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Episode Transcript 

Rekka (00:00):
This is We Make Books, a podcast about writing publishing and everything in between. Rekka is a published Science Fiction and Fantasy author, and Kaelyn is a professional genre fiction editor. Together, they'll tackle the things you never knew you never knew about getting a book from concept to finished product, with explanations, examples, and a lot of laughter. Get your moleskin notebook ready. It's time for We Make Books.

Kaelyn (00:26):
Y'know, it's funny because in movie trilogies, I always think it's the third movie that kind of slumps.

Rekka (00:33):
Okay. So maybe this is a poorly conceived episode. I don't know. Um, but the impression I have from the person asking us the topic... They did say "writing Book Two in a series of three or more." Assuming that you come out of the gate strong on Book One, you are heading toward some final book, and we'll assume trilogy for the purpose of this conversation.

Kaelyn (01:01):
Yeah, I was going to say, because writing Book Two in a planned trilogy is very different than writing Book Two in a, "Oh, we'll see how this goes."

Rekka (01:08):
Exactly. Uh, which is my experience of writing Book Twos, both times, even though they're now both trilogies. But anyway, so assuming that it's going to end in the following book, how do you tell a chunk of your story, keep the reader interested by—one supposes that you are ramping up action, and tension and danger and all these? Oop. I've already said something wrong.

Kaelyn (01:40):
No, no. I was going to say, I understand the question that they're trying to ask now and whatever they're trying to write should probably be a duology.

Rekka (01:49):
Oh no! Okay. That's a separate episode. We already figured that out before we started recording. Assuming that we are going to end this in the following book.

Kaelyn (02:00):
Well, that's fine. If we, if we start recording and we talk about this, I can explain what my thinking—

Rekka (02:05):
Oh, no, we're recording, and this is the episode now. Cause I phrased it very well and I felt very eloquent. So now we're going to go with it.

Kaelyn (02:10):
Oh goodness. Okay. Yeah. So, um, you know, we're talking about second books in trilogies and um, I think that for a lot of authors, this is going to be either the easiest thing they ever write or the hardest thing they ever write. It really depends on how, how your story's going. So if you're asking this question, "I feel like I'm trying to come up with stuff to fill the time in between the beginning and end of my story."

Rekka (02:34):
Okay. That's one way to interpret it. I have a second interpretation, but let's talk about that one first.

Kaelyn (02:38):
Well, wait, I want to hear your interpretation.

Rekka (02:39):
No no no. No, we're gonna go with that.

Kaelyn (02:43):
Okay. Um, there there's two reasons writing the second book in a trilogy can be, um, very difficult. One is that what I just said. You're, you feel like you're just trying to come up with, you know, stuff to happen so that you can get to the end of it. And that's what I was— the point I was making that, if that's the case, maybe you shouldn't be writing a trilogy. Maybe you should be writing a duology. Your story is your story. Um, unless you have a contract for a trilogy and they're like, you must generate this. And by the way, I would hope that before you signed that contract, you had discussed, um...

Rekka (03:15):
Where the trilogy was going.

Kaelyn (03:18):
Yeah, some outlines and some, uh, some story points there. Um, the other reason is you have a beginning and you have an end and sorting through everything to get to that end in a satisfying, fulfilling way is overwhelming. Um, so sometimes it's that you have too much and sometimes it's that you don't have enough.

Rekka (03:38):
Isn't that every book though? I mean... The misery of the writer is that every book has to have a beginning and an end and you have to get there without losing everybody on the way.

Kaelyn (03:50):
I'll make it worse for you. A lot of them also have middles.

Rekka (03:53):
No! No, this is a lie.

Kaelyn (03:56):
And uh, and the middle, the middle is what takes up most of the series.

Rekka (04:01):
Okay. So—

Kaelyn (04:03):
What was your interpretation of that?

Rekka (04:05):
"How do you structure a book that doesn't begin and end your story?"

New Speaker (04:13):
Okay.

New Speaker (04:13):
You see what I'm saying?

New Speaker (04:15):
Yes.

New Speaker (04:15):
You have this—

New Speaker (04:16):
It's the middle.

New Speaker (04:17):
It's the middle, but it's also not the middle-middle it's part of the middle, because the middle is actually going to expand into the end of the first book and the beginning of the third, book it— by the 25% arc, you know, act structures. The middle is the middle 50%. So in this case, it's bigger.

Kaelyn (04:39):
And this, by the way is why I have trouble with authors who are pantsers.

Rekka (04:46):
Okay. Since you're targeting, probably like 80% of our audience, please explain yourself.

Kaelyn (04:53):
Nope. Um, I shouldn't say trouble. I'm a planner. Like in every aspect of my life, especially when it comes to writing though, because you have, I, I kind of think that if you're writing a story, you should at least have an idea of where it's going.

Rekka (05:08):
What is the structure of Book Two, when Book Two falls in the middle of a larger story arc?

Kaelyn (05:15):
Things that typically happen in Book Twos. And in this case, we'll also throw some movies in there because I have a lot of, uh, a lot of examples I like to use there.

Rekka (05:23):
Let's just say that movies are not a substitute for books. Everyone knows the book was better, but, um, movies are a quicker consumption item that if you haven't seen for some reason, then you can go and see what we mean without investing 18 hours in reading a book. So that's why we keep popping back to movies. Not because movies do it best or do it right, even.

Kaelyn (05:47):
Yeah. And let's clarify here. Movies are frequently written by committee. Um, I want you as the author to imagine writing a book, polishing it, having some other people look at it, then handing it to an editor and the editor gets to do whatever they want with it. Without consulting you, because that's frequently how a lot of movies go.

Rekka (06:06):
And then the producers come in and say, "we want giant mechanical spiders."

Kaelyn (06:09):
Beware the giant mechanical spiders.

Rekka (06:11):
So we are using movies. Not because they are the perfect examples, but because they are easily grokked.

Kaelyn (06:17):
Yeah. I'm assuming most people listen to this have seen Star Wars. If you look at famous trilogies and you know, I had mentioned Star Wars, I'll throw the Godfather in there. Spiderman. Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy, something a lot of these have in common is everyone seems to like the second movie of the trilogy best. Why is this? Well, there's two different—

Rekka (06:39):
You stopped before we got to one of the best trilogies ever.

Kaelyn (06:42):
Which was?

Rekka (06:44):
Back to the Future.

Kaelyn (06:45):
Oh yes, obviously. Yes. And I would argue back to the future or back to the future too. Is that what it's called? What's the second part called?

Rekka (06:55):
Yeah it was Back to the Future II.

Kaelyn (06:57):
Two, okay. I couldn't remember if they started doing funny things with the names.

Rekka (07:01):
Like Forward to the Future, Back to the Past?

Kaelyn (07:04):
Yeah, exactly.

Rekka (07:04):
Oh, we also forgot the Matrix.

Kaelyn (07:06):
You're highlighting a good point here. Um, both when writing for books and movies, but especially books, there's a big difference between writing something that is a standalone and you know, ends on a conclusive note, ends with resolution and, you know, satisfaction versus writing something that is planned to be a trilogy the entire time. You know, in movie-making as in publishing, um, producing these things is expensive. So a lot of times what happens is you have a contract in which you're contracted for Book One with option for Book Two and three, should they be successful.

Rekka (07:43):
That option may not even be for more books in the series. They may just say, you know, we want your future works and you don't even know if they want more of this story or if they just want more.

Kaelyn (07:53):
Yeah. This is why in so many trilogies, you'll kind of feel like the end of Book One was a complete story. Good writers always find ways to leave the story open for more to happen. They may even tease you with ideas or open-ended scenarios where it's like, okay, well I understand that like right now they're safe, but what's going to happen when the wizard realizes they took his medallion? Because eventually he's going to come looking for them and surprise, guess what happens in Book Two? Um, this is a lot of times, as I said, why you see sort of a wrap-up if you will, in the end of Book One. If that's the end of the story, that could theoretically be a satisfying end of the story. Not all trilogies are structured like that because sometimes somebody goes in with such a amazing pitch that they say, "yep, three book deal right off the bat. You're going to write all of these." One is not necessarily better than the other. Um, it's I mean, obviously everyone like to say like, "yeah, they took all three books right away. That's how great they think my book is."

Rekka (09:00):
However, if you go in and you expect to write a trilogy, but then the trilogy is cut short because of poor sales or something, but you still have fans that liked the first book, you've left them with a cliffhanger or an unsatisfying ending. So just because you know you're going to get to do the trilogy, maybe, maybe starting the first book off with a satisfying ending would not be the worst thing.

Kaelyn (09:27):
Yeah. So when you're writing a trilogy where you're not sure if or how you're going to write the rest of the trilogy, it can be tricky because you're actually doing two stories. You've got the bigger story and then you've got the story that fits within the bigger story. And then books two and three are another slightly larger story that also fit within the bigger story.

Rekka (09:48):
So would you say books two and three, by your recommendation, would be a duology in the same world as Book One?

Kaelyn (09:54):
Not in, not by those definitions. No. Um, I understand what you're saying there. That, yes, you're kind of doing a standalone and then a duology, but all together, they're all one sort of story. And you know, for those of you paying close attention, what you're noticing is that I'm saying that well, Book One is usually its own encapsulated story and then Book Two usually ends on a cliffhanger and yes, that's the case. Um, think back to any trilogy you have read or watched, you will see that over and over and over again. And there's a reason for that. And this feeds into my reason for why I think so many times, the second book or the second movie is usually a fan favorite. It's because after we see success from the characters, after we see them, you know, make progress, achieve some measurable amount of victory, or even just settle to the point that they can feel safe and peaceful, that is completely upended in Book Two. This is where we usually see characters fail, or we see their plans fall through. Where we see that they weren't the smartest, the fastest, the strongest here.

Rekka (11:04):
This is where we prove that their adversary is insurmountable.

Kaelyn (11:10):
Yes. And Book Three then is where they have to regroup. Um, one of the other things we were talking about before we recorded was I think what is interesting going into a lot of Book Twos and you know what let's talk about Book Twos and what to put in them. And some things you should keep in mind while working on them.

Rekka (11:31):
Since that was the point of, I guess we should, we should broach that at some point. Also, I feel like, um, we need to say at this point that all of this is coming from a very Western perspective on storytelling and that storytelling in non-Western countries and, um, traditions may not fit this formula of where these beats fall and everything like that. Not all storytelling falls in the three-act structure.

Kaelyn (11:57):
Absolutely not, but it does have a beginning middle, and end. Doesn't necessarily mean it's divided up into three acts, but anyway.

Rekka (12:05):
Right, right. There we go.

Kaelyn (12:06):
So when you're starting on a second book, it's hard, because—especially if the first one was successful—because the instinct is going to be, everybody loved this stuff about the first book.

Rekka (12:20):
Do it again.

Kaelyn (12:20):
I should do this stuff again. Yeah. That's great. Except they probably don't want to read the same book again, just slightly different. So it's hard, there's a balance between keeping what worked and what people liked and what made them intrigued and want to read this in the first one, versus putting a new enough twist on it now, that it's not the same thing happening all over again. And this is plot.

Rekka (12:45):
Which is really rude.

Kaelyn (12:48):
It's straightforward plot. This is where you have to move your characters along. Things have to happen to, or around them that influence them and cause them to go forward or to not stay where you left them at the end of the first book. Um, it's really tempting to just pick up exactly where you left off and say, and now these things are going on. And by the way, some, uh, some books do that very effectively with, um, you know, the last sentence of the book, dropping a new bit of information that changes everything. Um, I will admit that I watched too much of True Blood. Um, I didn't get all the way to the end of it because it just got absurd. But one of the things that I always enjoyed about that show was literally the end of every episode is a cliffhanger. So then they were very cruel about that. Next episode always picked up exactly where the last episode left off.

Rekka (13:46):
Keep in mind. This was not the, you know, Netflix weekend-premiere of an entire season. This was every Sunday for however many weeks, and all week long, you'd be like, Oh my Godddddd, what is going to happen?

Kaelyn (14:03):
Yeah.

Rekka (14:03):
And that was, that was very effective use of cliffhangers. They, they resolve the story plot, but then there was also a new complication every time.

Kaelyn (14:14):
It's hard to balance these things. Um, there's, you know, I think there's also a lot of pressure on writers to sometimes start introducing new elements to the book, either through new characters or if it's, you know, a fantasy based book, maybe new magical elements or, um, new locations, to try to keep it fresh. And by the way, that's not a bad thing to do.

Rekka (14:36):
But as you add these new characters and places and elements, you have to know how they're going to wrap up. Unless like we said, you're creating impetus for a five book series or something like that.

Kaelyn (14:48):
[cough] Song of Ice and Fire [cough]

Rekka (14:51):
It's a garden that grows.

Kaelyn (14:52):
Yeah. It's, it's a series of weeds that are strangling everyone at this point. Um, but you know what, that's actually a good example because, um, Song of Ice and Fire was, uh, pitched and signed as a trilogy and he kept adding stuff and kept adding, you know, the world kept growing, had the adding mythology and characters, et cetera. And now we're up to seven books. So, you know, that is something to keep in mind: if you are contracted for a trilogy and you're not George R.R. Martin, you better make sure that you're actually writing a trilogy. So, well—

Rekka (15:30):
I mean, I kind of wish George R.R. Martin had also made sure he was writing a trilogy.

Kaelyn (15:33):
Yeah. Yeah. But along those lines, here's the other thing about the second book? The stakes have to be different now. It's funny because we were talking again about, uh, the Hunger Games. And I remember like I finished the first book and then I was like, "Oh wait, the Hunger Games, it's like the Hunger Games Part Two: Hunger Game Harder. Like, what are we doing here? This is exactly—"

New Speaker (15:55):
The Hungrier Games.

New Speaker (15:56):
There you go, the Hungrier Games. But yeah. And I was like, "wait, so this is Book Two? We're just doing the Hunger Games all over again?"

Rekka (16:07):
Can I say, though, I really liked the world building of the, like the arena? I was kind of sad that I didn't think we were going to get that.

Kaelyn (16:18):
Oh yeah. I absolutely enjoyed that. And I think that's, you know, one of the, this is a good example of one of the strong points of the book that readers enjoyed. So you want it to carry through because then even by the time we get to the third book, the city itself kind of becomes a Hunger Games arena. So there's still that consistent element through the book of anything could kill us at any time and we don't know how.

Rekka (16:40):
If you didn't have that aspect in each book, you might lose some readers who really, like, bit into it because of that.

Kaelyn (16:49):
Yeah. If the Hunger Games had suddenly turned into a super political machination centered book, or I would say even the elements from the beginning of the third with, you know, the secret underground rebellion and stuff, I don't know if there would have been that appeal to the readers who, I think, one of the things they really enjoyed was the suspense and the love triangle (of course, know your audience), but the suspense of trauma dome.

Rekka (17:15):
Right. And there was the, um, seeding of like, what is District 12, you know? And that, that comes around in the third book. So that neatly stitches the series together by the overt trauma dome, you know, element. And then the more subtle, like here's a mystery of like, what did this government do to its people? And why was there an uprising and what happens next?

Kaelyn (17:46):
Yeah. And this is by the way where we come to themes and I'm—for the record, I am not calling the trauma dome a theme.

Rekka (17:55):
Survival in the face of designed disaster?

Kaelyn (18:01):
That's what the themes are: survival, uncertainty, um, staring down at the odds, and constantly feeling unsafe. They do a very good job at creating this sense of not only could you just like we show up 'n arrest you at any moment, you could just die horribly out of nowhere for no reason. And you have very little power to stop it. So that underlying theme of, I will just call it terror through the book and overcoming that is something that carries through. So, you know, all of this talk we've done before about themes and plot, and you know why this stuff is important. This is why it's important. That said it's tempting to clutch everything, to hold on to everything you don't want anything to change. But often it has to for the story to progress, you know, the characters can't be in the same situation, setting, and I would even go so far to say same characters as they were in the first book. Um, it can get very dry.

Rekka (19:06):
I wonder how much of this is, um, that the author is writing the second book under contract after the first book has already been well-received and like, we assume that there've been arcs out already or something when they're drafting the second book—how much of this comes down to confidence and that imposter syndrome? Feeling like they need to follow a formula because they no longer have confidence in anything except for the thing that was already sold?

Kaelyn (19:34):
Yeah, absolutely. And, um, you know, I would say that's, there's no good answer to that. There's certainly something to be said for taking feedback or maybe criticism and incorporating that and addressing it. Um, there's also something to be said for, you know, if you're getting rave reviews, this author can do no wrong. Don't take that as a challenge.

Rekka (20:01):
Well, you're taking that the opposite of what I'm saying—

Kaelyn (20:04):
No but I understand. You know, there's, there's extremes, you can go to, you can over-correct and you can just throw the entire manuscript into a mulcher.

Rekka (20:11):
You can over-swagger.

Kaelyn (20:14):
And suddenly there's clowns from outer space in, in Middle Earth.

Rekka (20:20):
Okay. So we've said what you want to do, but have we? Like, have we answered the question?

Kaelyn (20:29):
So let's go all the way back. We were talking about these stories within a story. And I think we do ourselves a disservice when we start to think of all of these as different parts of a story. Yes, it is a beginning, middle and end, but within each of those books we're kind of still following the same basic story structure. I hate using this, but it's correct. The same four act structure. We have a setup, a response and attack a resolution. The resolution does not have to be good. It just has to resolve the setup does not have to take a long time. It doesn't have to be the same as the first book where you're establishing and world-building and introducing characters, but you still need to set up—and by the way, the setup at that point in the second book and definitely into the third book is setting up what the story is going to be at this point, rather than setting up the characters in the world themselves.

Kaelyn (21:29):
So the setup is, you know, establishing the stakes, the quest, the incident, whatever you want to call it here, then we've got the response. You know, the characters have to react to what's happened either, you know, by force or by choosing to.You have the attack portion of this, where the characters have to proactively do something and the villain has to as well. And then it resolves. And I think we, you know, because second book, second movies often end on, you know, a lot of open questions and threads and scenarios. We don't think of it as a resolution, but it is it's "okay, I need the next steps now."

Rekka (22:14):
So when your resolution is a lack of something like, "whoops, the kingdom fell."

Kaelyn (22:21):
I hate it when that happens.

Rekka (22:25):
You know, like we tried really hard in this book to protect the kingdom from the big dragon, but the dragon attacked the kingdom. We got the important people to safety, but we lost the kingdom and we still have to fight the dragon. So like, would you, would you say that's a place where you could pinch off the second book?

Kaelyn (22:43):
Let's look at a great example of that. Avatar, the Last Airbender. Just a great example of everything. The second season ends with the line, the earth kingdom has fallen as they're all escaping on Appa. Aang is incapacitated. Zuko has apparently gone back over to the dark side. Everything is a disaster. At this point, the resolution there is "we have to start over."

Rekka (23:09):
Is that satisfying, though?

Kaelyn (23:11):
No, but it's not meant to be satisfying.

Rekka (23:14):
But it feels like, okay, so maybe here's the problem is: our pressure is on to make a book that makes the reader happy when they've finished reading it. They go, "I am so glad I read that. I am so excited for the third one," but not angry. Like, "Oh my God, the earth kingdom has fallen. That guy's cabbages..."

Kaelyn (23:33):
That poor guy's cabbages. Exactly. So when you watched that, I'll tell you what I felt: "Holy crap, what are they going to do?"

Rekka (23:42):
Right. And why do I have to wait to find out? I get angry. And maybe that's the problem. The pressure is on. You don't want to leave a reader going, "well, it really likes the first book, but at the end of the second book, I was just angry."

Kaelyn (24:00):
I think there's a difference between leaving a reader angry and leaving them intrigued. In my case, I, I mean, granted, you know, I desperately want to know what happens next, but when I read the end of something and I'm just like, "Oh my God," I'm impressed!

Rekka (24:18):
It is very difficult to read a second book. So here's, here's part of the, this is the scenario:

Kaelyn (24:22):
Okay.

Rekka (24:24):
Someone has read your first book and they really liked it. And they were very satisfied by the ending. Because as you said, it ended in a good place, a solid, there was solid footing. Even if there was still a threat in the larger world, there was a feeling of triumph at the beginning, at the end of the first book, agreed?

Kaelyn (24:42):
Books often have satisfying endings. Yes.

Rekka (24:46):
So now we've got someone who's interested in our, in our world. Book Two comes out. They've, pre-ordered it. This is awesome. This is very good. We love pre-orders as authors. Um, and then they read it in a day.

Kaelyn (25:01):
Yeah, now they've got to wait a year and a half.

Rekka (25:03):
Now they've got to wait probably 18 months to read the third book, and the book no longer ended on triumph and satisfaction. Now your reader's going to wait 18 months and they don't really feel great about your story anymore. They're left uncomfortable. When they think about your world, like what— There is tension, there is, um, perhaps sadness, perhaps pain, perhaps loss, perhaps anxiety at the very least. How does that reader separate—And this is a totally different question from what was being asked, but I think it's the pressure. And I think it's part of the concern is that—if you're creating a new arc, it's going into the third book and you stop the reader before you get to the end, that will satisfy one way or the other. And I realize this is coming down to the reader, the writer, trying to please the reader, as opposed to trying to write the story. But I think that's, maybe the fear is like, how do I create a second book that has all this great tension? Is the only way to do it by putting a big battle toward the end so that it feels like the middle book had that surge of energy and can come down from that before it has a bigger surge? And I guess, I guess this is part of the problem is like: does every book have to be bigger than the last book, because that's what Hollywood thinks about trilogies, right? Every, every story has to have a bigger dinosaur than the previous work. It's not just good enough to have a T-Rex. Now you have to have a spinosaurus.

Kaelyn (26:39):
The more explosions, the better, to be sure. Um, listen. To, you know, to address the first part of this. Um, I'm not saying this to sound heartless: there— You're never gonna—

Rekka (26:48):
No, it's fine. I just dumped my heart out on this table in front of you. And please by all means, tell me that I'm being silly.

Kaelyn (26:56):
No, you are, you are never going to be able to control the way a reader feels about your book.

Rekka (27:04):
But what if I was a really good writer?

Kaelyn (27:06):
You are a really good writer. You still can't control that. Yeah.

Rekka (27:10):
I don't like that answer.

Kaelyn (27:11):
I'm sorry. You're never going to be able to control the way a reader feels about your book. I can't tell you how many people I talk to that tell me, "well, I don't read books until the series ends," and my answer to that is always, "that's fine. Just make sure you're buying them and putting them away for when you're ready for when the series ends."

Rekka (27:29):
Yes. Can we, we should say that. If you are a reader listening to this: if you want your trilogy complete, you have to buy the books and support them because the publishers are not looking at whether the story is done. The publishers are looking at the numbers.

Kaelyn (27:43):
Yeah. I, I completely understand the people who say, "I'm not reading this until it's done, because I just want to be able to take a weekend and go through the whole thing." That's fine. Buy them when they come out and wait until they're done and then read them all at once.

Rekka (27:57):
At the very least get your library to pick them up.

Kaelyn (28:00):
Yes. At the, at the minimum.

Rekka (28:03):
Yeah. Honestly, buy four copies. That's really....

Kaelyn (28:07):
I think that, you know, having a reader have a visceral reaction to something, having them be taken aback, having them need to know what's happening and what's going on next. Um, that speaks well of you as a writer. That means that you've really struck a chord. So to speak. That also means hopefully that that person is really excited to read what's coming in Book Three now. Now, do you have to top it? I think that's not a good way to look at this. You don't need to top it, but it needs to be different and interesting in a new way.

Rekka (28:43):
So what you did in Book Two, where you changed the scenarios and you changed the stakes and you make the characters do and try and fail and succeed in different ways... Now you gotta do it a third time?

Kaelyn (28:53):
Do what Star Wars did and go back to the way you did it the first time.

Rekka (28:59):
Star Was has done that several times.

Kaelyn (29:01):
Several times. Um, it's all building, it's all leading up to what your ending is. And it can be very hard to order these things and to keep it in a satisfying way. Before when I was talking about the four act structure: you can't have a second book that is just a middling of events happening with no real climax leading to anything in that book, because the climax is in the third book.

Rekka (29:29):
Okay? So this is going back to "this isn't filler."

Kaelyn (29:34):
This is not filler.

Rekka (29:36):
And you're not stretching out the middle act just to make it three books.

Kaelyn (29:41):
This is still a story. It's still, even though the trilogy is a beginning, middle and end, your second book still needs a beginning, middle, and end. It still needs a setup, a response, attack, and resolution. It's a very basic form of story structure, but it's a good one to kind of build off of. And it's broad enough that you can interpret it. And by the way, it's not at, "I must be at the resolution at 75% of this." No, like, you know, you can, some of the books I've enjoyed the most are books where I'm like reading through them and going, like, I feel like there's a lot to go here still, and we've only got 15 pages left. And some of them are rushed and I'm kind of like, "all right. I just, they finished that." But some of them, you know—

Rekka (30:25):
That last 15 pages is not what you expected, but it wraps up the story in a new way.

Kaelyn (30:30):
Yeah. And some of them, we just drop an Ex Machina in there and call it a day. You know, it's, um.

Rekka (30:36):
It's a choice. Some of our greatest playwrights've done it.

Kaelyn (30:41):
But sometimes that works. Sometimes it's kind of like, "yeah, that makes total sense." And sometimes—

Rekka (30:49):
The thing is like, if it makes total sense, it's not a, I mean, it may function as a Deus Ex Machina, but if you've set it up, it's still going to be satisfying.

Kaelyn (30:59):
Yeah. And then sometimes it's the Tyrannosaurus Rex at the end of the first Jurassic park movie who absolutely could not fit through any of those doors and creep up quietly behind everybody, but we still really enjoyed watching it because it was cool.

Rekka (31:11):
Yes, it was, it was extremely cool.

Kaelyn (31:13):
It was very cool.

Rekka (31:14):
That roar with the banner. I mean, I would, I would live in that moment if I could.

Kaelyn (31:18):
And it's standing on top of a skeleton of itself.

Rekka (31:22):
Yeah.

Kaelyn (31:23):
Yeah. That was great.

Rekka (31:24):
That was good stuff. Give me more of that. And then they tried to, and then they failed. Okay. So to wrap up what we're trying to say here: you can't wrap up what we're trying to say here, cause this is Book Two. So you can't really wrap it up.

Kaelyn (31:41):
No, but.

Rekka (31:41):
So we're just going to stop. No satisfying ending, just the anxiety of, "where are we going from here?"

Kaelyn (31:48):
I don't know. Some cops are going to burst in and arrest me and we'll call that the Ex Machina.

Rekka (31:51):
I heard a lot of sirens before we started.

Kaelyn (31:52):
There were a lot of sirens.

Rekka (31:54):
Book Two is still a book.

Kaelyn (31:56):
It's still a book.

Rekka (31:59):
Write a book. Plan it out, according to Kaelyn. And frankly, I agree, especially, okay. So if I were, um, just real quick, like my method for, for what I do with a trilogy, which is bullshit because I wrote every Book Two thinking that there'd be at least five books. But! What I did was I imagined the end that I was trying to get to with the end of my story. And I picked a clinch point in that story that I could use to write up to with Book Two. But I didn't like just think of this as writing to the end of my story, but stopping early. I thought of this as, what is the structure of this? Like where are these people moving?

Kaelyn (32:42):
Rekka, you're singing to my heart right now.

Rekka (32:44):
I, yes. So once I picked where that story was going to end, that became the end that I was looking at. And like, yes, I, I seeded it in things I could use later, because we're still in the middle point. I can still Chekov these Rifles, um, for a little bit longer. And then, um, and then I write the story and I make it, again, you know, the right number of acts. I put things in the right place. I, I make sure that there's an arc to it. And then I adjust it in revisions. That's the nice thing! You can re adjust all these things in revisions.

Kaelyn (33:22):
No, No, Rekka. Once it's written, that's it.

Rekka (33:22):
No! You can! You can adjust them a heck of a lot. So maybe don't worry about it too much... question mark?

Kaelyn (33:34):
Well... Again, I think if you're concerned about it, make sure, take a step back and make sure that you are not writing a second book in a trilogy for the sake of writing a trilogy.

Rekka (33:46):
And also make sure you are not worried about writing the second book in a trilogy because you're worried about the reader's reaction.

Kaelyn (33:53):
Absolutely. Um, this is the, the heartless thing for me to say: you are there, you were writing a book to, write your book to appeal to the people who are going to like it. It is not necessarily going to be everybody's particular brand of vodka.

Rekka (34:08):
It is literally not going to be for everyone. So if you write the story along the lines that you approached the first story, but treat it as a slight broadening of the world, you know, you're not, you're not just trying to like make the same souffle the second time.

Kaelyn (34:34):
I'm going to say something that is going to horrify Rekka. So I apologize for the—

Rekka (34:39):
I can edit it out. It's okay.

Kaelyn (34:41):
Your job is not to make the reader happy. Your job is to make them interested.

Rekka (34:48):
As exemplified by George R.R. Martin.

Kaelyn (34:50):
It's an excellent example because I am so frustrated with that man, for a lot of reasons, the day The Winds of Winter comes out, I will probably take a day off work and read the book. Am I proud of this? No, but I resign myself to the fact that this is probably gonna happen.

Rekka (35:10):
I've read all the books and, given the HBO series, and given his history, and given his obvious inability to take this in for a landing, I think I'm done.

Kaelyn (35:31):
Oh, no. I'm not.

New Speaker (35:31):
I will let you tell me... but like one of the books—

Kaelyn (35:36):
In six years when this comes out, I'll let you know.

Rekka (35:37):
Well, that's the thing. Okay. So here's our advice for writing the next book in your series, whether it's Book Two in a trilogy or book 18, in a maybe-he'll-survive-long-enough-to-finish-this. Just write the book so that your audience isn't waiting six years between books.

Kaelyn (35:59):
Yeah. Um, you know, there, look, there's definitely something to be said for like the books come out when they come out. Um, you know, not just George R.R. Martin. Authors in general. Um, there is a point where you kind of feel like this is starting to feel a little rude. Um, you know, anyway, all of this is to say that like, there's, I, I know a lot about like the, uh, the history of going into the, you know, how these books were written and the versions and things that changed. It's frustrating. I wish I didn't know this stuff. I wish I just thought that he was just a really slow writer. That said, I'm not necessarily happy with all of this stuff; I am very interested and intrigued because I want to know what happens here. And that is what your job is as a writer. It is to entertain, to interest, and to intrigue. You want to keep people coming back for more.

Rekka (36:55):
Okay. So go from, "there is no war in Ba Sing Se" to "there is no Ba Sing Se" and, um, and leave them wanting more for Book Three, which hopefully you know where it's going. At least roughly.

Kaelyn (37:13):
I will say that watching the season finale of the second season of Avatar was possibly the most stressed I've been watching a television show in a long time. Yes. And I, I was, I was DVRing all of these and like getting home and watching them immediately. And when it concluded, I was kind of like, "of course that's what had to happen. That's the only thing that could have happened here in order for the story to make sense. I still want to kill the writers of this because how dare they!" But I can take a step back and go, "This is excellent storytelling. And I cannot wait to see what happens next."

Rekka (37:52):
Right? Well, hopefully, listener, you are going to write us a trilogy where we are carried by the momentum you create into the third book to finish it off to a very satisfying third book ending.

Kaelyn (38:08):
If anyone listening to this is going, "well, I know what I'll do, I'll just write all three of them upfront and that way they'll all be queued up and ready to go so nobody has to get mad at this." That's not how this works. That's not a thing that happens. A publisher will not release a trilogy all at once. They probably won't even release them six months apart.

Rekka (38:25):
Okay. To be fair. This has happened.

Kaelyn (38:27):
It has.

Rekka (38:27):
It is rare though.

Kaelyn (38:29):
When these things happen, typically what goes on there is that that author already has a massive online built-in following. You know, Andy Weir with the Martian—obviously that wasn't a trilogy, but we're talking that level of like interest.

Rekka (38:45):
Popularity. Yeah. And anything outside of that is probably an outlier. And even that is an outlier. So don't count on that. Also as a point of, um, you know, if this is your first book, you're going to be shopping around potentially for an agent. And if you shop around with a project where you've been spending all your time writing three books in one world, and then Book One is rejected, you don't get to bring them Book Two.

Kaelyn (39:12):
Yeah.

Rekka (39:12):
So if you are looking to go the traditional agent-then-publisher path, um, you might not want to plan to break into publishing with a trilogy.

Kaelyn (39:22):
I will go so far as to say that it could almost be a little off-putting. Um, I've definitely had things submitted that were just hundreds of thousands of words of multiple books. And it's like, "what do you expect me to do with this?" Um, it's not, again, it's not unheard of. But anyway, so don't, don't think you're going to skirt this by going, "that's fine. I'll just write everything at once and then it'll be done and I don't have to think or worry about it."

Rekka (39:51):
Well, like we said, so a publisher is not going to necessarily be tempted by a trilogy. Neither is an agent. You've just spent years, potentially. You don't have any other projects now to shop around if it doesn't work. And then also, if it does sell, the editor will give you changes to Book One that will ripple all the way to the end and you will be rewriting those books anyway.

Kaelyn (40:12):
Yeah, yeah, exactly. Nothing, nothing wrong, by the way, with having drafts or outlines or whatever, just don't, don't think you're done.

Rekka (40:20):
If you just want to write a trilogy and you just want to have it done at the end and this isn't about business and this isn't about selling it and this isn't about anything like that, by all means, write it all at once. Write it as a full story and find the spots where it makes sense to, you know, twist your balloon animal into three segments. I'm going for a new metaphor.

Kaelyn (40:42):
Those weird snakes. I like those. I like the, you know, the snakes with the twists in them. Yes.

Rekka (40:47):
So your balloon sausage hopefully has three satisfying segments and then you're done.

Kaelyn (40:58):
Balloon sausage!

Rekka (40:58):
And I think we're done, on that note. I hope this was helpful. I hope this made sense. I hope this gives you hope that it's just writing another story.

Kaelyn (41:07):
It is. It really is. And to be honest with you, if, you know, as I said, if you're struggling with that, maybe take a step back and try to identify why.

Rekka (41:16):
Yep. Think about it as objectively as you can, because chances are your anxiety comes when you are subjected to the subjective worries.

Kaelyn (41:25):
Yes, exactly. So, well on that note, so this is the end of the podcast.

Rekka (41:31):
Forever?

Kaelyn (41:32):
Well no, this episode, because remember each of them are their own story.

Rekka (41:36):
So what are you going to do that's going to leave me with anxiety?

Kaelyn (41:41):
Oh goodness, I feel like just by talking to you, I can—

Rekka (41:45):
Okay, fair. All right, yeah. I am speaking to an editor. There's always anxiety.

Kaelyn (41:49):
I was going to say. I feel like Rekka, you can just look at me sometimes. So here's what I will end with, with trilogies. There is a reason they are one of the most commonly used forms of storytelling.

Rekka (42:02):
Is it because they're easier?

Kaelyn (42:04):
They're easier.

Rekka (42:06):
How? We just said like, you're filling in the gaps, and make it two books.

Kaelyn (42:11):
Well, you're going to have to wait to find out, Rekka.

Rekka (42:14):
Awwwwwwwww!!!! Boo!

Kaelyn (42:14):
Yes. So next episode, we're going to talk about duologies. We're going to spend a lot of time comparing them to trilogies, and we're going to spend some time talking about why they're really hard and why trilogies, for everything we just said here, are also comparatively much easier.

Rekka (42:30):
So two weeks: we're talking about two books, the two of us with too many opinions, is that about right?

Kaelyn (42:39):
I was hoping we were going to be talking about this on the 22nd.

Rekka (42:41):
Nope, no luck. 22nd is Thursday. Yeah. I mean, we can release the episode late if you want. Or wait. That would be early.

Kaelyn (42:50):
Yeah that would be early. That would be early.

Rekka (42:52):
Woooo no. I have to edit that. Okay. So I'm done for today. Done for trilogies. Done for Book Two in a trilogy. Probably not done for trilogies.

Kaelyn (43:00):
We're never done for trilogies.

Rekka (43:01):
We're never done on any of these topics.

Kaelyn (43:03):
Thank you so much, everyone for listening.

Rekka (43:05):
We are at wmbcast.com for all our old episodes. You can find us on Twitter and Instagram at @WMBcast. And if you'd like to support our show, you can either leave us a rating and review—and please make sure to subscribe—on whatever podcast app you're using and also at patreon.com/WMBcast.

Kaelyn (43:26):
And if you have a question or, you know, something you'd like to hear about, send it to us, we love those.

Rekka (43:30):
Send it to us. If you want it anonymous, you can send it in DMs. And, uh, we will feature it in a future episode. Cause that's where this one came from.

Kaelyn (43:38):
Thanks again, everyone. We'll see you in two weeks when we're talking about duologies.

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