1. Chris Mendham
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    Chris Mendham New Member

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    Traditional Writing a trilogy for children - What Publishers want

    Discussion in 'Publisher Discussion' started by Chris Mendham, Aug 30, 2016.

    Hi all

    I've written a fantasy adventure for children aged 9 to 12. I deliberately wrote the first draft to have everything in it bar the kitchen sink. This was so I could get all the ideas I'd had out of my head and on paper. Of course this first draft was bloated and dripping with waste products coming in at a ridiculous 250,000 words, many of those words were not good. During the next few drafts great chunks were re-written as I began to discover exactly what it was I was writing, what the core of the story was about, so to speak. After this process the story was over 140,000 words, far too big for a first novel. And so I started what I hoped was my final draft. Many 'scenes' were cut and held over to be used another day, hopefully on sequels. Even so this version was 92,000 words, still too long I think for that elusive first novel. Then I had a portion of the novel critiqued. One of the points made was that certain elements in the story needed fleshing out. Had I at times gone too far with the editing, am I trying too hard to squash what is an epic story into one novel bursting at the seems with blistering energy that will leave the reader exhorted trying to keep up? Do I in fact have enough for a trilogy, each book between 35,000 and 45,000 words? I think I do, but here's the rub. Would publishers be interested in three books where the first two end with a cliffhanger, with the resolution in the third book? The trilogies for kids that I have read may have a story arc that straddles the series, but usually there is a resolution to each books story. There are pitfalls in anything we write and knowing the market is tough. Anything is possible but am I heading for a fall even before I begin? Advice on this would be gratefully received.

    Cheers

    Chris
     
  2. Chris Mendham
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    Chris Mendham New Member

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    Sorry everyone, my computer through a wobbler and posted this question twice! Please ignore this one ta. I feel a proper fool.
     
  3. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    It's not impossible, but you are making things a lot harder for yourself. Make the first book a complete one, that CAN be expanded into a trilogy but can also stand alone.
     
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  4. Scot
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    Scot Active Member

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    " Would publishers be interested in three books where the first two end with a cliffhanger, with the resolution in the third book? "

    J.K. Rowling did it with seven books.
     
  5. NiallRoach
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    NiallRoach Contributing Member

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    Rowling is foremost the exception to pretty much every rule (many deride her craft, and even the short of the HP books are considered too long for MG, though obviously that stopped mattering as the hype train found its power), and most importantly, the first and riskiest book did resolve neatly. Harry defeats Voldemort, goes on studying at Hogwarts, and it's implied that his torment at the hands of the Dursleys comes to an end because they're scared of his magic.

    It's not the complete ending we eventually got, but it is a complete ending, and that's what publishers want. OP, if your first book ends such that, if your publisher doesn't decide to publish a second/third, your readers will be satisfied, you're good.
    The golden words are "standalone with series potential" these days. Open to sequels if it's a runaway success (Harry Potter, Hunger Games), satisfying if it doesn't do well enough to justify them (God forbid).
     
  6. Chris Mendham
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    Chris Mendham New Member

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    This is exactly what I was thinking, and have been thinking for some time. If I self published I believe I would go ahead with the trilogy, published all at the same time. But as it would be my first book I need to 'play it safe' with traditional publishers and agents. Also, as I am so close to the source materiel it is hard now to step back and see how I can turn the first book into a complete story in its own right as so many elements arc into the second and third books. Basically another round of editing is needed so I can get the word count down, or risk it and send it out as an epic and hope that agents and publishers will see the potential and realise they cannot be with out my book. I remain positive.
     
  7. Shadowfax
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    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

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    Find one story that you can resolve in 40/50k. Leave the "hints" to the other story arcs in - if you've got room.

    There's no reason why you can't make it a series of "sequels" that actually take place at the same time; e.g., what if you decided to tell the Battle of Hastings as a trilogy? 1/ Tell the tale of Harold Hardrada and his bloody end at Stamford Bridge, 2/ tell the tale of Harold Godwinsson and his victory at Stamford Bridge and his bloody end at Hastings, 3/ tell the tale of William the Conqueror and his ultimate victory at Hastings. Each of these novels would have a number of actions that happen over the period from 1050-1066, some interacting between the differing stories; but each story would have a different slant on how that interacting action impacts upon the hero.
     
  8. Chris Mendham
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    Chris Mendham New Member

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    Terrific idea. I have 4 main characters who cross paths and interact over the course of the story.
     
  9. WNP
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    WNP Member

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    What is the generally accepted length for a first novel (by publishers)? I did a quick Google and it said between between 60-100k, which sounds about right to me, so your 92k version should be alright (though maybe the target age changes that).
     
  10. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yeah, the MG market wants shorter books, as a rule, so this really is unusually long.
     
  11. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Leaving aside the market requirements for children’s novels—which other people on here know a lot more about than I do—I was struck by one of the things you said, @Chris Mendham . You said some of your betas thought you ought to ‘flesh it out more,’ after you’d gone through and made drastic cuts to your story. That says, to me, that you sacrificed the immersiveness of your story for word count.

    Maybe what you need to do is hit the middle ground between short story and novel. In other words, consider some short story principles when deciding how to frame your trilogy of connected short novels.

    Short stories tend to have a limited number of characters—but they develop their few characters very well—so that’s one way to shorten word count without sacrificing immersiveness. Don't give the readers too many characters in any one volume, but really dig in to the ones you've got.

    Another way to cut words without reducing the richness of the story is to reduce or eliminate subplots and concentrate on just one or two. Construct the story around the resolution of one or two major issues, rather than several. There might be a hint of more to come, but work on what's in front of the characters' noses at the time. And maybe shorten the time frame, if that’s possible? Make the story happen over a period of days or weeks rather than months, or months rather than years.

    If you can resist the urge to make each story as broad as possible, and instead narrow the focus, but make it intense, you will be able to keep the immersiveness but also reduce the word count.

    Obviously you’ve got a bit more leeway here than a short story writer will have, but keeping the principle of narrowed focus should help.

 Stories take as long as they take, and it’s important to keep that in mind. You can't maintain immersiveness if you cut all portions of the story that don’t just advance a complicated plot. If you don't give your characters room to develop, or don't draw us deeply into their lives and dilemmas, you'll end up writing a synopsis instead of a story. There is more to any enjoyable story than a good ‘plot.’ If you want to cut your words, be prepared to truncate your plot to fit the size of your word count requirements, rather than sacrificing everything else on the altar of Plot.

    By the way, kids LOVE to read multiple books containing their favourite characters, mainly because they become very fond of the characters and want to see more of them. I remember the Laura Ingalls Wilder books, which were an ongoing serial containing the same characters and how they progressed through life. I also recall the stand-alone Nancy Drew mystery series with particular fondness. I was hooked on the Wilder serial because I wanted to know what happened next. I was hooked on the Nancy Drew series because I wanted to solve another mystery with Nancy. So both ploys—the serial and the series—worked for me.

    If you're not familiar with the Laura Ingalls Wilder BOOKS—not that idiotic TV series— you might want to take a look at them, and see how they are organised. Each book is a stand-alone, with a conclusion to that section of Laura's story. You could read any one of them and go away satisfied. And yet, because there are more, and because, as readers, we wanted to know more about what happened to Laura next, we eagerly bought each volume as it came out.

    Even though Laura was a real person, the books were written as fiction. As Laura said later on, the books are true, but they're not the whole truth.
     
    Last edited: Nov 15, 2016

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