In 2015, I began working on an idea I hoped would some genuine legs. Inspired by my day job (writing about astronomy and space exploration), I finally had a hard SF concept in mind after many years of trying to hone my craft and find my voice. I could tell that this was an idea that could go somewhere, mainly because of how nervous and obsessive I was about getting it right.
And now, five years later, the trilogy that this led to is finally complete!
By the Fall of 2017, I had acquired a publisher and finished the first book – The Cronian Incident. By the Fall of 2018, the sequel – The Jovian Manifesto – was also finished and published. Last Fall, I had finished work on the third and final installment – The Frost Line Fracture – but there were revisions and edits that still needed to be made. The final installment in a series has to be just right, after all.
Earlier this summer, I managed to polish off the manuscript and got it as ready for publication as I possibly could. The professionals went to work and, in spite of the pandemic and all of its bloody delays, they managed to get it ready for publication just shy of the New Year. So from 2017 to 2020, I managed to get three books out there. You have to admit, it’s nice having symmetry!
More importantly, this experience has taught me a lot about myself and my writing. As I’ve said many times before, I have real difficulty with third installments. It all hearkens back to what I learned from George Lucas about trilogies and what’s expected. As he put it in an interview with Leonard Maltin back in 1995:
“In the first act, you introduce everybody. In the second act, you put them in the worst possible position they can ever get into in their lives… They’re in a black hole, never able to get out. And in the third act, they get out.”
Granted, that doesn’t exactly tell you much about how third acts are to be structured or what is supposed to happen (beyond the heroes prevailing). But Return of the Jedi certainly illustrated it well-enough. The third act, as I learned, needs to wrap things up, answer all questions, and end things on a high note.
What I learned from actually writing third acts is that I find them so bloody hard! The first is a labor of love and feels like it has endless possibilities. The second is exciting because that’s when things go dark. But the third – Oy! – that’s where all the obligation is really felt!
Not only does the finale need to wrap everything up and tie off all the threads. It also needs to end things with a bang! It’s an immutable rule of drama: a strong finale is as important as a good opening. It has to leave the audience feeling high on life and like something has been seriously affirmed.
Naturally, I did my best to convey just that and live up to the sense of obligation I felt. I did my best to resolve and tie off all the story threads that I’d created in the first two books. As for the finale, I drew on every good-guys-vs-bad-guys final showdown-type instinct I had to make that final showdown as epic as I possibly could!
It had to as big as possible without being over-the-top. It had to be realistic enough, by science fiction standards. But it also had to be the kind of fight where those involved don’t walk away, they crawl and limp away knowing that they left it all on the battlefield.
In any case, I have it on good authority that this book is the best of the three. I encourage anyone who read and enjoyed the first two to pick this story up and celebrate my first published trilogy with me!
Addendum: I would issue my thanks here, but there are too many people to thank. If we know each other and spent any time swapping ideas, expect a personal message in the coming days!