It snowed last night, something like eight inches of mingled snow and sleet. We were dug out from Friday's big snow and now we're halfway dug out of last night's . . . and they've upgraded the weather watch to a blizzard warning!
Which means I'm not getting around much these days, and have nothing to report other than that I am, as ever, typing away. ("Always tappety, tappety, tappety! Eh, Mr. Gibbon?" as the Duke of Gloucester once remarked.) So I thought I'd offer some good advice for any gonnabe writers out there:
Why Your First Novel Shouldn't Be Volume One of a Trilogy
Three reasons, basically. One is artistic, the second psychological, and the third pragmatic.
The artistic reason is that at the beginning of your career, you're learning faster and improving more than you ever will again. That, and the fact that the mere act of publishing a book makes you a better writer, means that the prose styles of your first and second volumes will probably be different. Most readers won't pick up on this. But the best ones will. And your very best reader is yourself. It's going to bug you to your dying day.
The psychological reason is that nine chances out of ten, no matter how much you love your first novel when it's fresh out of the oven, several years down the line you're going to end up disliking it. It may not deserve your dislike. But this is an observable phenomenon. Writers wind up being embarrassed by their first. And if your first is volume one of a trilogy, that's three books you're going to end up unhappy about.
The first two reasons are trivial, really. But the pragmatic one is desperately important. Here it is:
The timing of publishing is such that the "numbers" for your first book -- the sales figures, basically, the book's profitability -- won't be available by the time you turn in the second volume. Since your editor liked the first book, the second one is a pretty sure sale. But by the time you've finished writing the third volume, however, your publishing house will know the numbers. And if the numbers aren't good, the book will not be bought.
Which means that book will not be sellable. No other publisher will want to buy volume three of a trilogy whose first two volumes are owned by another house. You'll have to wait until your first two books are out of print, revert the rights, and try to sell the trilogy anew. But that will take years, and your dream-child will at that point be damaged goods. Unless you've subsequently become extremely popular, it will probably still be unsellable.
Imagine how it must feel to have two published novels under your belt and then find you can't sell your third. It must feel exactly like being fired for incompetence. It is going to discourage the hell out of you.
I'm sure there are plenty of people who have started out with trilogies and gone on to have perfectly respectable careers. But my best advice? If at all possible, don't.
Oh, and there's a coda . . .
But if you simply must write a trilogy, then go on ahead with a clean conscience. All the best books are books that the the author had no choice but to write. And all writing advice is like pantyhose -- anybody who tells you that "one size fits all" is lying.
Above: A cat in a lap, and an example for all who are experiencing a snow day.