Why is the second book in a fantasy trilogy so hard to get right? The first book introduces the world, the protagonist, the goal – it grabs the reader’s imagination and holds it with everything bright and new. In the third book the reader gets the answers to the perplexing story questions, and sees the goal achieved and the protagonist becoming wiser and stronger after facing the various tests and challenges along the way (or possibly not, if it’s one of the current crop of dark and gritty fantasies by writers like Joe Abercrombie and Jesse Bullington.) The middle book? It can be a bit of a let-down, not much more than a bridge between A and C.
If book 2 is weak, readers may drop out partway through. Lower sales for book 3 may cause the publisher to lose confidence in the writer. The result: future submissions won’t be considered. We stand and fall on the sales figures for our last novel. In the current climate, with the major publishing houses so cautious about what projects they take on, that scenario is extremely possible.
How do you keep book 2 as interesting and readable as books 1 and 3? I’m asking myself that question right now as I embark on a set of revisions suggested by my editors for Raven Flight, the second book in my Shadowfell series. This is the book I started writing during NaNoWriMo in 2011, and had to submit rather underdone. It’s no surprise that the editors asked for substantial changes. I can see for myself that it’s middle-bookish. So, what to do about making the in-between book into a great story in its own right? [Read more…]