end.
    • I know, it’s hard to do for us pantsers, but having a general cut-off point will help in pacing. Especially for the middle child if you’re writing a trilogy.
  • When in doubt, make a map.
    • I’ve made maps for the inside of buildings so I can make sure I can describe it properly. Just draw it out and take a picture of it to put it into your writing system so you can reference it later.
  • If possible, take breaks in between books.
    • I know for a fact this just isn’t possible for so many authors. Taking time off from a project or a world or series means it’ll take longer to get back into it again. However getting away from the world (if you can) will help enrich it. Remember to replenish that creative well!

Experimentation is of course the best teacher with these things. I’ll have to report back in a few years on whether it got easier with the next series. I would love to write very long series, but I can’t quite do it yet. I think I need to “level up” my author skills a bit more first.

I’ll probably come back and add onto this list at some point. I’m sure I’m missing some things, but I hope this helps. There’s a seemingly endless supply of advice on how to write books out there, but not so much is focused specifically on series. Hopefully this helps bridge that gap.

Have you considered writing a series? Why or why not? Any advice for those who have completed one?

Happy writing, everyone!

Help An Author Out!

So you’ll probably see posts go up on a regular basis from authors talking about ways that you can help them out without necessarily having to spend money. There are plenty of tried and true ways to do it, such as requesting that your local library stock copies of your favorite author’s books, or telling all your friends about how much you enjoyed a book, or posting a review up on Amazon or even Youtube. Even just sharing their website or social media posts can help.

There are also lists that you can vote on too!

Right now I’ve got several of my books up on various Listopia lists, and if you have a Goodreads account (which is free to get if you don’t), you can vote on them! This makes my work more visible for other readers looking for new books to read, but it also might actually give my books a chance to get awards too!

How To Vote?

  • Login with your Goodreads account
  • Look for the book on the list. Sometimes you have to search for it on several pages if it’s a long list.
  • Click on the button for: Vote For This Book

Where Do I Vote?

  • Goodreads Choice Awards 2019 (eligible for write-in only) – So the only way indie authors can really get a chance on the Goodreads Choice Awards listing is if they can rally their fans to vote on their work. I’m happy to say that Stolen is now on this list! (Currently on page 6!)
  • YA Novels of 2020 – A listing of Young Adult novels releasing in 2020! You can find both Broken and The Seeking on this list. Currently both books are on Page 7, but that might change.
  • YA Releases of April, 2020 – YA books set to be released in April 2020! You can find Broken on this list. Fortunately it’s pretty short, so it shouldn’t be hard to find!
  • The Seeking is scheduled for Fall 2020, but doesn’t have a firm release date yet – but I’ll probably come back and add it once it gets confirmed!

While you’re voting on my books, I hope you’ll consider voting on my fellow Parliament House authors too. They’ve all had book releases this year, and I’ve had the honor of working alongside every one of these incredible authors in person.

  • Candace Robinson
  • Sarah Lampkin
  • Amber R. Duell
  • M. B. Dalto
  • Tracy Auerbach

Ten Years of Blogging and the Struggle of Realness

WordPress sent me a notification recently, one I really hadn’t expected, but apparently I’ve owned this site for ten whole years!

That’s just crazy to think about.

Looking back over my first post, it took me a while to really get comfortable with what to even blog about. I was struggling to figure out how to open up, and it was difficult to even feel comfortable talking about who I was or where I was from. That kind of honesty online felt dangerous, even though now it’s an everyday thing.

When I was growing up, and the internet was the wild west it was really frightening to use your real name online. Everybody used aliases for fear of being the victim of identity theft, which wasn’t really understood at the time. You had emails for different usernames, you carefully managed what information you gave out because everything was public. Very few messageboards were behind passwords, so everything you said and did was public. Nobody knew how that would affect job prospects, or health insurance opportunities. Mental illnesses just weren’t talked about.

Then came Facebook, and you had to use your real name to get setup. You originally had to enter your real university email address to have an account. Suddenly there were potential ramifications of things you did online, or at least, you thought there were. Oh boy, things sure have changed ten years later!

I had to think of this site as a “professional online portfolio” which sounds kind of ridiculous these days, but that was the equivalent. Slowly my blog grew out of my writing experiences, my progress, my struggles, my highs and lows. Slowly I started to understand my online presence and how it reflected a unique part of me, similar to how my writing does. I grew more comfortable in my online skin, I grew more comfortable in what I could share.

Today it’s easily the hub of my author business and I work hard to keep it updated (*eyes that header image real hard haha*). It’s as natural a part of my work as my writing, as Facebook, as Instagram, and YouTube. It’s taken me a while to fully embrace it, both its more casual aspects (the blog itself), and its more professional pieces (media kits, book listings, social media links, etc). It’s had a lot of modifications in the past ten years, and several complete revamps. I feel like it’s going to get another one soon once I carve out some time.

Some of you all have been following my blog since I first published my sword and sorcery short story in Short-Story.Me! (which has also had a heck of a site update over the years!) and it has gone on to get–

*squints*

A whopping 58,500 views? Holy cow!

I guess what I’m trying to say is that I’ve worked real hard to figure things out through this blog, and I appreciate you all for following me on my journey. Some of you have even been with me from the very start, and I can’t express how thankful I am for your support and motivation!

Here’s to ten more years of blogging, writing, learning, and figuring out this whole author thing.

Thanks for being here. ❤

New Book Announcement!

I know, I know, I’ve been dancing around this announcement quite a bit on my Instagram stories. I can’t help it though, it’s not everyday you get to announce that a new book is going to be published!

If you’ve been following along, you probably already know that I submitted Book 2 of the Stolen series (Broken) last month. I was so thrilled to get it in with time to spare on a deadline I had already needed to push back. This book though has nothing to do with the Stolen series, or even with the She-Wolf series I’ve talked about some.

The Seeking is a brand new YA Horror novel, and it’s coming soon from Parliament House Press!

This novel mixes quite a few things that I love: autumn, a dystopian society, monsters, love, and family. I am so excited that you’ll be able to experience it soon and that you’ll get to discover the secrets of the Gray People.

If you’re curious to see more about this weird novel, check out my Pinterest board for it!

As soon as I have more details, I’ll be sharing them! And if you want to find out about news like this first, be sure to sign up for my mailing list or join the Facebook group!

A temporary cover I made.

The Seeking

Each Seeking, the magic that protects the town of Carra must be renewed, which means the children of the Exalted Family must go into hiding. Whether it be through disguise or bribe, through trusted friends or perfect hiding places, every child of the Priest family must avoid capture for the full day.

When things go wrong with the renewal, it’s up to seventeen-year-old Dahlia, the middle child of the Priest family, and her girlfriend, Bisa, to escape Carra and find the magical beings responsible for the protection. They must learn who would require such a cruel game to be played every year and if the protection of the Gray People is really worth such a deadly cost. What they will discover is far worse.

Draft 1 of Broken Finished

Wow, you guys! I can’t believe I finished up the first draft of Broken! This was a tough book to write, both emotionally and logistically since it’s book 2 of a trilogy. On top of that there have been some very emotional events going on in real life which have only made concentrating on this book more difficult. A week or so ago I had to request an extension from my (amazing!) publisher and they were happy to grant it. I hate having to do that. I’m one of those students that always liked to have their work in early if possible.

Now I have a month and a half to get the edits done, which I think is no problem. I know the beginning especially needs some serious work, but I’m very pleased with the ending. One of the troubles of writing book 2 is that it’s tough to know where to end the book. That’s certainly been the problem here. I can’t wait to share this rollercoaster ride with you all! Now I just need to fix some places, fix some characters, and get this beauty delivered to my publisher!

Project: Broken

A land has fallen. An escape was made. It’s a victory of sorts, but at what price?

Shaleigh has made a terrible mistake, one she may not ever be able to fix. Lost and in a strange land with anger and death all around her, she must navigate her way through treacherous lands on her quest for redemption. Along the way she’ll have to negotiate with the mercurial Queen of the Fae, survive the dangers of the Masked King’s realm, and seek out a terrifying fire dragon.

With two powerful beings hot on her trail, Shaleigh has no choice but to keep moving, or else face the dangerous magic of the Madness that has already caused so much pain and heartache. With her sights on helping her friends and her heart longing for home, Shaleigh is determined, but will it be enough?

BROKEN is Book 2 of the Stolen series

Words Written:
2/12 – 1,711
2/13 – 2,163
3/2 – 4,692 (!!!)
3/3 – 2,846 on Broken, 560 on Chosen

FINAL Word Count for Draft 1 of BROKEN: 67,485

Progress:
My goodness, this has been an emotional roller coaster for these poor characters. Then they end up facing one of the most ruthless and terrifying creature in the land, so you know it won’t get easier.

Next Up:
Starting Chosen with a very surreal encounter and some long-lasting decisions.

Commentary:
My gosh, you guys, I can’t believe the first draft of Broken is finished! I’ve been plugging away at this book since August 10, 2018, which means it took me 7 months to finish it. Considering that it’s the middle book of the 3-part sandwich of Stolen, I knew it would be a difficult project, but I didn’t realize how tough it would be. I’ve had a great time writing it, and I’m stoked to continue on in book 3, Chosen.

I can’t wait to share this book with you all! It’s definitely different from book 1, but it shares a lot of the same themes and ideas of course. That’s what you want in a trilogy, right? I’m so dang excited to finish up with fixing the structure so I can get it into your hands sooner!