Fantasy Friday – What’s a Quatrain?

Well, it’s official. I’ve restructured The Lore of Efrathah so that it is no longer a trilogy. It is also not a “series” in the usual sense of the word. This is one story, now told via four books (think, epic fantasy). I suppose the proper classification would be “quartet,” though I don’t have any examples to draw from. Instead, I’ve chosen the word quatrain—pretty much because I like the way it sounds.

I did ask the advice of another fantasy writer, wondering if it was “legal” to co-opt the word when it clearly has a restricted definition (“a stanza of four lines, esp. one having alternate rhymes,” according to the two sources I checked). The answer? You’re a fantasy writer—make the word do what you want.

Well, note, I didn’t use quotation marks there. That’s how I interpreted the advice, maybe because my heart was already set on quatrain. But why the great divide, you may wonder. Nearly a year ago, at a small writers’ conference here in Southern California, I met with a knowledgeable agent who looked at my proposal. At that time, I estimated the third book would be approximately 150,000 words. This agent categorically stated that editors would not want a book that long.

At the time, though I tried, I couldn’t see dividing the story. The numbers didn’t work, I thought, and I’d end up padding book four—the very book that should have the meaty climactic ending, not a puff-and-fluff fizzle. So I plunged on.

However, as I came within sight of having the entire rough draft transcribed onto the computer, I topped 150,000 words, with six or so chapters remaining. That’s another 20,000 words, at minimum. The decision seemed clear.

I already knew there was a natural break that could work as the end of a book three, so this week I tinkered with the chapter order and checked to see if the new ending would need any work (I don’t think it does). And with that, the birth of the quatrain.

The Lore of Efrathah now consists of The Sword of Secrets (90,000 words), Journey to Mithlimar (120,000 words), Escape from Moldark (100,000 words), and The Battle for the Throne (approximately 80,000 words). I say “now” because there’s an outside chance that I’ll move one section from Escape to Battle and that would change the word count of those two books. I’ll know more once I have some readers weigh in on this.

Any volunteers? 😉

Published in: on September 26, 2008 at 10:24 am  Comments (6)  
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  1. I think you made a good decision to break it into four books. You know what else I think? I think that when you have this series all done and ready to go, you are going to be surprised.

    We keep hearing “doors are closed,” “doors are open,” “doors are closed,” etc. Then it just takes ONE publisher who decides to open up a new line, and that publisher will be looking for something like what you have. A series already done and polished.

    Doors close. And doors open. It is the nature of publishing.

    Meanwhile we do what we do best. Write.


  2. Very cool, Becky!! I wish I read fantasy so I could volunteer to read your completed work. Fantasy readers: snatch up this wonderful offer!


  3. I’m a fantasy writer, AND I’ve written my own “quatrain” (although book 4 is only 1/3 complete). I decided to call mine a series, since there are also some short stories that go with it, and a ton of openings for more books, if I ever manage to find an agent and/or publisher willing to take a chance on it. Anyway, I’d love to be a reader. Are you looking for opinion only, or editing, or something in between? Let me know. -Sonja


  4. Merrie, thanks for the encouragement. No telling what God has planned for TLoE.

    Nicole, you’re a sweetheart to even read a blog so heavily influenced by fantasy. 😉 Thank you for your kind words.

    Sonja, I really had tongue in cheek when I wrote that closing line. I have an excellent crit group, a wonderful crit partner, at least two normal readers who give me great feedback, so I don’t have a huge need for readers.

    Very cool to find another writer working on a quatrain, though. 😉



  5. Mine kinda morphed. Poor Taro started out only having to worry about what I put him through in one book. As the story evolved the thing became three – then I realized I’d wind up resolving four major conflicts in one book if I didn’t split a very thick book two in half. So three became four by necessity.


  6. Sounds like you made a good decision, Kaci! Sometimes it’s hard to tell. I didn’t realize the story I’d conceived was an epic … I think I just didn’t know enough about storytelling back then. Although I would never recommend anyone taking the path I’ve been on, I’m not sorry for it at all. I’ve learned so much about writing, particularly about developing characters. I’m not sure I would have figured that out if I had lived through so many pages with my characters.



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