by guest writer Bryan K. Johnson
It seems like many writers these days are confronted with the same conundrum of continuance. Should I turn my story into a series? At face value, it’s a simple enough question. The word “trilogy” can cause a million possibilities to fire inside the depths of our synaptic web, tracing down through dynamic characters and immersive worlds all painted in glorious verbal detail. There are certainly enough success stories of formerly unknown writers finding fame and fortune with a captivating book series: J.K. Rowling and Harry Potter, Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight saga, Suzanne Collins and the Hunger Games. Audiences and critics alike enjoy multi-part story arcs, often bringing unparalleled success to their creators.
I have also set out down that same long and layered path, taken by many but finished by few. My debut novel, Yield, is book one of the chillingly intense, shockingly unforgettable, (enter your own superlative here) Armageddia trilogy. The only problem? It’s not all written yet.
Marketing a series of ethereal ideas without the concrete parts already in hand is a very real challenge for new writers. How do we know if the first story is going to be well received? What if we haven’t been lucky enough to find a publisher with the patience to see our series through? What if there is too long of a gap between releases and all of that hard fought momentum is lost?
The highly competitive book business can be an unforgiving place. Having even one novel pop on the charts as a new writer is hard enough, let alone trying to ride your own coattails years later when all of the intended companion pieces are finally done.
Being new to the industry, I’ve realized I really don’t have a bulletproof answer to the sequel question—not one that applies to everyone. The answer, just like the stories themselves, depends largely on the motivations and commitment of their authors.
My advice, from that place somewhere between hope and disappointment in my gut, is this:
If you are certain beyond a shadow of a doubt that you will complete your series—even if book one is an abysmal failure, even if the critics hate it, even if everything else in your life crumbles away—if you are that passionate about your story and have a clear vision for what it can be, then I say do it. Commit to it, and don’t give up on your idea even if Dante’s inferno opens wide and threatens to swallow you whole. It might just take that kind of commitment and sacrifice to make it.
On the other hand, if you are just testing the waters and trying to get a foothold in the writing world any way you can, you might be better off having several weapons in your literary arsenal. A good writer is a good writer, regardless of the specific story. Having a few finished manuscripts in your hip pocket to show your versatility and style to a prospective agent or publisher may just get you that shot. There can be strength in playing the numbers. Not everyone will like a particular series concept. And if you put all of your eggs in that one basket, your writing career may get poached before you’ve even had a chance to hatch.
For a special sneak peek at my own sequel, go to: http://www.armageddia.com. I’ve posted an exclusive excerpt on my blog there from book two of the Armageddia Series. Book one, YIELD, will be available August 14th in paperback and e-book formats.
Happy writing! (…and writing……. and writing……………………..)
Bryan K. Johnson
Author of Yield: Book 1 of the Armageddia Series