I recently came to an interesting realization: I am currently in the middle of writing my third “third book.” The first was the last of a trilogy I started in high school, the second is the third installment in a series I started a few years ago, and right now I’m in the trenches of the third book of a YA trilogy.
And I realized something else: third books are the hardest books I have ever written.
I don’t know what it is, but for these three different projects, it all came down to the same exact formula:
Book One – “Eh, it’s not perfect and I’ll need to revise it a million times, but I’m still pretty proud of it.”
Book Two – “Holy crap this is awesome!”
Book Three – “Everything seems to be going oka—WHAT THE HELL IS THIS”
The first books are where you get the lay of the land, the feel of the story, the scope of the characters. The second book is a little more familiar, but still in that lovely stage of discovery.
The third book?
Well, the third book is usually when everything goes to hell, and apparently I go to hell right along with it. “Is this okay? Does this character’s journey make sense? Is this ‘big’ enough? Does it fit with everything that happened in the first two books?”
Not that I don’t think these third books aren’t good, or that I shouldn’t have written them. I just feel that by the third book, I get really tangled up in the world and characters, and it messes with me a bit. All I see is the ending, and instead of strolling to it like I would in the first two books, now I’m sprinting towards it and waving my arms and yelling like a lunatic.
Of course, all of this can be fixed in revisions, and I can address those questions when the first draft is finished. Still, the actual writing of a third book is intimate and challenging, and usually makes me want to rock back and forth while eating lots and lots of ice cream.
But I still love writing them.