1. Annûniel
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    Annûniel Contributing Member Contributor

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    One Story, Two Books

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Annûniel, Aug 26, 2010.

    I realize that trying to sell a single story that spans two books is very hard for a first-time author. This story actually started out as a single book but, while writing it, I realized the story would be better told as two books. I've tried to consider the possibilities, and I could use some advice as to which one would be best for my situation. I'll try to describe each in as much detail but as I want to publish these works I can't get too specific.

    1) Keep the two books and the story as I have it planned now, each will probably be at the appropriate length of 80-120K. This means that neither book is truly stand-alone. Try to pitch them as they are and hope for the best. Perhaps, as I'm trying to get them sold, write a separate stand-alone book and use that as my first publication instead if I'm unsuccessful. Or would even trying to pitch the duology first be a mistake? Could it somehow keep publishers from wanting to publish the single book if I unsuccessfully pitched the duology first?

    2) Keep the story as it is now, but try to fit it into one book, which might mean its going to be longer than the suggested length, although I will edit it a lot to reduce its size. This option doesn't sit particularly well with me, as there is a 2 year gap between books 1 and 2. I can't help but feel it would be poor storytelling to have the first half of a book occur in a month, skip two years, and then the second half occur in a month again. It doesn't feel like it flows very well to me. However, I've seen fantasy books (yes my book is fantasy) split a single novel into "books," Lord of the Rings and DemonWars Saga did this, which I could do, although with some reservations.

    3) Adjust the plot of the first book so it would stand-alone sufficiently. This would involve "tricking" the reader into believing the main antagonist has perished, along with some MCs. This would be proven false in the second novel, for both the antagonist and MCs, and thus the story continues. I'm a bit worried about pulling this off adequately. To bring a resolution to the first novel, there can't be too many questions as to their survival, but make it too absolute and the idea of them not truly being dead would be unbelievable.


    Any advice you have on how to best work the plot would be appreciated. Thanks for your help! I feel like I've dug myself a pretty big hole and the task of trying to get back out is a bit overwhelming....
     
  2. Thanshin
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    Thanshin Active Member

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    I go with option 2.

    Suggested length? I didn't even know there was a suggested length for a book. I'd like to know who suggested it.

    I can't think of a reason why that would be wrong. If I want to jump several millenia between the first chapter and the second I certainly will. If I want to jump twenty minutes back in time in each chapter, I will. If I want every chapter to start at the exact same time of the same day, I very much will.

    The only reason I'd consider for splitting a story over different books would be having so many pages that it'd be taller face up than upright. And even in that case, I'd first consider using smaller fonts in larger pages.
     
  3. erik martin
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    erik martin Contributing Member

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    I like your second option, if you can get the novel down to a reasonable length. (Yes, there are suggested word guidelines particularly for first time authors and even established authors who aren't Stephen King, they are suggested by the economy and the cost to print a book and tend to be fairly well adhered to by publishing companies.) As you pointed out, there are ways to show the break between part one and two, like breaking one novel into two 'books' as Tolkien did, or just having part one, part two.

    Your first option of keeping them as they are will work fine if you have the patience to shelve these and do some stand alone stuff to get a track record.

    I don't like the third option of tricking the reader.
     
  4. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    I've taken your second and third options with mine lol otherwise my original story would be 600,000 words long doubt I would sell it especially now its a YA fantasy story instead of my original adult thrilller.

    Mine is first person I don't need to trick the reader. The characters are tricked instead. They even bury the body, and I don't know yet if the antagonist will ever be revealed I know who he is.

    So far books one and two standalone but its obvious they are the same story if you read them together. I am hoping if I have already sold them then book three can be a bit less stand alone although it may do.
     
  5. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Both options two and three are feasible, but you mut keep the total word count within, or at least close to, the publisher's submission guidelines. Exceeding them will sharply increase the probability of rejection. Don't think, "They'll ovberlook the overage if my writing is good enough." The harsh truth is they'll look at the word count first, and put it back in the slush pile unless the submissions editor has time to kill. And they never do have extra time on their hands.

    As for the break in chronology, it's common to divide a novel into parts along such discontinuities.

    Tricking the reader (misdirection) can work well, or it can drop like a sack of wet sand. Respect your readers. If the misdirection is logical, and the hidden information is not withheld only from the reader, it can work.

    Your first option is simply wishful thinking. You could hold onto your manuscript until you are an established author, but each book still must be able to stand on its own. Tolkien could probably not sell The Lord of the Rings in today's market.

    By the time you are sufficiently established to sell a closely-coupled pair of novels, your writing will have matured, and you'll end up rewriting the novels anyway - or scrapping them.
     
  6. Annûniel
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    Annûniel Contributing Member Contributor

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    Thank you all for your responses!

    I have indeed decided that, as Cogito said, option 1 is wishful thinking. It would be nice if I could just continue as intended, but it is indeed not a perfect world. In order to do so, I would probably have to self-publish or vanity publish, which is something I am not going to subject myself.

    I am still leaning heavily against option 2. I know it is conceivable to jump from one chapter to the next skipping however many years the author deems necessary, but it does not sit well with me, even with the separation of two parts. And I would find it very difficult to cut down the word count to less than 120K. I think large chunks of the story would have to go, leading to a splotchy story that doesn't flow very well, or adjusting the plot to the point where it's not recognizable as the same story to make it fit in the publisher's requirements. Again, Cogito your point hits home that regardless of the story, publishers will not give it a second look if the word count is too swollen. Nevertheless, I will probably treat this as a "Plan B" in case my first choice doesn't work.

    It looks like I'll then be going with option 3. The "trick" will not be solely for the readers; indeed, I can see how that would be foolish. However, I would present a situation that would have appeared to have destroyed the antagonist and a few MCs. The characters left behind would assume the deed is done, that the others died in the "line of duty," and try to carry on with their lives. I'm considering including an Epilogue with this story to show that this is not the case and work with the publishing company if the Epilogue should in included in the finalized copy or not.

    In this case, the characters believe that it worked out, along with the reader. Would this be acceptable? Are there any other tips I should know about?

    Thanks again. I'm starting to feel more confident about the story.
     
  7. Melzaar the Almighty
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    Melzaar the Almighty Contributing Member Contributor

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    You've got to be careful it doesn't look like a cop-out sequel to fix all the wrongs you couldn't bear to let lie after writing such a blood-thirsty end to the first novel. :p YOU know it's just for marketing purposes, but someone picking it off the shelf wouldn't, and on learning there's a sequel, looking at the back and seeing the blurb mention your main character alive and well and kicking butt again, could be very put off if they don't like that sort of thing.

    I think really that option three could bite you so hard - not even through your writing skillz but just how it could be perceived.

    Also, because it could also be seen as gimmick rather than emotional frailty.

    Obviously without knowing your plot I can't say for reals, but then, the idle glance at the story once it is revealed to the world won't know much more than I do because no one takes in all the details - just makes a quick impression. :p

    Anywho. If you're absolutely sure there's no pruning you can do to make it more concise, then I can't exactly stop you splitting it in two. I just think that stories shouldn't be tampered with to please publishers. Write first and foremost for yourself. Then the readers as a close second, then publishers way off in the distance. You write good stuff when you write it for those who'll love it. *Hippie-ish yarn about love and truth and beauty - fill in the gap*

    I've heard though that trimming a story down is both the hardest and most necessary thing one can do. You write the whole, florid thing to get a huge sense of character, world, and intricacies of the plot, then you cut back as much as you possibly can, maybe even only hinting at some things that once had a whole chapter dedicated to them, and through subtlety and careful attention to what's important you draw out the true heart of the story. That's not to say you can't have characters goofing off from time to time, but there are always, always so many words any story doesn't need. The ones which I've read which feel like not a word was wasted are slim volumes indeed.

    Edit: And yes I believe someone could do that with a rambling fantasy epic if they so pleased - they just don't most of the time. :p
     

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