Thoughts on Writing a Trilogy

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When I first started planning my ninth century novel about King Alfred and his battle against the Danes, I intended it to be just a single book.

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Statue of King Alfred in Wantage, where he was born.

I’d spent a long time researching the period, as well as spending time in Denmark and visiting various sites around Britain. So I had files full of information.  As I continued to plan the book, I decided to widen the story by including a second protagonist. Eadwulf’s story became as long, and as important as Alfred’s

So that was the end of my plan to write a single book: I am presently writing Book Three of the trilogy.

Looking back, I now think I should have stuck with the idea of a single book. Not that I’m unhappy with the way my story is unfolding but . . .

. . .  it all comes down to ‘The trials and tribulations of a first time novelist‘, which I wrote a post about when my blog had barely started.

On top of all the other problems that first-time writers encounter with self-publication and even more so, with self-promotion, I’ve come to realise that a trilogy isn’t the best thing to write first time round. A one-off would have been so much easier to present to traditional publishers as well as being easier to market and promote. Nor would I have felt under as much pressure to finish the next book in line. I’ve had several people who’ve reviewed both books saying they’re now waiting for Book 3. Oh dear…

These are the covers of the first two books of the Sons of Kings trilogy:

Where I went wrong was in not waiting until I had finished  Book 3– or had at least written a good part of it – before publishing the first two books. I’ve read advice from various sources telling me that most readers aren’t happy to start reading trilogies unless they know they can work their way straight thorough all three books, so it’s best to wait until all three books are finished. I’m not sure whether that’s strictly true, but I do know that readers don’t like to wait too long for the next book to appear. I’m always eager to get my hands on the next book in a series I like, myself.

Well, it’s now almost a year since I finished writing Book 2, and I’d hoped to finish Book 3 by the end of this year. Unfortunately, I’ve spent a lot of time doing other things this year – including spending time away from home and writing a lot of longish posts on WordPress – and I’ve still some way to go before finishing the book.

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It’s on this note that I have to say that from now my posts will be less frequent than they have been since earlier this year. I’m not taking a complete blogging break, just easing things off.

I also want to say a big ‘Thank You’ to all of you who downladed a free copy of Book One:  Shadow of the Raven during its recent promotion on Amazon. I was really pleased with the overall number of downloads this time!

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About milliethom

I am a reader and writer of historical fiction with a keen interest in the Earth's history and all it involves, both physically and socially. I like nothing better than to be outdoors, especially in faraway places, and baking is something I do when my eyes need respite from my computer screen.
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90 Responses to Thoughts on Writing a Trilogy

  1. Frances 🌺 says:

    What an accomplishment! I will look out for your books on Amazon. Well done Millie 🙏

    • milliethom says:

      Hi Frances. Thank you for that nice comment. 🙂 Book One has just finished its free days on Amazon! I did a post last week to let people know. It’s a shame you missed a free copy. Thank you for the congratulations, too. I just need to concentrate on this third book now. 🙂

  2. Simon says:

    I’m going to look at this, it sounds good.

    • milliethom says:

      Thank you for that, Simon! I hope you like historical fiction. I’ve wanted to write about Alfred since the 1970s when we lived in Wantage for six years. Unfortunately, six children and teaching got in the way, so it had to wait. 😀

      • Simon says:

        It’s a long time to wait and mould it in your mind… I hope you enjoyed writing it when you finally got there. I know what you mean about time to write, with family, job etc it’s hard.

      • milliethom says:

        Yes, it was a long time, but I put it out of my mind for a long time. I did more study with the OU and didn’t retire until a few years ago. I was very happy to be able to write at last, though.

      • Simon says:

        I’m sure you were, was it almost a relied to put the story down?

      • milliethom says:

        It was a great feeling to be able to write anything other than things for school, Simon. By the time I started on ‘Shadow’ (Book 1 of this trilogy) I also had another one on my mind. And now, I can’t wait to finish this last book and start on that. It’s Romans next time! 🙂

      • Simon says:

        I’m going to have to look them up and have a read… they sound interesting.

      • milliethom says:

        It’s a pity you missed the promotion – it ended on the 21st. Book 1 was free for a few day. It’s always a good way of getting a book to suss out whether it’s for you or not. I admit I was late doing the post to tell people about the promo. I’d wrecked my blog and spent several days putting it back to normal. Such bad timing!
        The link in the sidebar of my blog will take you to Amazon, if you just want to have a look. We’re all different in the books we like. Thank you for showing interest, Simon – much appreciated. 🙂

      • Simon says:

        I don’t mind paying. I’m not sure about this free lark. It cheapwns authors and the efforts they put into their books.

      • milliethom says:

        Yes, I can see why you think that. It’s intended to help authors to get their books more visible on Amazon, and supposedly help improve sales afterwards. During the ‘free’ days, there are hundreds of downloads, which moves the book up in the Amazon rankings – so it’s more visible when people look for books in your genre. I’m not convinced about that yet. I’ll let you know if it works! Lol. If you do buy ‘Shadow’, it’s only £2.46 – or something like that. Just think how many I’d have to sell to make me rich – especially when Amazon have 30% of that. I think I’d better keep writing … 😀

      • Simon says:

        I dont know if it works either, i think external msrketing is needed and its very difficult. I think its a crime that Amazon take 30% of the cost, they didnt do much did they?
        Ill go look it up though! ☺

      • milliethom says:

        I’d love to be traditionally published one day, but it’s so competetive. I’ve heard just finding an agent is really hard, and you can’t approach publishers unless it’s through an agent. So many authors are self-publishing – but I think most of us would love to do the traditional route.
        Are you aiming to get a book done for publishing? I know you write short stories.

      • Simon says:

        I have a plan for that and stories are in progress, albeit rather slowly. But im getting ptactice with the short stories and i will publish them too…

      • milliethom says:

        Good luck with that! There are quite a lot of people writing short stories now. There are also a lot of books of flash fiction, too. A few people have suggested that I should have mine published’ I’ve written about seventy this year, so I might do, eventually. I think I’ll stick with one book at a time. 🙂

      • Simon says:

        I’m trying to stick to one at a time, but I keep on starting short stories lol

      • milliethom says:

        Do you do any flash fiction challenges on WP? I stopped doing them a while ago because I hadn’t time for them. But they’re good fun to do, and could always be developed later into slightly longer stories. You may already do some. I really miss doing them. 😀

      • Simon says:

        I do the blog battle with http://rachaelritchey.com/blogbattle/

        It’s a weekly thing and I like doing it and has kicked off more stories than I would like lol

      • milliethom says:

        I’ll have a look at that one – for when I come back to normality! Thanks for that, Simon.

      • Simon says:

        That’s ok, it’s a pleasure. It’s good little thing to get into .
        If you want to you can find some of my work on https://universeofpossibility.wordpress.com/
        if you’re not already following.

  3. Congrats dear Millie! Lucky me I got in on the free download of you book! Hope I see you around!

  4. Atomic Words says:

    So sad I missed out. But congratulations!!! So happy for you.😊

  5. I didn’t get there in time for the free download so will buy a copy of book 1. Congratulations Millie i’ts wonderful that you have published 2 books and a thrid almost there.Amazing accomplishment.

    • milliethom says:

      Thank you, Suzanne! It’s a pity you missed the promotion, though. I know I didn’t give much notice of it because I had all that trouble destroying so many of my posts to put right last week. My blog wasn’t in use until Tuesday (while I was repairing the damage) and the promotion started on Wednesday. Fortunately, the books are quite cheap! Lol
      Your congratulations mean a lot to me. 🙂

  6. You take it easy dear friend! Take your best time to finish book 3. It is very hard work to to keep on going and at the end to finish it off. I am sure it will all happen soon. Just look after yourself while writing. Eat, drink and exercise is important to keep the brain clear. WE understand why you you can’t do all. Wish you the best with the last pages!

    • milliethom says:

      Thank you so much, Ineke. I knew you’d understand – you do so much yourself!. It is hard to fit so many things in, especially as we get older. I think we both need to take a big breath and try to slow down. Yes, this book will get finished – I’m not a quitter. Besides, I’ve spent a long time planning it all and just need to detach myself from everything else for a while. (Fat chance, really, with Christmas coming up! Haha.) Erly next year I may take a complete blogging break.I’ll miss my blog, but hopefully I can pick it up again after a little while. 🙂

      • I have to see my dr on Thursday because my bloodpresure is to high and I am using medication. I hope she is happy with it. Wonder if my new job is that good for me!
        Good luck and I know the third book is going to be a big success.

      • milliethom says:

        Being stressed isn’t good for high blood pressure, so you need to weigh up whether or not to keep on with the job. I know extra money is nice – I often think about doing some supply teaching. But then I come to my senses and think I’d never cope with all that marking and preparation now. Do think carefully, Ineke. As you said to me, health comes first.
        Thank you for your kind words about my book – they’re very much appreciated.

  7. Congratulations Millie! that’s such an amazing accomplishment! Good luck with the 3rd one!

  8. draliman says:

    Sometimes with trilogies/sets of books, I get as far as the author has written meaning to come back to it but then start reading something else and forget. The “eBook age” doesn’t help – it’s easier to spot a gap on a bookshelf than in a list!

    • milliethom says:

      Exactly. You’ve hit the nail on the head about eBooks. That people will forget all about the trilogy if I leave it too long is quite worrying. Time to get my skeates on, I think. 🙂

  9. I’m one of those waiting for Book 3, but I’m patient and I’m sure the wait will be worth it based on the first two books in the trilogy.

    • milliethom says:

      Jack, your wonderul comment means so much… thak you. It’s easy to lose faith in our own ability and get knocked back a bit sometimes. I really need to focus now. I hope your next Celtic mystery book is coming along well, too. I’m really looking forward to reading that. Talk again soon.

  10. You sound rather wear with it all. Getting published is a tough tough game and there’s so much you can only learn from experience. I know several people who’ve been contracted for trilogies by mainstream publishers, only to have the third book axed and the trilogy never finished – one had received a huge advance, but still they axed it. So at least whatever your downsides are your trilogy will be finished 🙂

    • milliethom says:

      Yes, I’m absolutely determined to finish the book. I have no one pushing me except myself and I haven’t lost interest in my story. But I do worry that people who’ve read and liked the first two will lose interest unless I get the third out there soon. It may mean a complete blogging braek for a while. I really have spent too much time enjoying myself on holidays and on WP this year. Time to focus now. Thank you for the encouraging words. 🙂

  11. Congratulations on being so close to wrapping up the third story in your trilogy! Even better(?) that you have a roman character itching to get put on paper…
    It’s wonderful that you are able to reflect on your journey as an author, looking back and seeing what might be done differently next time. Thanks for sharing your lessons learned.

    • milliethom says:

      Thank you! Yes, it’s quite a learning process. I really enjoy my writing, but publishing and promoting are a different matter – especially the promoting. I’m not good at that at all, and know I should be out there on all the social media sites and so on. I might do, if I knew how they all worked! Lol. I’ve still not got used to the technological age, that’s my problem.
      I’ve had the Roman story in my head since 1992 – the first time I went up th Hadrian’s Wall for a week with a group of Year 7 students. I ended up doing that for seven years, and Nick and I have been up there regularly since. I still have 3 posts to put up about our trip up there this August.
      Hope your preparations for Thanksgiving are going to plan. Not long now.

  12. Congrats on your accomplishment. It is a very big deal!

  13. Forestwoodfolkart says:

    Interesting advice and I think you are right. If it is touted as as trilogy butI have to wait for it I might delay its purchase. Food for thought.

    • milliethom says:

      Unfortunately, it’s a bit late for me now, having two books already done. I just need to get my skates on with the third one now. I wish I’d thought about all this earleir! It really isn’t a good time for me right now – what with wrecking my blog, and now this realisation. I’ve tried hard to make each of the books ‘stand on their own’, if you know what I mean. A few people have just read ‘Pit of Vipers’, and said it makes sense without having read Book 1. But to me, that excludes readers from the details of events in the characters’ lives which are so important to the story as a whole. I need to develop the technique of speed writing. Haha. Thanks, Amanda.

      • Forestwoodfolkart says:

        Don’t stress Millie. I have read books out of order be they stand alone or not. It may detract a little from the story as you mentioned with specific relating events but not so much that it spoils tge reading. It just makes more sense later when you find out. That aha! Moment is quite fun when everything clicks in place.

      • milliethom says:

        Thanks, Amanda. I’m trying to take thingsin my stride.I’ve read books out of order in series before, too, but mine really is an ongoing tale. Still, I’ll get it finished sometime next year.

  14. i think you have done amazingly well so far just getting two books written Millie, and hindsight is a brilliant thing. I can imagine that promoting your own books is very hard, and it is so easy to get side tracked by the blogging aspect of a website, rather than the promotion aspect of said website!! I agree with what Amanda has just said.
    But the most important thing to remember is…….only keep on doing the writing and promoting if you are still enjoying it!!!

    • milliethom says:

      Thanks, Andy. The thing is, I love my writing and I love my story. I’ve just been neglecting it too much this year and letting other things take priority. I’m going to strictly rein myself in from now on. Unfortunately, that means doing very little on my blog – which will be hard to do, but it won’t be for that long. 🙂

      • That’s what matters, if you enjoy it, definitely go for it, and like you said, the blog will still be here when you’ve finished 🙂

      • milliethom says:

        I hope so. I ‘d be sorry to lose touch with everyone. I’ll probably keep going until weekend, then have a blogging break – well, almost. I might do odd posts now and then. I’ll check out your post tomorrow, Andy. It’s too late now to start ‘doing the rounds’. 🙂

  15. Joy Pixley says:

    I feel like “don’t start with a trilogy” is a lesson that quite a lot of first time authors learn the hard way. In my writing group there are two people working on multi-book series, and while they haven’t gotten themselves in a bind by publishing book 1 and not having the next one ready, they both seem to be having a really hard time finishing any of it. My current (first) novel is coming out too long right now — currently about 130K, with what I’ve been adding on NaNo, and still not done with the first whole draft yet. Some of my friends have suggested expanding it out and making it a series, and you can imagine my echoing scream — “Noooooo!” I just want to finish it. So, “cut cut cut” it is.

    I’m sorry to hear we’ll be seeing fewer post from you, but of course it makes perfect sense. Good luck making progress on book 3!

    • milliethom says:

      Thanks Joy. Yes, this trilogy thing is a pain, but I’m over a barrel with it, so I’m pushing ahead with it now. I haven’t lost interest, just focus, I think. Too much blogging and too many holidays.:D I’m really pleased your book is progressing so well.I agree, 130K is just a bit too long Lol. Get out the axe, quick, and do keep it as a ‘one off’. Series can come later on. Lou has come to that realisation, too. She’s had a great long series planned for years, but now she’s focusing on her NaNo book too. Thank you for taking time out to comment! Enjoy the last week of NaNo. 🙂

  16. DG MARYOGA says:

    Presumably,you are a remarkable writer,I feel honoured you called in and left your insightful comment on my recent post.I am a completely amateur blogger,I started posting just for fun,but I was lucky to meet some nice and talented bloggers.My mother tongue is not English,I use it as a lingua franca to communicate with my friends I met in Blogsphere.Anyhow,it was nice to meet you too,and to find out about your books.Grateful thanks for coming by.I hope your books get the success they merit.All the very best,
    Doda

    • milliethom says:

      Hello Doda. I’m not a famous writer at all, just someone who loves to write. I use my blog for many different types of posts, many about the historical sites I’ve visited. I loved your post and felt humbled by its content: it was so moving. I found you through Irina’s re-blog and was glad I did. I knew you were not native English speaker, but wou write in English extremely well!
      Thank you for your kind wishes for my books – and very best wishes to you, too.

      • DG MARYOGA says:

        Hi Millie.If you are famous or not is a different thing,I suppose.When I found your comment last night,I very quicly went through some of your posts,which are of great historical value,and I found them very well organised and professionally written.Besides,I knew that you had visited me by means of Irina who had reblogged it,because each time I commented on one of her posts,I had noticed your long and rich comments too.Thank you so much for appreciating my efforts and for following my blog.I follow back,but I read that you’ll have a breaker.Thanks kindly,I’ll be looking forward to your new work.Best,
        Doda

      • milliethom says:

        Thank you for following me back, Doda! I hope to get on with my book a lot more from now on, but I’ll be on my blog perhaps once a week. I’m not having a complete break just yet. I’ll try to keep in touch with you as often as I can. 🙂

      • DG MARYOGA says:

        Thank you dear Millie ! I will try too,although it will be a bit difficult for us during the holy season.CU again 🙂

  17. ChristineR says:

    I don’t think I would have loved your Books One and Two without Eadwulf’s story, Millie, so I’m glad you added him in and extended into a trilogy. Before you ask, I will get my fantasy out mid-April this year. Failure is not an option after all this time.

    Have fun with your writing. Looking forward to it, no pressure. 🙂

  18. Reblogged this on A Good Blog is Hard to Find and commented:
    Check out Millie Thom’s great blog and her trilogy Sons of Kings! Millie is a very interactive blogger and strong supporter of the WordPress community. She is also a great writer and published Author. Give her a visit! -OM
    Note: Comments disabled here. Please visit their blog.

    • milliethom says:

      Many thanks for the reblog, Jason, as well as those kind words about me. I haven’t been on my blog much since New Year as I’ve been trying to get on with my 3rd book. But I miss my blog a lot and keep popping back every few weeks. I saw your pingback very late and feel angry with myself for not having replied. I would love to take you up on your promotional offer. I just haven’t had the time to look into what’s required yet.
      You’re a very giving and generous blogger and were one of the first people to follow me. I’ve alwats appreciated that. I hope all is well with that lovely family of yours. It’s ages since I read your posts about them. My thanks again and very best wishes to you, Jason. Millie

  19. Andy Smart says:

    Saw you on OM. Jason being his usual awesome self. I plan on going fiction next year and it will be at least a trilogy. This is really useful and look forward to reading your most valuable of knowledge re first time writers. Thanks Millie 🙂

    • milliethom says:

      Does this mean you have non fiction books published already, Andy? If so, writing a trilogy as your first fiction should be fine. My trilogy was my first stab at anything, and as an ‘unknown’ I found it hard going. This wasn’t helped by my total ignorance of the whole process, mind you. I’m still finding the promotional side really hard going. I started all social media far too late, for a start. I opened a Twitter account a year ago but did nothing with it until a few weeks ago. As for my blog . . . I didn’t know what a blog was until I was half way through Book 2 of my trilogy. And Facebook’s still a no-go area.
      In some of my posts, I’ve just tried to point out my own mistakes in order to help other first-time authors. It’s been a fun ride – and I’m still bouncing along on it. Blogging has been a great eye-opener for me.
      I’m desperately trying to ‘get on’ with Book 3 now, as well as putting all my flash fiction stories together (and writing more to go with them) in oder to publish as an ebook very soon.
      Whatever you’re writing at present, I hope it’s going really well. Thank you so much for connecting with me. Jason’s a very kind and generous blogger. 🙂

      • Andy Smart says:

        Hi there Millie > Great of you to write back. No I travel write at the moment but really I want to start on fiction. Maybe next year who knows. I dont want to be a writer but I really want to write this book I’ve had in my head for about ten years now, well it’s a series of books. Does that make any sense? ha ha. The whole social media thing going with the writing is something I’m just getting into as well. I started late with everything but what does ‘late’ really mean. Time does things in its own way. Its hard writing and doing social media at the same time. You’ll get there I’m sure. Really appreciate your advice and thanks for following me 🙂

      • milliethom says:

        I’m in the middle of commenting on your great About page atm! I had a feeling you were in the UK. I’m near Lincoln, although I’m originally from Southport. Anyway, I’m told the social media thing is really important if you’re hoping for traditional publishing. (I haven’t yet checked to see whethet your travel books are self or traditionally published). I’m hoping to approach agents once Book 3 is finished and I’ve been told that most are more concerned with how many followers you have on all the social media sites than your actual writing! I’m hoping that’s an exaggeration!
        It will be good to keep in touch. I’ll be interested to see where your writing takes you. (I’ll get back to my commenting on your page now. 😀 )

      • Andy Smart says:

        Hiya Millie > I’m from the South West in the UK mainly Bristol & Somerset and moved to China. Every so often I get a feeling of connection with someone on WP and add them to my RSS. Your deffo one of these people 🙂 Yes re social media I hear the first thing an agent does is google your book and see how much work you’ve done. Phew! Still, I maintain that the process is the best part. Making a few quid would be nice though ha ha.

      • milliethom says:

        Making money is hard and it takes time. I’m only just beginning to have many sales, and to successful authors, it would be seen as not worth bothering with! But, they say that the more books you can get out there, the better. Hence the reason I want to get my FF book published this year, as well as Book 3. If I could stay off my blog long enough, I could do it easily. But I’m hooked on the interactions with people I have on my blog. I haven’t hundreds of followers, but the ones I have got are like old friends. Anyway, after bringing uo six children, I’m used to being broke! 🙂

      • Andy Smart says:

        I must say that since I upgraded my blog in February things have really taken off with my blog. I’m really enjoying it though I know it kills my writing window if I dont control it. Did you grab a look at my post on writing and holding a job down at the same time. There’s me ranting at social media big time LOL. My mates on WP are RSSd at the bottom of my page. Special people that really come and chat to me. Awesome!

      • milliethom says:

        I definitely intend to have a look at some of your posts, so I’ll head for that one first.

      • Andy Smart says:

        Nice one Millie > Oh and I’d love it if you could have a look at my book trailer post 🙂

      • milliethom says:

        I’v just noticed at the top of your blog taht you are published on Amazon. I’ll go and have a look, as soon as I can. Which to go for, though…foul language, or not foul langusage. Now that is a question. Hmmm…. Any suggestions?

      • Andy Smart says:

        Its not foul > in fact my the standards these days it’s really tame. However, the second one is just as good only without the expletives. I do find it funny that most people still go for the first one despite my warnings ha ha

      • milliethom says:

        I thought the word you used was foul. Perhaps I need reading lessons. Sorry, I didn’t mean offence ..I really thought that’s how it was worded. Was it ‘strong’, perhaps? As you say, there are probably many books with a lot worse nowadays.

  20. Pingback: Thoughts on Writing a Trilogy | Toward the within...

  21. AJ.Dixon says:

    Hi, Millie. I’ve just come across your blog via the Opionated Man, and this post has me interested right away!
    As an aspiring novelist myself, I can see that this will be a great blog to follow for advice and information once I get further along with my own work. I just need to get the damn thing written! 😂
    Well done with your research and subsequent books, they sound fantastic! I will look out for them on Amazon and I’ll be back here again soon.

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