As I've been working on the third draft of my next book, The Distant, I've been thinking more about the setting I had created, and the fact that the ending would leave some things unresolved. This was intentional on my part, since in reality most things don't have a fairytale ending or everything wrapped up nice and neat with a bow on top, and I wanted to leave it open-ended (yet satisfying) in case I wanted to do a sequel of sorts. The more I thought of it, the more I realized I wanted to tell the rest of that story. So I've decided I will expand this into a trilogy.
I've had ideas regarding this for many years now, but I could not figure out how to connect the dots between the different parts of the story that I want to tell. During the last month I figured it out, and created outlines for the other two books in the trilogy. Right now I'm calling the trilogy Of Houlves and Humans, though that might change.
Planning for a Series
What this means for The Distant - which will be Book 1, obviously, and keep the same title - is that I have to make sure the book makes sense within the rest of the work. There are little things here and there, details that will make sense later, that I have to flesh out. I'm doing some of that now in the third draft, going back over a few things and firming up the backstory and legends within the book, but I'll need to do more on the fourth draft.
Very little of the main story is changing from what I'd originally envisioned, all of the plot points are the same, I just need to do more edits to prepare for the later books. One thing that bothers me about some series in movies or books, is when the author decides to continue things later and details aren't consistent, or a later book/movie contradicts an earlier one.
A good example is with the original Star Wars. Lucas had a series in mind from the start, but he could only make one movie, and if it bombed, he'd have no chance of telling the next story. So he created a good resolution, but still made it open-ended. He took it a step further with the prequels vs. the original trilogy, which have a totally different feel and style to them (like the way Jedi fight).
Now, he's managed to explain most of those discrepancies, inconsistencies and plot holes cleverly (e.g. Luke only had Yoda to train him, so there's no way he'd learn how to fight like the Jedi in the days of the Republic - though in reality it was due to the fact that they were shot 30 years apart and he couldn't have imagined, or wasn't able to stage, fight scenes like that back then). There are tons like that in Star Wars (just Google it), as well as numerous dialogue and backstory inconsistencies. But I want to avoid all that.
Sometimes it can't be helped, particularly in film. You might not be able to do the next part of the story for a number of years. But in fiction writing, you can keep the same feel and style twenty years later. A book is still words on a page. Your imagination might change, and your writing skills may have improved, but as long as you stick to the "style of the world" you're writing in and pay attention to how you write, it can read as if it's all from the same session of writing. That's my goal.
So, currently I'm at page 250 of 348 in the third draft. Should hopefully be finished by next month. I had to rewrite some sections and wrote a new one, and currently the word count stands at 194K. I want to keep it under 200K for sure, and perhaps try to trim it down to 180K before all is said and done.
We'll see... part of the reason I like self-publishing my work is that I don't have to modify the work to meet some criteria like publishing or contract requirements. It will be as long as it needs to be to tell the story - but I'm still well aware that longer does not mean better, so my intent is to make it concise, without sacrificing the story or trying to shove a square peg into a round hole.