Please welcome Gerrard Cowan to The Qwillery as part of the 2015 Debut Author Challenge Guest Blogs. The Machinery will be published by Harper Voyager UK on September 10, 2015.
The beginning, middle and end of planning a trilogy
I always knew I wanted my fantasy novel, The Machinery, to be the first in a trilogy. I liked the clarity of it: the sense of a beginning, a middle and an end.
The scale of the story provides a breadth of opportunities, but there have also been challenges I’m only just starting to comprehend.
After seven years of thumping away on a keyboard, killing off characters major and minor, inventing and destroying subplots, I am done with Book One. I sent in the final copy edits of The Machinery a few weeks ago, though I probably could have kept tweaking it for the rest of my natural existence. It’s out of my hands, and from September 10th it will have to make its own way in the world.
I’m now deep into the writing of Book Two, The Strategist, which should be ready to send to HarperVoyager in a couple of months time. I suppose that puts me about halfway through the entire project; once The Strategist is done, I’ll move straight on to the as-yet-untitled Book Three.
In a way, writing the first book is fairly easy. In my case, The Machinery was also my first novel, so at the beginning I was really writing it for myself. I was the only person who ever saw it, apart from a few friends and family members who cast their eyes over the early drafts. I had the benefit of time, as no one was expecting the novel by a certain deadline. However, I was also only beginning to develop my own writing routine, so there was a lot of trial and error before I really got into the rhythm of it.
I found that there are certain challenges unique to writing a book that is intended to be one of a series. If you’re writing a standalone novel, everything is contained within its pages. You don’t have to worry about the effect a certain tweak might have on the narrative of later books. This is true even if you think there might be a sequel on the cards later.
To an extent, the same rules apply when you’re writing the first novel of a planned trilogy, especially when that novel is your first crack at publishing in general. If HV hadn’t picked up The Machinery, I’m not sure I would be writing the second book right now. Maybe I would have gone down the self-publishing route – I really don’t know. The point is that I wrote the first book with the second book in the back of my mind, not at the front of my thoughts.
Of course, that all changed when I signed a deal for three books. As I reworked and edited the Machinery, I had to consider the impact every decision might have on the next two novels. This added a whole new layer of complexity.
Writing the second book is trickier still. Not only do you have to keep in mind the coming events of Book Three; just as importantly, you are required to remember the events of Book One. Now, obviously you remember the major twists and turns. However, you also need to think about the details: the colour of someone’s eyes, any injuries they may have sustained in the previous book, the type of food they hate, etc.
The second book also poses more serious challenges. The first book in a trilogy should suck the reader in, and the third book should be the culmination of everything you’ve been building towards. But the second book is a bridge, across which the narrative flows from Book One to Book Three. It’s essential to maintain a balance between building the foundations of Book Three and ensuring that the second book is exciting and interesting as a standalone novel.
I haven’t come to Book Three yet, but I can already see the pitfalls that lie ahead. It’s like reaching the end of an expedition, when you can see the destination; you’d better hope you brought the right equipment to take you the last few steps up the mountain. If you laid things out wrong in books one and two, there’s not much you can do about it now. Those books are not only written – they’re out there for all to see.
All that being said, I have thoroughly enjoyed it. As I said at the beginning, the real pleasure is in the sheer range of possibilities that writing a trilogy provides. In the end, it’s been best for me to see it as one novel, broken into three books; if you look at the narrative as a single entity – which is what it is – then it somehow becomes less daunting.
I’m not going to take much of a break between finishing The Strategist and moving on to Book Three. Why would I? I would only be two-thirds of the way through my novel.
The Machinery Trilogy 1
Harper Voyager UK, September 10, 2015
eBook, 400 pages
For ten millennia, the leaders of the Overland have been Selected by the Machinery, an omnipotent machine gifted to their world in darker days.
The city has thrived in arts, science and war, crushing all enemies and expanding to encompass the entire Plateau.
But the Overland is not at ease, for the Machinery came with the Prophecy: it will break in the 10,000th year, Selecting just one leader who will bring Ruin to the world. And with the death of Strategist Kane, a Selection is set to occur…
For Apprentice Watcher Katrina Paprissi, the date has special significance. Life hasn’t been the same since she witnessed the kidnapping of her brother Alexander, the only person on the Plateau who knew the meaning of the Prophecy.
When the opportunity arises to find her brother, Katrina must travel into the depths of the Underland, the home of the Machinery, to confront the Operator himself and discover just what makes the world work…
Gerrard Cowan is a writer and editor from Derry, in the North West of Ireland. His debut fantasy novel, The Machinery, will be published by HarperVoyager UK in September 2015. It is the first in a trilogy.
His first known work was a collection of poems on monsters, written for Halloween when he was eight; it is sadly lost to civilisation.