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Would you finish writing a trilogy if a publisher didn't accept your first novel?

Discussion in 'Publishing' started by Lorna, Aug 21, 2012.

  1. Lorna

    Lorna Inkling

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    I haven't got to this point yet, but this a question that's been playing on my mind. I've been working on a trilogy for over two years and since February this year have been focusing on writing the first novel and getting it up to a good enough standard to start looking for an agent / publisher. I'm hoping to complete it by the end of the year.

    If you were in a similar situation and your novel was rejected by a good number of agents / publishers would you take this as a message that your project was a waste of time and begin something else? Or would you decide that even if your novel does not fit in with the current market and those agents / publishers tastes your work still has value, self publish and press on?

    My thoughts at the moment would be that after careful reassessment for fundamental flaws - plot holes etc. I'd do the latter.
     
    Last edited: Aug 21, 2012
  2. Philip Overby

    Philip Overby Staff Article Team

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    Personally, I tend to shy away from wanting to write a series for my first couple of books. I just have an aversion to doing that even though some of my earlier efforts (that were aborted) were planned series. I tend to want to go the way of Joe Abercrombie (although he did write a trilogy), and do stand-alone books set in the same world. Characters can make "cameos" from other books, but they're not all tied together. That way if several publishers don't like one book, then I won't have two or more other books in the same storyline that would be essentially useless.

    I'm all for series though. I enjoy reading series and I'd like to do my own eventually, just not for my first major outing.

    If self-publishing is your thing and you have the passion to really try to get it out there, then I'd suggest going that route if other publishers pass on it.
     
    Lorna likes this.
  3. TWErvin2

    TWErvin2 Auror

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    Lorna,

    I can relay to you, my experience, that might help you as you move forward.

    I've written one novel (a SF novel) that has made its way out of the slush pile with two large publishing houses. It's currently with one now, on the managing editor's desk (well in the electronic queue) awaiting a full read and decision. (Glaciers move faster than many things in traditional publishing). I don't write trilogies, but more along the lines of series. I wrote the first three chapters of the next novel in the series (the first novel is standalone), to keep the same voice and tone, etc., and to make it easier to pick up the project. It's easier if something is started than beginning anew after a long time away. I also have an outline/information of where the 2nd novel will go.

    With my first published fantasy novel (Flank Hawk), it took several times getting out of the slush pile before it was finally accepted by a publisher. It too was written as a standalone, but with the potential of a series. I had the idea and information for the next novel in a file, but I did not start writing it (Blood Sword) until after the first novel was accepted. While waiting for Flank Hawk to find a home, I worked on writing short stories and some other projects. And I did not begin Soul Forge (the third novel in the First Civilization's Legacy Series) until Blood Sword was accepted for publication.

    I felt that if the first novel in a planned series couldn't sell, there was little reason to expend time and energy on other novels in that world/with those characters. I could work on something new, realizing that if I found success with the new project, those other novels might eventually find a home with that publisher, or another publisher, once a successful track record/readerhsip is established.

    Some folks will certainly chime in here stating that you should self-publish, especially if you cannot find a publisher. That's a viable option, and nothing wrong with it. It is an opporutnity that has much more potential than it did even four or five years ago.

    If your heart is in writing a trilogy, I think that is something to consider as you move forward. You're going to spend a lot of time writing and revising and editing. If your heart isn't in a project, the chances of having the motivation to finish it, especially if there is not guarantee that a publisher will pick it up, is going to be difficult to keep up. You're going to probably read and revise and edit the first novel at least six or eight times.

    Good luck as you move forward. If you write a compelling story, one that readers will find interesting, it'll eventually find a publishing home. If it doesn't, you can give it that home via self-publishing.
     
    PrincessaMiranda, JonSnow and Lorna like this.
  4. Chilari

    Chilari Staff Moderator

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    In principal, I'd like to think I'd keep writing, but I think in practice I'd be demoralised. What I'm working on now is designed to stand alone, but there are two additional stories that would follow if it is a success. I don't want to put all my eggs in one basket, partly because I'm worried I won't finish this story, partly because I don't know if it will sell, and partly because I always have plenty of other ideas and concepts and if I lose passion for it in favour of another story I don't want to leave readers hanging. So my plan, I think, is to allow the space for a sequel without making it look like there will definitely be one.

    Having said that, I haven't actually decided yet whether to try traditional publishing first or self-pub straight away. I would ideally do some research into them before making that decision. So the whole question might become moot.
     
    Lorna likes this.
  5. yachtcaptcolby

    yachtcaptcolby Minstrel

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    This is one advantage to self-publishing: if you want to write a trilogy, you write the trilogy and put it out there. No waiting for someone to notice your first book, decide to take a chance on it, and like it enough to offer to publish the rest of your work. Granted, there's a lot to consider when self-publishing (finding an editor, finding a cover artist, laying out and designing your final product, marketing yourself...), but if you want to just write what you want to write and get it out there, it's the way to go.
     
    Lorna likes this.
  6. Lorna

    Lorna Inkling

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    Thanks for your replies everybody. What sensible people you are.

    @Phil

    Perhaps if I'd come to this website and listenened to what sensible people do instead of deciding to go on the crazy mission of creating a whole world two years ago I would have been more cautious and not ended up in in a possible predicament.

    @TWErwin2

    This really puts me off the idea of traditional publishing. I have seen sites with 5 month waiting lists, I'm guessing this is the case even if you go through an agent. Eek. I am a seriously impatient person.

    This seems like a good idea. My only problem is after taking a month or so off this damn series I get pulled back to it. I really struggle to write anything else with as much passion.

    @Chilari

    That is the opposite of my problem. I can't put the bl**dy thing down. If impatience is my worst quality, I'd probably say motivation's my best (hang on a moment, or is that obsessiveness?)

    I know if this novel didn't get taken by a publisher it would be many years (if ever) before I wrote a different novel and attempted to get it published again, knowing how much work's gone into it, and how much I've given up (horse, car, social life) to buy the time to write it. I don't think I'd be able to move on and put my heart into anything else until the series was complete either.

    @yachtcahtcolby

    Now self-publishing's beginning to sound more appealling... (My main issue with self-publishing is formatting. I just know I'd make a huge mess. Plus I can't even persuade people to buy raffle tickets. However am I going to market a book?).

    I think at this rate I'm going to home print it, home bind it, stick a copy in my local library and call myself published. End of. :)
     
    Last edited: Aug 21, 2012
  7. Sheilawisz

    Sheilawisz Queen of Titania Moderator

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    Lorna, if I had sent my very first Fantasy novel to a publisher just to see it getting rejected, I would not have cared: I would have continued to write the second novel and then the third, because I love my story, I love my characters, I love my worlds and I write for myself first, and for possible publishers second.

    In fact, I am glad that I never sent my first novel to any publisher...

    Let's say that they would have accepted and published it, in the version that it was back then. Today I would feel terrible, because my first novel has evolved a lot and today it's much better than it was when I finished it!!

    I think that we should not feel a hurry to publish our works =)
     
    Lorna likes this.
  8. Zero Angel

    Zero Angel Auror

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    I'd say the answer to your question is another question:

    Are you writing to sell your work or are you writing to tell your stories?

    If it is the former, then no, if it is the latter, then yes.

    I personally would finish. I don't write stories I'm not interested in, and from the sound of your posts, you feel the same way with your stories. If you don't get picked up, then make sure that you think it is a quality work and publish yourself.
     
    boboratory likes this.
  9. JonSnow

    JonSnow Troubadour

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    I have re-written the first half of my first book at least a half dozen times over the past decade. And each time, my writing gets better and my story deepens. For new writers, I think this is fantastic advice. Don't rush it. Finish it, and try to publish it when the work is ready (if it ever gets to that point) to be published. But then again, I am writing for the pure satisfaction of creating something. If I never get published at all, I won't be let down. If I do, it will be gravy.
     
    Lorna likes this.
  10. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

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    I would keep writing it. If I finished the first one it means I believe in the story. A novel could bounce around for a couple of years getting rejections before selling. So unless you jump to another project, you'd be well into the second book, or even finished with it potentially, before you know whether the first will sell. It seems to me the best course is simply to go by whether you believe in the story. If so, then you write it.
     
    Lorna likes this.
  11. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

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    I think it would depend on whether you had any faith in the story or finished it just to finish it.

    If you write the second and third book, it should help you to revise and market the first. But if it's just a writing exercise that you have no faith in, then it's best to move on.

    Of course, some things fall in between, and after the hurdle-and-reality-check of writing the first book, it might be a good idea to set the series aside, try something else for a bit, and get a little perspective.
     
  12. Penpilot

    Penpilot Staff Article Team

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    Personally, my preference is to write stand alone novels with the potential to be expanded. I remember reading some where on the interwebzzz, the always reliable interwebzzz, :p that a completed series of books is a more attractive package than the first in a series by itself. The eason is that everything is there. The publisher won't have to wait for the author to finish the subsequent books ... if they finish at all.

    Now if it were me, I'd only complete the first book, but I'd spend time scribbling down all the ideas I want to put in the rest of the books and sketch out an outline of the plots. If I do an outline with enough detail, it's almost as good as writing the books without spending the time writing them. That way if the first book gets picked up, I could just jump back in to the series without any doubt as to where its going.

    The reason I like to write stand-alones is because, for now, I think it's better for me as a writer to continually build stories from scratch. I want to focus on writing a good book before I move up to writing a good series. But that's me and my approach.

    Another thing to consider is, who says the next books in the series have to be totally dependant on the first one. There's always the option of writing the next books in the series as stand-alones. If the second book sells then you could say I have a prequel and a sequel ready.
     
  13. Lorna

    Lorna Inkling

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    @Shielawitz

    @Steerpike

    That's how I feel about my story. I believe in it. I'm going to give it the best chance I can by making sure it's totally up to scratch before I attempt to publish it in any way. But I'm going to complete it. If it doesn't fit the market now, that doesn't mean somebody won't pick it up in 10 - 20 or even 100 years time and appreciate it. I think if it delighted or inspired anybody I'd be very happy.
     
  14. The Dark One

    The Dark One Auror

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    No.

    With the caveat that I wouldn't give up if a publisher passed...but if lots of publishers passed? Life's too short and it's time to listen to what the experts are telling you.

    A few months ago I had an article published in the New South Wales Writers' Centre magazine called: "The Importance of Being Rejected: The Destiny Police and the Digital Future" My basic point was that rejection serves a quasi-Darwinian purpose in that it forces you to lift your game again and again to finally become the writer you are capable of evolving into.

    When I completed my first novel (in 1997) I thought it was so obviously a work of pure genius that I simply assumed that my life would change profoundly as soon as the first publisher saw it. Over a hundred rejections later, I can honestly say I have improved out of sight as a writer - and how do I know? Because I can't open that first book these days without vomiting blood. It had some great ideas but the writing was appalling - I have improved enough to recognise how dreadful that first book was.

    That's why self-publishing has a bad name in some circles. I don't deny there are some great self-published books (it's so hard to get trad publishers to pay attention, so why not self-publish?), but so many frustrated authors are self-publishing rejected first drafts - just because they can - and despite the fact that they have not yet evolved into the writer they are capable of becoming.

    If it were me, I'd be polishing that first story and trying to get some professional feedback before wasting too much precious writing time on projects that are yet to be vindicated by a first volume acceptance.
     
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  15. Lorna

    Lorna Inkling

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    Eek, that's got a totalitarian ring.

    I'm happy to take the advice of other writers. But not to let those in charge of the market ('The Destiny Police') determine my fate or the fate of what I write. From the current best sellers and a good half of what makes it onto the shelves, this is not judged by literary quality but what is marketable to the masses. For example Fifty Shades of Grey.

    I think it is a writer's obligation to hone their skills by reading good quality literature, listening to the critiques of their peers and not trying to publish in any way until the work is of a publishable standard. According to the traditions of Ancient Britain, it takes 12 years to make a Bard. From what I've read on this site, on reflection I'm inclined to believe this is around the time it takes somebody to get their writing up to a standard where it is of value to others. It's every writers duty to develop their potential to its fullest before they publish their work. So perhaps I'm being too hasty with my novel.

    I must say, the direction of this conversation is now pushing me further toward making self-publishing in the distant future my aim. I've got a few friends talking about forming a co-operative...
     
    Last edited: Aug 25, 2012
  16. Lorna

    Lorna Inkling

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    On the other hand if I wanted to go with a traditional publisher I would only choose one whose values I agreed with. I'd make sure I knew exactly what they stood for and have read as many works by their authors as possible before I submitted.
     
  17. The Dark One

    The Dark One Auror

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    You do realise why I call them the Destiny Police I hope...

    In any case, there is no more valuable advice than the advice of a publishing professional telling you, in detail, why they're not publishing your work. Presuming, of course, that they're a publisher you admire and that you believe your work belongs in their stable...when they start to actually spend real time talking or writing to you - as opposed to just the dreaded card with a box ticked (Not suitable for our list at this time etc) - that's when you're getting close. Really think about what they're saying to you and whether you're prepared to put in the extra work to achieve what they're asking of you.

    Just because a person writes for 12 years plus doesn't guarantee they're improving. They might be making the same mistakes again and again. I can think of two unpublished writers I know (they're not on this forum so they won't be reading this) - they've both been writing for 20 years plus and, while they both have some skill with words and setting up premises, neither are any good at telling a novel-length story which has the power to engage a reader and keep their attention. And quite frankly, they're not interested in learning how because they fear that taking advice will somehow spoil the purity of their muse.

    That's fine...as long as you don't care whether or not you have an audience.
     
    Last edited: Aug 25, 2012
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  18. Lorna

    Lorna Inkling

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    @ The Dark One

    Finding a publisher where their work fits and receiving professional feedback and help must be every writer's dream. I imagine this takes a combination of talent and luck. It sounds like you had both and hit the jackpot.

    But what about people who are talented, open to critique and desire to improve but haven't found their niche? Is it only professionals who can aid writers up onto the rung of recognition or is there a way of getting there by learning from one's own experiences and the experiences and work of others?
     
  19. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

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    If you want to do well, you've got to find critiquers who know what they're talking about, and you'd be crazy to ignore them. The reality is that such people are hard to find, picky about who they work with, and drowned out by wannabes. A good critique talks about scene structure, pacing and character development. A lousy critique talks about word choice, showing-not-telling, and whether or not you write in the style they like most. Why? A good critiquer knows that you need to do enough rewriting to make discussions about your sentence structure worthless, and once your scene is structured well, it's easier to address those issues with a line edit than a critique.

    In a nutshell, you've got to find people who think more like editors and less like High School writing counselors. A writing counselor tries to nudge you into thinking about it differently and doing something better. An editor just wants to fix it. And you should be a good enough writer to see what he's doing, or why he wants you to change something, without having everything explained at length. Believe me, the explanations would never end.

    Self-Publishing can be great, but The Dark One is dead-on about the value of listening to people who know what works and what doesn't, even and especially the people rejecting your story. If they send you a detailed description of what's wrong with your story, pay attention. Good advice is hard to find.
     
    Last edited: Aug 25, 2012
    Lorna likes this.
  20. Lorna

    Lorna Inkling

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    @Devor

    Thanks for this. I've just realised that at the moment my critiques fit into the lousy category.

    Whilst finding someone professional to critque your work would be a gem these are also qualities writers can work on, critiquing others and critiquing their own work, right?
     
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