Books & Reading · Publications · Story & Characters · Writing Insight

Reflections on “The Guardian” Trilogy

You can access direct links to the books of The Guardian trilogy and more info here on
The Guardian trilogy’s official page.

This month marks the end of a (miniature) era as I publish the final novel in The Guardian trilogy. These books have been my first foray into penning full-length novels and it’s been a fun adventure!

The idea for The Guardian came to me during the summer of 2005 while I was reading the Harry Potter series and re-watching the first season of Prison Break on DVD. For some reason, the two stories collided in my head and I asked myself, What would happen if Michael Scofield [the show’s protagonist] was a wizard? How would he break out of prison and why? Naturally, that weird idea blossomed into The Guardian trilogy, and it’s been a writing venture 10+ years in the making.

My first draft of The Guardian was penned entirely by hand, which I later copied onto my computer. Finally, after countless revisions, The Guardian was published in 2013 and I immediately went to work on its sequel, The Guardian Prophecy. This second book came together much faster for me, mainly because in between writing The Guardian I was already honing the plot outlines for the other two books. While the setting for The Guardian is chiefly confined to the Voror Council, The Guardian Prophecy had Alex and other characters to go “on the road” as he joins Head Healer Sunniva on a journey to find an exiled prophet. The Guardian Prophecy was finally published in 2015.

That left one final novel to tackle, The Guardian Wars. Much like The Guardian Prophecy, The Guardian Wars was easier to write as I had even more time to hon in on the best way to wrap up Alex’s story as well as deliver satisfying endings for the rest of the characters. From the beginning, I had certain plot points and character endings in mind (and, no, I won’t share them as they count as spoilers!). To be honest, not much changed as far as where Alex’s arc was supposed to end up, though the journey to get there certainly went through countless rounds of revision. But, in the end, I was pleased with how it all turned out.

Writing a trilogy certainly taught me a few things and it was a fun challenge! So what were some of the take-away lessons I gleaned from this experience?

1. Take planning seriously (but not too seriously).
I can see why, when asked about advice for writers, J.K. Rowling said she made a plan, ensuring she had a clear map of where she was going when it came to characters and plotting. And she’s right. One of the most important tasks a writer can do is  generate a good, solid outline for the story’s plot as well as a finalized character list. Doing so means you don’t have to get stuck making up details on the fly or forgetting where you’re going with your story. Planning is true for any mode of writing, especially for projects such as a trilogy as it’s not just one book that has a beginning-middle-end structure but a series that has to have beginning, middle, and end points – and you have to keep everything straight in each book and between books. Thus, seeing where you want to go is critical so you get to where you ultimately want to be.

But there’s is a flip side in that it’s possible to over-plan or, at the very least, stay rigidly close to an initial outline. While penning The Guardian, I had an outline I referred to while working on my handwritten draft and I followed it fairly closely. However, upon transferring the draft to the computer, I discovered that the draft was far too long and there were segments, sometimes entire chapters, that needed to be omitted indefinitely or even moved into another book. Even though I’m an organization stickler, it was fun to let the story have free reign at times. I still knew where I ultimately wanted Alex’s journey to go, so it was okay if the final product deviated from the original outline. So while I do take my story planning phase seriously, I don’t take it so seriously that I don’t allow the story to evolve beyond where I initially thought I might want it to go.

2. Writing is Re-Writing.
The rumors are true! Writers actually spend little time (relatively speaking) penning new, original content and spend more time reworking said original content, which includes revising, reorganizing, editing, and even omitting material. My own writing process goes a little something like this: outline/plan, compose a rough draft, read through the rough draft, make massive changes to the draft (rewriting or omitting portions as needed), then reading and revising, reading and revising until I’m happy with the final product. While writing an initial draft, I never make changes in terms of plot or story. I just follow my outline and allow the story to take a natural direction, even if that’s off the outline’s path.

Then, once I have a complete draft – one that goes from the first chapter to the last – I read through and make notes, chapter by chapter. These notes include questions to myself, continuity errors to check into and correct, sections that need clarification or clean up, and what seems to be working or not working and how to fix it. I repeat this process at least three times while also giving myself time to step away from the project so I’m not constantly reading the same material over and over. It’s like working a tricky crossword puzzle: sometimes you have to sit it aside for a while and pick it up later. Many times, the things that had been stumping you before come into clearer focus now.

3. Know How to Juggle.
Lastly, writing a trilogy has made me better appreciate the process of juggling multiple story threads and characters. It is a tricky feat with plenty of room for error if you’re not careful. Unlike writing a standalone novel where you have to make sure to keep track of your plot, pacing, characters, story world elements, and continuity for just one book, a trilogy requires you to do that for all three books individually as well as the trilogy as a whole.

For instance, when writing each book in The Guardian trilogy, I not only had to keep track of what was going on in terms of one book but also how it fit in with the other books. This included keeping characters’ biographical info straight from book to book, remembering spellings for terms or persons, and consistent world-building information. For example, I remember while initially writing The Guardian Prophecy, the Council’s Head Healer, Sunniva, says she’s going on a journey to visit an exiled prophet. At first, I wanted to make it sound like she had visited him once before, yet as the story went on, I wrote it as if she hadn’t seen him since he left the Council. I caught the continuity error and knew I had to decide on only one approach, which meant rewriting sections or scenes depending on the choice I made. In the end, I made a decision that wasn’t what my initial outline had spelled out but it made better sense in the context of the story. So, bottom line – would I attempt a trilogy again? Maybe, but I’d love to see what I can come up with for a standalone story!

I suppose a fair question now would be – what’s next? Currently, I’m working on a first draft of a fantasy novel entitled Kingdom of Ravens that is about a princess of a wintry kingdom who meets, befriends, and falls in love with a low-level thug and crime boss’ nephew of a neighboring city. I’m into the third and final part of the manuscript and it’s already taken a lot of side roads from my initial outline. But I love the characters, especially my leads, and the settings are fun to dive into. On top of this, I have numerous rough outlines I like to hone. But no matter what, I always make sure I have some sort of writing project in the works, one I’m physically writing and drafting and one I’m outlining.

Once again, I’m so happy to share my novels with my fellow readers, and I hope you have as much fun traveling with Alex Croft on his journey as I did writing it. While I am sad to close out this trilogy, which has been a staple of my daily writing workload for over a decade, I’m overjoyed to see it finally come to fruition and share it with fantasy lovers around the world!

You can access direct links to the books of The Guardian trilogy and more info here on The Guardian trilogy’s official page.


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