The trilogy wait


A couple of weeks ago I finished reading Cassandra Clare’s first trilogy in The Mortal Instruments world: City of Bones, City of Ashes, City of Glass. This is a YA fantasy series I had heard good things about, and I wasnt disappointed.

The thing is there is a second trilogy taking up where the first left off. The first book of the new trilogy has already been released, the second will be out in May of next year, and the third presumably sometime after that. (Clare is also in the middle of a prequel trilogy.) I was pretty satisfied by the first trilogys ending, and I really am not a very patient person when it comes to story. If the sequel trilogy were out in its entirety now, I would read it, but since it isnt, I wont. I don t like being left hanging.

Of course this is no ones problem but my own. I understand the reasons why trilogies/series are not written to completion before being published in parts.

Still, the Mortal Instruments experience reminds me of reading Dan Simmonss Hyperion, which for some reason I didnt know had three more books before the conclusion. Luckily all four books had been published when I read the first one, so I bought the others and saw the story to its end without delay.

I discovered Philip Pullmans His Dark Materials trilogy during the release of the second book, The Subtle Knife. I had to waitimpatientlyto read The Amber Spyglass. It was a long, but totally worthwhile, wait.

And then there were the years where Battlestar Galactica (the new one) and Lost were on TV. I remember that period as being a pretty rich one in my life for consuming story.

Of course this Star Wars fan had a really hard time waiting for George Lucas to finish his saga.

Do I even have to mention Harry Potter?

My point is more than a confessed dislike of delayed endings. Besides just being driven mad by the wait, I come up with my own ideas and speculations about what should happen. The more time I wait, the more speculation. A writer who can produce something even better than I imagined is the writer whose story I recommend to everyone I know. In many ways, this puts a heavy burden on a writer to outsmart all those people who, like me, will love the world theyve been introduced to and love to speculate within it.

Ive been very pleased with some of the endings Ive waited for. Not pleased with others. And I cant help but wonder if my reaction would have been different, in either direction, had I been able to experience the whole story without waiting.

As a writer of YA fantasy and science fiction, I feel the pressure to trilogize/serialize. This scares me because I dont know that I can write a final chapter better than the composite masterpiece of all my waiting readers.

7 Responses to “The trilogy wait”

  1. Jen, I can beat your wait . . .

    My favorite author, even though I havent read her work since high school, is still (and will probably always be) Melanie Rawn. Her stories, of all the books Ive read, have had the most profound impact on me with regard to characterization. Shes the reason I became a writer who considers the relationships between characters, and their ensuing dialogue, more important than setting or even world-building.

    Her Sunrunner series blew me away, even when I kind of hated what she did in the second trilogy. I thought she couldnt top it til her Exiles trilogy started. Holy moly, those books were a step above her Sunrunner story. And the difference? The world shed created. I just remember the fast-paced desperation of the characters and the building war that was coming. I finished the second book in high school while the third was pending release. It is titled The Capitals Tower.


    That still hasnt come out yet.

    Can I say I hate you, Ms. Rawn? ;-)

    If she ever wrote it, would I read it? Hell yeah. In a second. I honestly cant begin to guess where shes going to take it, and I love those characters so much Im dying to see how she tortures them some more.

    On the other hand, would I do this nowadays for a new author?

    Probably not.

    Im an immersion reader. When Im reading a fantasy series I breathe and live it. Work, eating, sleeping, these are all obstacles in my obsession which is to read the next page. Ive even considered whether or not I could read while driving. (I havent risked it yet, though.) My problem with going back to a trilogy is that Ive lost that immersion. As time passes between books I forget some of the little details, the exact points of some of the minor plots, and to me, thats unacceptable. Fantasy authors are famous have having a million little story threads and weaving them all together. I personally feel like Im not getting the most out of the latest book if I dont have a firm grasp on all of the threads. Sure, I could read it, but the book would mean SO MUCH MORE if I could remember every exact detail.

    So, the perfectionist in me wants to go back to the earlier books and reread them so that I can be that immersed again in the world and appreciate the beauty of the next book. But, thats where my laziness kicks in. Im not a big rereader, so thats what keeps me from picking up the latest book in a trilogy after a wait. (I think this is a personal issue of mine, though ;-) )

    Considering that youve always surprised me with your work, Jen, I have zero doubt that you could easily out compete the combined creativity of your readers. Theyd always want to see where youd take it next. :)

    • Jen says:

      Your point about being an immersion reader is the same point I would have made if I were better at blogging. :) I don’t much like re-reading (unless, of course, it’s Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse), and I agree that I get more out of a sequel if the multiple threads and details are fresh. I’m not so good sometimes at remembering (as you know), so I don’t much like to be in the middle of a pivotal passage and think, “I know this was important in the previous book, but I read it a year ago, and I just can’t remember what happened.”

      I’m not familiar with Melanie Rawn. Is she still writing at all?

  2. PS. I love those covers for the Mortal Instruments trilogy!


  3. I’ve been wondering where you were at! Haven’t heard from you in a while!

    I’m rather the opposite. I need time to process between books and between seasons (especially while reading) that even if I have the whole series in front of me, I wait a WHILE between installments. Part of it is that I want the experience to last. But also I don’t want to be so immersed in the series or trilogy that I start becoming TOO used to the style and therefore become hyper-critical over things I wouldn’t notice otherwise.

    So I don’t mind the wait. I love a good cliffhanger, and definitely don’t like waiting indefinitely, but I’ll deal. :)

    • Jen says:

      I had a combination computer meltdown (I now have a new one) and a couple of weeks beta critiquing an SHU alumn’s novel (a very enjoyable read).

      I find it so interesting that your experience is enhanced by waiting, although I know you do wait because I read Calico Reaction faithfully. :) One advantage to reading a series over time is just as you say–the experience lasts. It takes a lot for this reader to get into a new sf/f world with all its rules and intricacies, so once I’m there, I like staying.

      But you will never get me to love cliffhangers!

      • One problem I have, and I think you touched on it here, is that when I feel I have a satisfying ending, I don’t feel the need to read more, so if I learn a book has a sequel or something, I kind of dread it, because I don’t want the author to go around mucking up my enjoyment of the characters and the world. Does that make sense?

        That said, what you mention about the dangers of waiting: speculating what’s going to happen and then hoping the authors do something BETTER. Because let’s face it, the standard reader/viewer probably won’t come up with something better, but those of us who really think about this stuff all the time? Yeah… I can think of so many ways the Star Wars prequels could’ve been better, and I can think of so many things they could’ve done better with the final half of Battlestar’s last season. :)

        I do hate waiting when it’s obvious that whoever’s making you wait is just trying to squeeze more money out of you. Like breaking up the final season of BSG into TWO YEARS, so that they could release that extra dvd set. Same thing happened to Caprica. That’ll sour me on a series really, really fast.

  4. Shara, I 100% agree with this!

    “I dont feel the need to read more, so if I learn a book has a sequel or something, I kind of dread it, because I dont want the author to go around mucking up my enjoyment of the characters and the world”

    I have left things unfinished for that reason on more than one occassion, usually tv shows which are more likely to have the “drawing it out for money” issue than books.

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The man who can drive himself further once the effort gets painful is the man who will win.

— Roger Bannister