Lions and Tigers and Bears, oh my! Trilogies everywhere you look!
My friend Melody Friedenthal asked me an intriguing question this morning:
At what point in your creative process did you decide that Wake et al., would be a trilogy? And was it the same point for your first trilogy (or 2nd) or was the first one more of the publisher's choice (as in "this is too long to publish as a single novel; let's break it up into a trilogy")?My answer is might be of interest to other writers, so I'm sharing it here:
Has your plotting evolved over time to be more aware of this sort of thing?
I've sold twenty novels, and almost half of them -- nine books -- are parts of trilogies:
The Quintaglio Ascension: Far-Seer, Fossil Hunter, Foreigner.
The Neanderthal Parallax: Hominids, Humans, Hybrids
WWW: Wake, Watch, and Wonder.
(As it happens, right now, I'm in the final few hours of polishing Watch before submitting it to my publishers; it's due on Monday.)
Each of these trilogies had a different genesis.
I wrote Far-Seer as a standalone -- no intention of doing a series (I'd even killed off the main character in the last chapter).
When it was done, my agent said let's try to sell a sequel, and we did (as with the first episode of Hill Street Blues, where Hill and Renko were gunned down in cold blood, my character's fatal wounds suddenly became merely serious injuries, although I, at least, had the luxury or rewriting the ending so it was apparent that he'd lived).
And then the publisher decided to ask me for another sequel after the first two were done. But after that, I wanted to write something very different (With humans! On Earth! In the near future!), and so I wrote The Terminal Experiment instead of continuing the series (which I think ended at a fine point, anyway).
For the Neanderthal Parallax trilogy, it was actually my then-British publisher who said the only things selling in the UK were trilogies or on-going series, and so my next project should be a trilogy; otherwise, Hominids would have been a standalone. The original working title for the standalone book would, in fact, have been Neanderthal Parallax.)
After I turned in the third book, Hybrids, my editor, David G. Hartwell, said I could go on writing Neanderthal books as long as I wanted to -- but I wanted very much to do something different at that point. (For more on this, see my essay Commiting Trilogy: The Origins of "The Neanderthal Parallax".)
For the WWW trilogy, I actually sold it as a standalone (called Webmind) to Tor, and after struggling with it for over a year found I just couldn't do it as a single book; the idea was too big.
So I had a meeting with David G. Hartwell (my editor) and Tom Doherty (Tor's publisher) and told them that, and said I'd like to fulfill the contract instead with a new standalone, and wrote Rollback instead. I then re-envisioned Webmind as a trilogy (writing an outline for it that now bears very little resemblance to what I'm actually doing -- I really hate doing outlines).
If I had my druthers, I'd never write sequels or trilogies -- at least not one book after another; I much prefer writing standalones. But sometimes that's not what the market wants, and sometimes the idea can't be handled properly in a single book.
On the other hand, part of what I hate about trilogies is working back-to-back on the same project for years: I take a year or so to write a book, and spending three years in a row on any set of characters is enough.
But to my surprise I was recently asked by David Hartwell if I'd consider writing more Quintaglio books (and I might), and I would indeed like to write more about the Neanderthals at some point.
So, who knows about the future? (Answer, according to the Lawgiver in the last Planet of the Apes movie: "Perhaps only the dead." But I digress ...)