In an earlier post, I talked about how you don’t have to settle for less with your writing (or your anything, really). You can always put in the work to make it better, if you want.

Related to that: YOU can put in the work to make it better. And you’ll have to, because no one else will do it for you.

That’s definitely one lesson that’s been reinforced for me lately. While I craft my proposals for The Major Publisher That’s Interested in Twenty-Somewhere (there’s got to be a shorter way to say that…) I’ve been querying agents again. And the response I’m getting from many of them is that my story sounds great and they’d love to see the manuscript. When I’m done revising it for TheMajPub.

Oh. Okay.

I was kind of hoping to get an agent to help me work on those revisions. (By “help” I mean giving me feedback and corresponding with TheMajPub, not the actual writing of course.) Now, I can do it on my own — and apparently I will — but I’m one of those authors who is really looking forward to having an agent, someone with industry experience to guide me, a second opinion on my story and my writing. I view agents as little publishing angels, not grubby middlemen I wish I could do without.

(Sadly and strangely, yes, some authors hold the latter opinion.)

Alas, agents view me as an unproven writer with a good idea but no concrete manuscript or offer. And I can’t fault them for that. I guess technically that’s what I am.

Until I can go back to them with good news from TheMajPub and/or a fabulous ms, I am depending on family and friends (like y’all!) to cheer me on and give me counsel. There are also a lot of great resources for aspiring writers online. Right now I’m using Kathy Carmichael’s workshop on writing a synopsis to help turn my notes into something solid for TheMajPub. (Found via Diana Peterfreund.)

For me, one of the big debates has been whether to write 1 book featuring 3 girls at the same time, or 3 books featuring 1 girl at a time. Ultimately I’ll be offering TheMajPub both options, and I think either one could work really well. But Twenty-Somewhere started as a story about 3 girlfriends going through these life experiences “together,” even though they were far apart. And part of me thinks that’s how it should stay…

Then again, in working on the proposals, I’ve been able to flesh out more of each girl’s conflicts when they get a whole book to themselves…

So it’s sort of a toss-up.

What do you guys think? 1 book with 3 girls, a la Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants? Or a trilogy tackling 1 girl at a time, much like Nora Roberts does? Of course, TheMajPub might want Book 1 of the trilogy but not commit to the other 2… but let’s not get ahead of ourselves, shall we?

23 responses to “2 is better than 1, but what about 3?”

  1. Todd Newton Avatar

    Sounds like you should file this under Arithmetic, rather than Reading/Writing. Snoogans.

    Do trilogies even exist outside SFF??? This is news to me.

    Okay, okay, seriously. Off the top of my head, one book with three perspectives appeals more to me as a reader, however, if done “right” three books covering the same events through three distinct characters’ eyes also appeals to me. I have no doubt you could be successful at either one, so my advice would be to go with your gut. Besides, if you don’t have 100% confidence in the idea and how you’re doing it, neither will TheMajPub, right?

    Good luck on your continued Agent search.
    .-= • Recent post by Todd Newton: Friends, Followers, and Fans: The Quest for an Audience =-.

  2. Les Avatar

    Ooh I dunno. Wouldn’t it be hard to separate the girls since their stories to intertwine a fair bit? That’s a tough choice :(
    .-= • Recent post by Les: iPhone Photo Apps =-.

  3. Kristan Avatar

    Oh, to clarify: the girls really only have 1 directly intersecting event. Like Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, they mostly do their own things, but the themes of the stories are connected.

    That’s how 20SW written now, and how it would be written (although maybe with another intersection or two) in the 3-girls-1-book version.

    For a trilogy, it would be sequential events, not the same events told from the differing point of views. And the 2 girls not “starring” would still be involved, just not co-protagonists.

  4. Todd Newton Avatar

    Okay, so the chronology would continue through all three books, is that right? I think I get it. That works too, obviously, probably better than what I described. :D
    .-= • Recent post by Todd Newton: Friends, Followers, and Fans: The Quest for an Audience =-.

  5. Pseudo Avatar

    Series are big in the young adult market…

    How about each book focuses on one girl, but still has intersecting scenes with the others?
    .-= • Recent post by Pseudo: Travel Tip Thursday: Straight up and to the Point =-.

  6. T.S. Bazelli Avatar

    Hmm! Would you have enough material to stretch the three story lines into 3 books? Or would it make a more action packed single book? Just things to consider, but not much advice to help you in your dilemma!
    .-= • Recent post by T.S. Bazelli: The Metal Girl =-.

  7. Kristan Avatar


    Yeah, and it’s the age group right above YA, so I think that could be appealing… And I agree there would have to be more intersections if they have separate books.

    Oh, there’s plenty of material. ;) I think the the themes would be explored to a fuller extent in a book with all 3 of them together, but the characters would be explored to a fuller extent in a book with just 1 at a time. (Because the 3 girls each represent different aspects of the main themes, so you can compare/contrast when they’re together.)

  8. Jon Avatar

    I think you’ll make the right choice no matter what, but I do like the 3 Girls plus 1 Story idea better right now. I think it may be hard to tackle three separate story lines ala Nora Roberts versus having a very tightly packed major story featuring each character. I’m thinking how they do Sex and the City. Not that I ever watched that show, haha.
    .-= • Recent post by Jon: Music First, Words Later =-.

  9. Diana Peterfreund Avatar

    I think what the agents are saying is they don’t want to see an unfinished version of your novel. Lots of agents talk about how it’s a pet peeve of theirs to request a full manuscript and then have the writer contact them again and say, “Well, I’ve revised it — read THIS version.” and then “I’ve revised it again, read THIS version,” and so on.

    The other issue is that as far as they’re concerned, you’ve already *gotten* feedback, and it’s feedback a lot more helpful than anything they can give, because it’s coming from an actual acquisitions team. There are a lot of folks who will tell you NEVER to revise on an agents’ say-so, but only on an editors’, because the editor is the only person who can hand you money for a book and put it in their publication schedule. An editor has already told you what you can do to make your book more likely to be something they can publish. The agents, knowing this, quite rightly say, well, show it to us then and we can see whether you’ve achieved that goal and maybe help nudge you if you didn’t quite hit the mark. An agent is going to listen tot he feedback from an editor, because the editor is the one in charge of the purse strings.

    As to your question, given that this is not YA, I think you’re best off making it one story about several women which is quite common in women’s fiction.
    .-= • Recent post by Diana Peterfreund: Various and Sundry =-.

  10. Kristan Avatar

    Yeah, the original concept in my mind for the episodes was SATC-meets-Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants.

    And sure, of cooooourse you never watched that show. ;)

    Ah, yes, I can totally understand that. I mean, I’m taking a series of episodes and turning them into a traditional narrative, so that’s a pretty big change. It makes sense that they’d want to see something that is closer to what the finished product would be.

    Also, thank you for the insight about the editor feedback angle. I hadn’t thought of it that way. :)

    Also also, thanks for the advice! I may also be sort of squeeing inside that you took such time and consideration to respond. You’re a bit of a celebrity, in case you didn’t know. ;)

  11. S0BeUrself Avatar

    Your heart tells you it should be one story. I say listen to your heart. If you let outside influences affect your writing, it will show. Leave the marketing to the publishers…

    Oh wait, that’s our job now too.

    Screw it. Listen to your heart anyway.
    .-= • Recent post by S0BeUrself: Techno Baggage =-.

  12. elissa janine Avatar

    Kristan, I think you’d be best off making one book, three characters, but you might think of several different ways of achieving that. I mean, have you ever read A Yellow Raft in Blue Water? It’s three women’s stories (happens to be daughter, mother, and grandmother, iirc) that weave together, but they’re told as three “books” within the main narrative. That might be a sort of compromise. That way the intersecting events could still be there, and the three voices still there in the book, but it would be easier to structure, and you might get more deeply into the characters if they can tell their own narrative in one place? Obviously I haven’t read it (yet!), but I think the SATC plus SotTP vibe could really work well, and you don’t want to run into a situation where, like you said, the pub buys the first one but then never gets around to the next two for whatever reason. If the two other protagonists are important to the themes of the story you want to tell, it seems to make most sense to include them from the start.

    All that said, if you find that the three separate books makes you better able to focus on each POV character, well, maybe that will, in the end, make for stronger books? Hm. *offers no real advice* LOL!

    anyway, best best of luck, and I’m certain you’ll find a great agent once the dust settles. (I know. It’s hard to wait, though!)

  13. Sonja Avatar

    I feel like I’m kind of missing the point of your question. Maybe that’s because I’ve been trapped in a room for two days, staring at a wall. In fact, I’m sure that’s it. But haven’t you already answered your own question? Aren’t you going to submit both story ideas to the publisher and then, er, do whatever they tell you? So isn’t that what you should do? Whichever one they pick?

    Or is this question a hypothetical in case the publisher passes on both ideas and you decide to revise 20SW anyway in order to seek out agents?
    .-= • Recent post by Sonja: Hello, private school! Buh-bye, money! =-.

  14. Tessa Avatar

    Difficult question, that… I personally only like reading books with different perspectives if the stories noticably belong together, as in intersect. Books with differnt perspectives that don’t have much to do with each other are a pet peeve of mine – if the connection is small, and the events are not (or only marginally) the same, go for the three books… at least that’s what I’d rather read…
    .-= • Recent post by Tessa: Plot Generator =-.

  15. Kristan Avatar

    “Oh wait, that’s our job now too.”

    Yeah, haha, isn’t that the truth? I don’t mind having some responsibilities in that department, but it’s rough when you’re not trained in it. That’s part of the reason I’d love a good deal with a good publisher.

    elissa janine-
    I have not read Yellow Raft but I’ll have to check that out! Thanks for the recco.

    “*offers no real advice* LOL!”

    Haha, no no, you did. Thank you.

    Lol yes I sort of answered my own question. But I’m one of those people who likes to poll the masses and see where they net out. I’m not a great decision-maker (much to Andy’s chagrin).

    But to your point, this also helps guide me down the path if Major Pub passes.

    The connection between the 3 girls is big/evident (they’re constantly interacting just not in person) but the overlap in actual events is limited… so I don’t know if you’d like it or not, but I appreciate the perspective, because I’m sure you’re not alone. :)

  16. Rachele Alpine Avatar

    I vote for number one….and combine them into one story, different voices. I love how it’s done in The Sisterhood. The only thing I’d tell you to be careful about it making sure that each story is equal. I find that when one story is more interesting, I want to skip through the other(s) to get back to the one I like. Try to figure out a way to weave everyone’s stories into each other’s (does that make sense?), so the reader wants to read each and every character’s plot line.
    .-= • Recent post by Rachele Alpine: What Is Your Right Way To Write? =-.

  17. Kristan Avatar

    Good point! I feel the same way when storylines are unequal (in terms of interesting-ness).

  18. Emily Ann Benedict Avatar

    I’m personally a fan of three books, one for each induvidual characters, but that’s just me. For now, you’ve got to write it the way it sounds best to you. ;)

  19. Kristan Avatar

    Thanks! (Psst: your book sounds really interesting! I’m reading the first chapter right now. :))

  20. Kimberly Franklin Avatar

    You’ve got a tough choice here. I’m no good at making decisions like this, but I wish you the best of luck trying to figure it out. LOL. :)
    .-= • Recent post by Kimberly Franklin: How to choose… =-.

  21. Dara Avatar

    I like both! But maybe the 3-in-1 appeals a little more…as long as you are able to make each girl’s voice shine through! (Which I am sure you would :) )
    .-= • Recent post by Dara: Q&A Time =-.

  22. Meghan Ward Avatar

    Not having read your story or SOTP, I would vote for one narrative with three characters.

  23. Bruce Avatar

    Not having read your story or SOTP, I would vote for one narrative with three characters.