I committed trilogy accidentally—twice!
It all started back in 2013 when I sold my first book to DAW and on the back of that sale was offered a three book deal for EMPIRE OF DUST (science fiction), WINTERWOOD (fantasy), and a sequel to Empire, CROSSWAYS (sold on the basis of a one page synopsis). Wow, it was the offer of my dreams; a fabulous speculative fiction publisher was paying me to do what I loved doing best—making up stories.
In the bad-old (but fun) unpublished days, I’d made the classic mistake of starting to write a trilogy without having sold Book One, only to realise that the two years of work put into Book Two was a waste of time. I was never going to sell Book Two before I’d sold Book One. That should have been obvious, of course, but I was having such fun writing it that I never really stood back and asked myself what I was doing.
So after that I wrote standalones, but always with the idea that they could be expanded if the opportunity arose. This was on the basis that publishers tend to like ‘more of the same, but different’.
I finally got that opportunity when DAW asked for the sequel to EMPIRE OF DUST. Then, when I was partway through writing it I asked my editor the big question: “Should I wrap up the story arc in two books because I know where I’m heading and I think there’s another book in this?” Shortly after that I got the second book deal which was for NIMBUS, the third book in the Psi-Tech series, and for SILVERWOLF, a sequel to WINTERWOOD. And then, partway through writing SILVERWOLF, I asked the question again and my editor said, ‘I think it looks like a trilogy, don’t you?’
Breathe, Jacey. Just breathe!
So, though I knew how I wanted the overall story to end, I didn’t know for sure when I wrote EMPIRE OF DUST and WINTERWOOD as standalones that I was going to get the opportunity to write two trilogies, one science fiction/space opera and the other historical fantasy. I know now. Hindsight is a wonderful thing—but so is forward planning.
If you’re going to write a trilogy, it helps to have a plan, not just for one book, but for all three—an overall story arc that can be neatly divided into three books of roughly equal length. I didn’t have that when I started, at least, not on paper, though I did have an end point for both trilogies in my head. Like many plans the story arcs had a beginning and an end and the middle was covered by ‘stuff happens’. Yes, if you’ve ever planned a trilogy, a book or even a short story, you’ve probably used the same technique.
It also helps to have your cast of characters for the whole trilogy sorted out before you start. You should know which ones are going to survive all three books, which ones are short lived, and which ones might make it almost to the end and then die—poignantly, or gloriously, or simply to make the readers aware that whatever danger the hero is facing could prove terminal for anyone. (George R.R. Martin did this spectacularly with the beheading of a favourite character everyone thought was going to be central to A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE at the end of the first book.)
When it came to wrapping up a whole story arc in NIMBUS, I had to draw all the loose threads together from the previous books. Life isn’t like a story. Loose threads might come together (or might not) but if there are several, they rarely come together at the same time. When you’re writing a trilogy (or even a single book) you can’t be as sloppy as life is. Your readers want a conclusion. I had my conclusion, but to get there I had to work through the ‘stuff happens’ section of the plot. At the end of EMPIRE OF DUST my central characters survived the troubles I threw at them and learned something about themselves as well as forming new (and lasting) relationships. In CROSSWAYS they faced a different but related set of problems, but while they were solving these, something else began to emerge. In NIMBUS that something else becomes the main problem, but it can only be solved by making allies out of old antagonists from the previous two books. In that way I could wrap up all the hanging threads and tie the story arcs together.
NIMBUS by Jacey Bedford
DAW October 2017
(SPOILERS FOR PREVIOUS BOOKS IN THE TRILOGY)
In a galaxy where the megacorporations are more powerful than any individual government, and ambitious executives play fast and loose with ethics in order to secure resources from the colonies, where can good people turn for help? The megacorps control the jump-gates, using implant-enhanced telepaths, psi-techs. They have these psi-techs trapped in a gilded cage, lacking for nothing—except freedom.
But there are some free psi-techs who have escaped the megacorps. Ben Benjamin and Cara Carlinni lead the Free Company, based on the rogue space-station, Crossways; and there are rumours of Sanctuary, a place that takes in runaway psi-techs and allows them to disappear quietly.
The megacorps have struck at Crossways once—and failed—so what are they planning now? Crossways can’t stand alone, and neither can the independent colonies, though maybe together they have a chance.
But something alien is stirring in the depths of foldspace. Something bigger than the petty squabbles between megacorps and independents. Until now, humans have had a free hand in the Galaxy, settling colony after colony, but that might have to change now that the Nimbus is coming.
About Jacey Bedford
Jacey Bedford is a British writer, published by DAW in the USA. She writes both science fiction and fantasy. Her short stories have been published on both sides of the Atlantic in anthologies and magazines, and some have been translated into an odd assortment of languages including Estonian, Galician and Polish.
Her latest book is NIMBUS, published on 3rd October 2017. It’s the third and concluding part of her Psi-Tech trilogy.
Jacey’s a great advocate of critique groups and is the secretary of the Milford SF Writers’ Conference, an intensive peer-to-peer week of critique and discussion held every September in North Wales. (http://www.milfordSF.co.uk)
She lives in an old stone house on the edge of Yorkshire’s Pennine Hills with her songwriter husband and a long-haired, black German Shepherd (a dog, not an actual shepherd from Germany). She’s been a librarian, a postmistress, a rag-doll maker and a folk singer with the vocal harmony trio, Artisan. Her claim to fame is that she once sang live on BBC Radio 4 accompanied by the Doctor (Who?) playing spoons.
You can keep up with Jacey in several different ways:
- Blog: https://jaceybedford.wordpress.com
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jacey.bedford.writer
- Twitter: @jaceybedford
- Pinterest: https://uk.pinterest.com/birdsedge/
Or via her writing website: http://www.jaceybedford.co.uk, which includes a link to her mailing list.