So, I’m currently battling my way through revisions on The Wood Queen.
Not only am I trying to write a sequel – the first time I’ve ever done that – it’s a very specific kind of sequel. It’s a sequel that is more than just ‘Book 2’ of a series: it is, in fact, the middle book of a trilogy. Something about this makes me think longer about each decision I make during this rewrite… It’s basically a lot harder than I thought it would be; and trust me, I thought it would be pretty damn challenging to begin with.
You see, I want to avoid what is known as ‘that Typical Middle Of A Trilogy feel’ – which was brilliantly summed up by Leila at Bookshelves of Doom during a (mostly positive) review for Book 2 of a trilogy, like so:
But it very definitely has that Typical Middle Of A Trilogy feel — less Story For the Sake of Story, more Move Plot and Characters to the Necessary Places for Big Reveal/Final Showdown — which is unfortunate, but, as we all know, not uncommon.
(From this review here.)
I don’t want The Wood Queen to turn into a book that’s all about setting things up for the third and final book. Thankfully, I don’t think that’s what it is so far – I’m pretty certain there’s enough cool stuff happening that will make sure I don’t fall into those potentially tricky-middle-book traps just waiting to trip me up.
Whenever I think of middle books – middle stories – I always end up thinking of a movie. That movie is The Empire Strikes Back. (Why yes, I am about to get my geek on. Please feel free to exit this post now. *g*)
For me, The Empire Strikes Back does everything that a great second act in a trilogy should do. It has all the right ingredients that help it (imho) to avoid Middle Book Syndrome. With that in mind, just what are the awesome ingredients that I need to put into The Wood Queen?
Here’s a handy guide (with thanks to The Empire Strikes Back):
But above all else, here’s where The Empire Strikes Back achieves greatness in my estimation – it constantly makes things worse than you ever thought they could get. I think that’s the way we should be left at the end of any middle book: shocked and reeling. Sure, there will be a victory of sorts, but there will also be something potentially shattering that still needs to be faced – something that, preferably, comes out of the actions of one of our protagonists. Have I done this to Donna in my Book 2? Oh yeah, I think I have. Poor Donna. 😉
What do you think about Middle Book Syndrome? Are there any great examples of a middle-book-in-a-trilogy that you can think of? My mind keeps wandering to films, but I’m trying to make a list of effective YA books, too. Sarah Rees Brennan’s The Demon’s Covenant would be one, for sure. And Cassandra Clare’s City of Ashes…