Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The Second Book in a Trilogy Doesn't Have to Suck

Huge, huge, huge congratulations to fellow Inker Stacy on her book deal!!!

confetti cannon

If you missed her post, go check it out (don't worry, I'll wait).

My post today is about something that's been on my mind of late: second books in a trilogy. It seems like there's been a spate of second books published recently.

For example:
Asunder by Jodi Meadows
Prodigy by Marie Lu
Insurgent by Veronica Roth

While I enjoyed all of these books and feel like each author did a great job of maintaining the momentum from their first book, reading them pointed out one simple fact to me.

Second books are hard to write.

Thank you Captain Obvious

Yeah, okay, so that's not really news to anyone. All books are hard to write! But second books suffer from their own set of challenges. Some of them include:
  • Usually it has been a year or more since the reader read the first book in the trilogy. This means the writer must remind the reader what happened in the first book, but subtly enough so it doesn't feel like a rehash for those jumping straight from last book.
  • Often the first book of a trilogy will end with a (more or less) satisfying ending, but the second book tends to end on a cliffhanger. The writer must try to give the second book its own arc, separate and distinct from the overarching journey tying the series together. It can't just feel like the author is just marking time until the big showdown in the third book.
  • If the second book isn't as compelling or readable as the first, readers are likely to put it down unfinished (or, at best, not bother picking up the third book). It's vital for authors to have good third book sales to show their publisher that their next submissions are worthy of consideration--especially if they've invested a lot of money in that author already.
So it's pretty obvious that a trilogy writer must be careful to give the readers more of what they loved about the first book in the second book.

I love the advice in this article on second books by author Juliet Marillier via Writer Unboxed. Among other things, she suggests shifting the focus from the main character of book one a little. Maybe we can see the emotional journey of a secondary character who didn't get as much "airtime" in book one.

Have you seen any examples of second books in trilogies done particularly well?


  1. Thanks for the post. I am working on a series. I have finished the first and am revising, revising, revising, but in the mean time, I have finished the first draft of the second and fleshed out and written half of the next 2. I'm glad I stumbled across this post so that I can make sure I really work hard on the second book. I agree my second book is going to be the weakest at least as it stands now. Book 3 has new characters and Book 4 will complete that series but provide spin off series.

  2. I love this blog site. You four gals dish out great advice.

    1. Thank you! Glad you're enjoying it. :-)