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.

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