Writing Trilogies: Episodes, Books or Chapters?

by Todd Rogers
(Sacramento, CA USA)

Question: I have been afraid to ask this question for fear that it would be too convoluted, so I will take a cleansing breath real quick and then attempt to attack this question head-on.


I have a story that I have mentioned here before in other questions, the working titled story,"My Father's Invention" (see "Selecting A Winning Title).

This story was originally designed to be a trilogy; each part consisting of a number of "episodes", with the final episode being a book, told from the first person viewpoint of the protagonist hero.

The next leg of the trilogy would then be told by the protagonist's son, again, following episodic format, ending in a book before the torch is passed to the final leg of the trilogy told from the viewpoint of the 2nd protagonist's son (or the original protagonists grandson).

SO! What I have is a multi-generational trilogy consisting of a total of 146 episodes all named, and about 70% have story synopses created to give me direction for the throughline(s).

What is better? Selecting a given number of episodes combining them into a book format effectively making the episodes chapters, or should I make each episode its own book?

I can easily do either.

Of course, there is the task of figuring out book length and word count, in which case, I am debating which way is best to tell the story to its fullest potential, including considering if I should change to third person rather than first.

Also, there is trying to figure out how long it will take to write a book of approximately 200pgs (if that isn't itself too long) or however many pages 100,000 words might create.

What is your take?

Answer: Similar to the "world-building disease" is the "epic history building disease." (J.R.R. Tolkein suffered from both.) That's when a writer spends years planning a richly detailed history of a world, including the outlines of many, many stories covering long periods of history, yet never actually writes one of them.

Don't fall victim to this.

Your first priority should be to have one book completed and published. Unless that happens, the rest of the story might never be written anyway.

So while it's good to know what happens before and after, I would suggest you pick one complete story arc that you can tell in novel length and write it. You may either choose am episode from the middle of the series, or a combination of episodes that make up one complete arc. (Only you know how much story there is to tell in these episodes.)

I would also suggest you do what George Lucas did when he originally outlined nine Star Wars stories: begin with the story or the character that the audience will find most compelling, which is probably the one that intrigues you the most.

Also, don't be surprised if the larger story changes with the telling of the first installment.

Click here to post comments

Join in and submit your own question/topic! It's easy to do. How? Simply click here to return to Questions About Novel Writing.

 Step-by-Step Novel Planning Workbook

NEW! Make Money Writing Nonfiction Articles

"I've read more than fifty books on writing, writing novels, etc., but your website has the most useful and practical guidance. Now that I understand how a novel is structured, I will rewrite mine, confident that it will be a more interesting novel." - Lloyd Edwards

"Thanks to your "Create a Plot Outline in 8 Easy Steps," I was able to take a story that I simply just fooled around with and went willy nilly all over, into a clearly defined, intriguing battle where two characters fight to keep their relationship intact, and try to find a balance in control of themselves and their lives. Thanks to you, I'm not ashamed of the poor organization of my writing." - Nommanic Ragus

"I am so glad I found your site. It has helped me in so many ways, and has given me more confidence about myself and my work. Thank you for making this valuable resource, for me and my fellow writers. Perhaps you'll hear about me someday...I'll owe it to you." - Ruth, Milton, U.S.A.

"I never knew what to do with all the characters in my head, but since discovering Dramatica I am writing again in my spare time. Thank you for making this available. Yes, it is a bit complex, and it does take time, but I love it because it works." - Colin Shoeman

"I came across your website by chance. It is a plethora of knowledge, written in a simplistic way to help aspiring writers. I truly appreciate all of the information you have provided to help me successfully (relative term) write my novel. Thank you very much!" - Leo T. Rollins

"I can honestly say that this is the first website that is really helpful. You manage to answer complex questions in relatively short articles and with really intelligent answers. Thank you for taking the time to write these articles and sharing them so generously." - Chrystelle Nash

"...had no idea that a simple click would give me such a wealth of valuable information. The site not only offered extremely clear and helpful instructions but was a very enjoyable read as well. The education from your wonderful site has made me a better writer and your words have inspired me to get back to work on my novel. I wish to give you a heartfelt thanks for How to Write a Book Now, sir." -- Mike Chiero