Guest Post: “On Writing and Completing a Trilogy” by Gerrard Cowan

CowanG-AuthorPic2I’ve started writing the third book in my fantasy trilogy, and it is a very strange experience.

Book One was obviously a difficult process. It took years – four, to be precise, from the germination of the idea to the day I cried ‘enough is enough’ and began sending it to agents. In fairness, I was only properly working at it for the final two of those four years, as it took me a while to get into the rhythm. Still, it was with me for quite a long time.

When you write the first part of a trilogy you have a certain amount of scope. It’s liberating, really. Of course, you need to plan out the overall story, and know how you’re going to get to where you’re going. But you can allow certain threads to dangle. 

I find that things change as I write. That’s fine in the first part of a trilogy – you have two more books to work it all out! Go get another beer and worry about it later.


You face a few more restrictions in Book Two. You’ve launched most of your rockets at this stage, and you need to work out how to direct them to their destinations. Still, you have scope. You can introduce a couple of new characters, and still have plenty of room for them to grow. I certainly did – in fact, one of the new characters is probably my favourite in all the books, though that’s another story.

But Book Three is different. I’m the kind of reader who likes a healthy dose of mystery in his novels – in fact, I positively enjoy not knowing what is going on in all aspects of the plot. That has crept into my writing, too.  I have left a number of big questions dangling, and it’s time to answer them.

Now, I knew that was coming, of course. The problem is making sure everything is answered satisfactorily, and that – dum dum dummmmm – I don’t miss anything. My editors are great, so I’m sure this won’t happen. Still, the time to answer questions has come, and I need to do it well. There’s a certain amount of pressure in that.

Another aspect of writing the final book is doing justice to the vision you have for many of the most dramatic elements in the story. This is the book where the big stuff happens: questions are answered, the narrative comes to its end, and characters face what’s coming to them.


I have pictured many of these scenes for the best part of a decade now. In fact, I have been thinking about them for longer than many of the key moments in Book Two. I have now come to the point where they appear before me on the computer screen. It feels strangely challenging – do these sentences do justice to what I’ve been thinking about all these years?

Finally, there is something strangely sad about it all. When this book is done, I’ll be finished with The Machinery (writing it, at least – I’ll keep boring people by talking about it). This is a story I’ve been working on for a long time. Since I started writing it, I have met my future wife, changed jobs several times, moved home, etc etc. It will be strange to leave it behind.

Still, it will be great to see all three books lined up beside one another. Obviously a trilogy is one story, broken into three parts, so I imagine I’ll feel the same sense of closure that other writers get when they finish up a standalone novel.

Anyway, I’d better get back to it. I have loose threads to tie together!


Gerrard Cowan is the author of The Machinery trilogy (HarperVoyager UK), a fantasy about a world whose leaders are chosen by a machine — until the machine breaks. Book One, The Machinery, is out now on paperback and ebook, while the second part, The Strategist, will be released in June 2016.

For more on the author’s work and writing, be sure to check out his website, and follow him on Twitter and Goodreads.

Here’s the synopsis for The Machinery:

The Machinery knows all.

For ten millennia, the leaders of the Overland have been Selected by the Machinery, an omnipotent machine gifted to the world in darker days.

The Overland has thrived, crushing all enemies. But the Machinery came with a prophecy: it will break in its ten-thousandth year, Selecting just one leader who will bring Ruin to the world. That time has arrived.

Katrina Paprissi is an Apprentice Watcher, charged with seeking out any who doubt the power of the Machinery. But as the Machinery nears breaking point, her own doubts begin to surface. She must travel to its home in the depths of the mysterious Underland, to see if Ruin really is coming for them all…

2 thoughts on “Guest Post: “On Writing and Completing a Trilogy” by Gerrard Cowan

  1. Great post! And great outlook about wrapping everything up in a trilogy. I was watching “Unlocking Sherlock” and I think it was Mark Gatiss who said that you have to go somewhere different in the third series. That stuck with me and I think it’s true of book 3’s in general. Hurrah to the finish line and congratulations!

    Liked by 1 person

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