Is it a Trilogy or a Series?

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If you’d like to give your writing career a running start, consider writing books–as in plural. You’ll be planning and outlining (or you should be prior to delving into writing), so why not consider the longer route? That being said, will your new project be a trilogy or a series? The following post will help you consider just how many books you might want to write. 

Is it Looking like a Trilogy?

If your story can be broken into three acts, consider the trilogy. The first act is the setup, the second is the low point, and the third is the grand finale. As you plan, think about the overarching goal. How do you want your main character to evolve over the course of the three books? 

Trilogies are perfect for the Hero’s Journey. Many Fantasy/SciFi stories follow a hero’s transformation and evolution. A trilogy might be an excellent choice if you’re considering writing in this genre.

Some pointers:

  • Each book in the trilogy should stand on its own. Therefore, plan an arc for each book in addition to your overall trilogy arc.
  • Don’t assume your readers are reading your books back-to-back. You’ll need to do a Scooby-Doo recount of the previous book’s events at the beginning of both books 2 and 3. 
  • Try not to rehash the first book in the second book. Think about the iconic Empire Strikes Back. Many people (myself included) find this to be the strongest of the original series. Why? The backstory was established in the first movie, the second movie moved the story into a new phase and there were some serious low points. By the end of Empire, the stakes were raised and almost all of our heroes were at an all-time low. Luke lost his hand while simultaneously finding out that his father was an evil overlord. Han was having the worst day ever when he was encased in carbonite. Leia loses a rebel base that was under her command. None of the good people were living their best lives. 

Or is it Looking like a Series?

If you’re thinking, well, I don’t really want to delve into the hero’s journey with my main character. I just want them to solve mysteries. Or, maybe, you’d like to explore multiple characters–giving each one their own book. In that case, a series might be more your jam. The genres of Romance, Mysteries, Urban Fantasy really lend themselves to series development. You can establish a world and then explore this world with multiple characters or plots.

Some pointers:

  • Consider mapping out which characters will become main characters of their own books and how you can drop breadcrumbs about their backstory in other books in the series.
  • If there’s a mystery to solve in each book, consider an overarching mystery that is alluded to in the first book and then grows as a subplot in subsequent books. Then, towards the end of your series, the overarching plot can be explored and concluded.
  • Maybe your main character’s hero journey is so vast, it might need more than three books to show it. In this case, yes, go on and write that series with your main character growing and evolving over a very long period of time.

Points to Consider when Writing Plural Books

Make sure you plan, plan, plan. Being a pantser instead of a plotter when writing multiple, connected books only leads to disaster. I say this from experience. When I started out writing, I wrote a short story, that turned into a novel, that turned into a trilogy. I pulled it off, but it wasn’t a road I’d recommend. For more on what NOT to do, read here.

Do you have a topic you would like us to cover? Let us know about your suggestion. 


About Author

Heather Rigney is a fiction writer, blogger, journalist, and art teacher based in Rhode Island. Author of The Merrow Trilogy--a dark, historical fantasy novel that deals with homicidal mermaids, the colonial suppression of women, and a present-day alcoholic funeral director trying to make sense of it all. Her writing has been featured in Motif Magazine and Stone Crowns Magazine. By day she teaches art at an all-girls Quaker school and at night she tries to be creative while avoiding too many sweets. You can read more about Ms. Rigney on her website:

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