Tony Riches: Why You Should Consider Writing a Trilogy
Listen to one of my fave histfic-writing colleagues, and very much admired pro: welcome, Tony Riches!
For most writers, completing one book would seem more than enough of an achievement, so why would anyone make a commitment to writing three? I was reading Conn Iggulden’s impressive Wars of the Roses trilogy, when the answer occurred to me.
The power of synergy – and freedom
There are real benefits of tackling any story as a trilogy, and now I’ve written one I’m convinced it’s something any novelist should consider. For me, the greatest benefit is synergy, which Cambridge English Dictionary defines as ‘the combined power of a group of things when they are working together that is greater than the total power achieved by each working separately.’
Put simply, the scope of a trilogy offers writers a liberating sense of space and freedom, as ideas hinted at in the first book can be developed and explored over the rest. This means the writer has space to explore the complexity of relationships that evolve over time, as well as the shifting social, political and economic context over years – or even generations, offering readers a more ‘immersive’ experience.
Practical and commercial reasons
There are also practical and commercial considerations. If you follow the fashion for longer books, you have one opportunity to sell it and the promotion can only begin once it’s available for pre-order. I was able to promote book one of my Tudor trilogy while writing book two (and it became a best-seller in the UK, US and Australia.) Readers began contacting me to ask when the next book in the trilogy would be available and I soon built an international reader base for the trilogy.
Similarly, although each book works as a ‘stand-alone’, I’ve seen evidence in my sales that people reading them in the wrong order tend to buy the others. I also hadn’t realised Amazon (and other retailers) are happy to promote and market a trilogy (or any series) as a discounted single purchase, which is good value for readers and means your books are more likely to be ‘discovered’.
Advantage of an epic scale
Finally, a trilogy offers a framework for developing work on an ‘epic’ scale. In my case, I realised there were countless novels about the court of King Henry VIII and his six wives, yet I could find almost nothing about the early Tudors who founded the dynasty. The idea for The Tudor Trilogy was that King Henry VIII’s father could be born in book one, ‘come of age’ in book two, and rule England in book three, so there would be plenty of scope to explore his life and times.
The first book of the trilogy was my fourth novel, so I had a good idea about the structure. In book one, OWEN, a Welsh servant of Queen Catherine of Valois, the lonely widow of King Henry V, falls in love with her and they marry in secret. Their eldest son Edmund Tudor marries the thirteen year-old heiress Lady Margaret Beaufort, and fathers a child with her to secure her inheritance. The birth of her son, Henry, nearly kills her, and when her husband dies mysteriously, his younger brother Jasper Tudor swears to protect them.
In book two, JASPER, they flee to exile in Brittany and plan to one day return and make Henry King of England. King Richard III has taken the throne and has a powerful army of thousands – while Jasper and Henry have nothing. Even the clothes they wear are paid for by the Duke of Brittany. So how can they possibly invade England and defeat King Richard at the Battle of Bosworth?
In the final book of the trilogy, HENRY, I explore how he brought peace to England by marrying Elizabeth of York, the beautiful daughter of his enemy, King Edward IV. The Tudor trilogy offers me the scope and depth to help readers understand how Henry’s second son became King Henry VIII, the tyrant who transformed the history of England forever.
About the author
Tony Riches is a full time author of best-selling fiction and non-fiction books. He lives by the sea in Pembrokeshire, West Wales with his wife and enjoys sea and river kayaking in his spare time. For more information about Tony’s other books please visit his popular blog, The Writing Desk and website www.tonyriches.com and find him on Facebook and Twitter @tonyriches. The Tudor Trilogy is available on Amazon UK Amazon US and Amazon AU.
Thanks a million, Tony, for the insights into and logic of writing a compelling trilogy. I’m sure we’ll enjoy reading his Tudor Trilogy and discover how his story arcs span decades and beautifully bring whole dynasties to life.
What experience do you have with trilogies? Do you love reading them, as the stories create wonderfully rich story and character arcs when you just can’t get enough of them? Or do you have experience with writing trilogies? How did it go, what are the pitfalls? Tell us all about it in the comments, I’m always curious to see your insights! 🙂
HAPPY READING & WRITING!
Carol Hedges 22.05.2017 at 16:12
Trilogie are fun! Only thing is, you need to decide in advance that’s what you’re going to write, or by book 3 you are regretting what you wrote in book 1. My Victorian ‘tec series was meant to be a one off. Now, with the imminent arrival of Book 5, I’m going through the lot again, ‘fixing’ stuff to make them all hang together!
sarah 22.05.2017 at 16:20
yes, that’s so true! the arc has ro be an arc in the end, not a zigzag or whatnot…very good point there, Carol ?hope it wasn’t too painful, although going back through it all sounds like it…oof. hope it worked out and was worth it! all the best to you and the writing 🙂
Terry Tyler 22.05.2017 at 9:11
Having read all of this trilogy, I can absolutely vouch for the quality! Jasper is my favourite, a belter of a book, but they’re all great.
I’m writing my first trilogy after publishing 11 stand alones and 2 sequels, Tony! I’m not attempting to make them total stand alones, because giving the backstory would not work, in this case. So I’ve done a ‘story so far’ bit at the beginning of Book 2, which I’m working on at the moment ~ I’m not publishing Book 1 until it’s written, so I can publish in quick succession.
May your success continue! Thanks to Sarah, too 🙂
sarah 22.05.2017 at 10:39
Thank you, Terry, love hearing about how you do it, and wow…11 stand alones is great! I wish you massive success and hope this experiment of trilogy-ing will prove to be a success for you 🙂 Happy writing and best of luck!