One book with three parts?

Azoraa

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Hey people,

so, I've got a problem with my current novel draft.

As it currently stands, it has three parts. Each of the parts is the story of one woman-scientist-activist who lives in a world of environmental collapse, has to deal with that, but moreover has some important personal choices to make, that are different each time. The stories follow each other chronologically - so it starts with A, then B who is A's daughter, and then C who is B's daughter.
I like that, because it also lets us observe the environmental changes over time, and how they impact the protagonists' lives.
BUT that also means that I have to handle three character arcs, and three story arcs.

I have started to read "Save the cat" a few days ago, and am looking at their beat sheet - which I realize is an approximation - but a pretty good one. And I find basically my part A of the novel almost perfectly fits the beat sheet. Less so parts B and C.
They are also less long. Part A has 35.000 words, part B 25.000, and part C 17.000. Part A is the most complex.
But I really love parts B and C, too, and they make for a nice inter-generational perspective. And have some awesome parts.

So I'd love to hear your thoughts on this - do you think this 3-part-thingy can work?
Or is this is classic case of "kill your darlings", and I'd rather turn it into a one-part novel and work on part A to make it richer (and thus longer), so it can stand alone? And dump parts B and C (nooooo)? But what would I do with stories in that awkward length?

For the moment I would really like to make it work as it is, but a nagging voice in my head tells me that maybe that is not the logical thing...

Azoraa
 

Jesse Harris

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A, B, C with daughters reminded me of Anne McCaffrey's The Rowan, Damia, and Damia's Children sequence of novels. I remember reading this at as a child. I remember really liking the idea of a generational story where the daughter of the protagonist is the protagonist of the next novel.

You could combine into one super-novel, just make sure your blurb and title convey it well so readers don't get upset. I would think that adding more plot to the stories could be a better answer though, seeing the subplots differ from novel to novel and how they impact the protagonist's choices.

I don't have much experience killing darlings, but I say if you have something awesome, lean into it instead of killing it.

I also think of John Steakley's Armor where the first 2/3rds of the book is one story and the last 1/3 is a different story. No spoilers because it is an amazing book but while the first 2/3rds stands on its own, combining it with the last 1/3rd gives in a unique quality that I would not take away, and probably contributed to its popularity.

Just some thoughts bumping in my head, I guess I have seen it done both ways successfully, and I know you could take it either way and be successful.
 

Toby Frost

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From what you've said, I'd leave it as three parts. A Canticle for Liebowitz works like that, with hundreds of years between each part but common threads running through. Also, it might be the case that the first third draws the readers in, while the second and third parts give them more challenging, difficult stories.

I'm pretty sure that authors have won awards for parts of longer books in the past, which they published as novellas. I know that George Martin did this with part of A Game of Thrones, but I think it's happened elsewhere, too.
 

The Big Peat

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Daggerspell by Katharine Kerr has multiple PoV characters and three separate time periods; one of the time periods is ten years in the 'present day' and features all the PoV characters; the other two are about 400 and 350 years in the past, and features (mostly) the pre-incarnations of the present day characters, although not all as PoV.

Compared to that, your proposed idea sounds relatively simple!

There's even a name for series like (of course there is) - Roman Fleuve - Kerr's thoughts on them might be useful to you as really, all you're doing is condensing the series into a book.


So it is totally workable. Ambitious maybe, but so are most desirable things.

As for the practicalities of how to do it - are you planning to do segment A, then segment B, then segment C, or do you want to interweave them?
 

Brian G Turner

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Splitting up a story into 3 parts is totally fine - however, the wordcounts you give sound very low for standalone books. It could work - certainly there have been novellas released as a series which seem to do this, but you might find you'd have to self-publish rather than traditionally publish by that route, unless you upped the word count for each section to something nearer novel length (ie, at least over 50,000 words) for traditional publishers.
 

Azoraa

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@Jo Zebedee and @Brian G Turner yes, it should be one novel. At least that's the current idea, because of the relatively low word count. I might get to 80.000 for all three stories together, which I think is still normal/low for one SF novel.

@The Big Peat thanks for finding the name for this kind of set-up :) For the moment I thought I'd let the stories follow each other. I've read novels where interweaving works (e.g. Cloud Atlas, which I loved), but it can also turn out confusing. I'm still not sure about it. Currently, the later parts contain spoilers for the end of the first (or second) parts, because they refer to events in the beginning that only happen at the end of the earlier parts, so I'd have to rewrite. It could make for nice twists though to find out slowly who is mother-daughter to whom...

Also, it might be the case that the first third draws the readers in, while the second and third parts give them more challenging, difficult stories.
Yes! That. I hope ;)
 

The Big Peat

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Sounds to me like you should complete the form in the original envisaged form (unless that feels real wrong), then consider getting fancy once you can see the full shape of things.
 

BT Jones

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Hey people,

so, I've got a problem with my current novel draft.

As it currently stands, it has three parts. Each of the parts is the story of one woman-scientist-activist who lives in a world of environmental collapse, has to deal with that, but moreover has some important personal choices to make, that are different each time. The stories follow each other chronologically - so it starts with A, then B who is A's daughter, and then C who is B's daughter.
I like that, because it also lets us observe the environmental changes over time, and how they impact the protagonists' lives.
BUT that also means that I have to handle three character arcs, and three story arcs.

I have started to read "Save the cat" a few days ago, and am looking at their beat sheet - which I realize is an approximation - but a pretty good one. And I find basically my part A of the novel almost perfectly fits the beat sheet. Less so parts B and C.
They are also less long. Part A has 35.000 words, part B 25.000, and part C 17.000. Part A is the most complex.
But I really love parts B and C, too, and they make for a nice inter-generational perspective. And have some awesome parts.

So I'd love to hear your thoughts on this - do you think this 3-part-thingy can work?
Or is this is classic case of "kill your darlings", and I'd rather turn it into a one-part novel and work on part A to make it richer (and thus longer), so it can stand alone? And dump parts B and C (nooooo)? But what would I do with stories in that awkward length?

For the moment I would really like to make it work as it is, but a nagging voice in my head tells me that maybe that is not the logical thing...

Azoraa
I like the concept, but I have to say it would seem unusual to me for the first act to be the most complex. I would have expected to be act C to be the culmination of all the threads and the resolution of everything and, thus, the longest part.

The novel I am working on has three acts with the last the longest, although all three acts happen in the same time period. Of course, me being a complete newbie and (at present) amateur, I am in no real place to say.

The premise of the story sounds very intriguing, though.
 

AMB

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As long as part C has a satisfying climax for not just its own arc, but for an overriding story arc started in part A, keep it as one story with three acts. Don't worry too much about the word counts right now, make each segment the size that feels right for the story.

If the other parts don't really fit beyond the generational and environmental factors, think about teasing out a few threads from the first part and interweaving them throughout the other two. Something that can be resolved at the end of the third part.
 

Teresa Edgerton

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I second AMB's advice in the post above. The end of part C should somehow provide a satisfactory* conclusion to the whole.

___
*A satisfactory conclusion need not be a happy ending, nor the one that readers have been hoping for. But it should provide a resolution that rounds out the experience. In this case, one that should make the three parts seem like parts of a unified whole, rather than B and C seem like they were tacked on for length, and because they are vaguely related.
 

Azoraa

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@AMB and @Teresa Edgerton yes that makes sense. I might need to think more about this, and see if this is the case. The end of my novel is very ambiguous. It's not a happy ending in terms of environmental collapse, but it also shows that even in the most desperate setting there is still hope, and wilderness, and that nature can never be completely controlled, something which the protagonists deal with in different ways. Hmmm....
 

Robert Zwilling

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Amazon has downsized what you can a call a book to around 50,000 words, tomorrow it will be 40,000. There are now plenty of people writing long short stories and calling them books. Whatever is acceptable on line seems to set the standards nowadays. If the story is really good and captures the readers attention, a short book can work, but they will definitely want a reason to go on to the next book. Having 3 books means the first book can be free, which generates publicity, and then you sell the next two.

In your story, you say the first part is complex, as what happens in life, things always start out of hand and get worse. Then as we plod onward, things start to simplify as options drop out or we get settled in some kind of rut that seems to be heading in a forward direction. The end is always more exciting in stories but as what happens in real life so many times, the end is just another day to get through, with no real solutions to anything, just patchwork designs. Having your story reflect the ambiguous nature of life might not go over well with some number of people as that is what they are trying to escape from in real life when they pick up a book.

My experience has been that environmental stories can be an even tougher sell than a regular story the closer you stick to reality, with ups and downs, lack of progress, stalling out, versus the race to the end type of story. Environmentalism that is too close to reality can also be perceived as too preachy and can turn some people off.
 

Babyeeblu

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I definitely think the three part thing works. Its a creative take and lets you see more of the world you created. Especially of the environmental issues are the main conflict throughout. I personally feel it is always easier to expand more and then cut back in the editing process. Do some brain storming or free writing and see where it goes, if nothing else you will learn more about your characters. Then when you go back and edit it will be easier to pick out what is unnecessary. Stories develop a mind of their own. Let it tell you what is important....even if that means cutting parts you've become attached to. You will make it work!
 
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