With Steel and Sorrow’s release last week, I thought I’d take a few moments to reflect on what it was like for me to write my second book which also happened to be the second book in the Blood and Tears Trilogy.
To start, I was pretty worried that Steel and Sorrow wouldn’t be as good as Rise and Fall. Although Rise and Fall was the first book I ever wrote, I’ve received really positive feedback on it, and am overall happy with the end result. In my mind, Steel and Sorrow had to be at least as good as Rise and Fall. However, I really wanted it to be better because the last thing I wanted was for it to suffer “middle-book syndrome.”
For those who don’t know, middle-book syndrome is what many people call the second (or middle) book in a long series or a fantasy trilogy. It’s not uncommon for the middle book to be the weakest in the series because the characters and world aren’t usually as new and exciting as the first book, and the second book doesn’t offer the closure/excitement the ending book(s) bring. The middle-book often feels incomplete and in many ways a large setup for the third book.
Here’s how I tried to avoid those pitfalls.
- Expand the cast of characters. Rise and Fall mostly focused on three people: Elyse, Tobin, and Jonrell. Some of the other characters received a bigger role toward the end of the book, but ultimately they remained minor. For Book Two, I wanted to bring up some of the minor characters and make them second tier major characters. This allowed me to keep a certain amount of newness to the series.
- Expand the world. Similar to the first point, I took readers to new parts of my world that were only mentioned in Book One. This helped prevent a certain amount of stagnation that can occur from staying within the same location.
- I didn’t play it safe. Some of my characters go through pretty radical changes (both good and bad) in Steel and Sorrow. Some die. My world can be harsh and I wanted my readers to experience those events.
- I kept challenging myself. I always outline, but I’m not afraid to deviate from the outline if it strengthens the story. While writing Steel and Sorrow, I cut and added subplots, cut and added character POVs, cut and added action scenes all to make the story better.
Thankfully, my early readers felt Steel and Sorrow was as good, and in most cases, better than Rise and Fall. I would have to agree with them. I’m very proud of the way Steel and Sorrow came out.
Now, the question is, can I wrap up this series with a strong and satisfying third book? I’m about 67K into the rough draft, so let’s hope so!