So You Want to Write a Sequel

My first book was a standalone. There was really nowhere I could take the characters that wasn’t corny, over-reaching or over-capitalising. Yes, it was a good book. No, there wasn’t a sequel. No, there never would be. I was happy with that.

My second book didn’t have a sequel either. It was non-fiction – a health book written with a health genius that didn’t have my name on the cover.

This week I commenced something I had never done before in my whole entire life: I started writing a sequel. My third book, The Remnant: Mark of Elijah launches on November 14th. When I commenced writing this book, I knew it was a trilogy. I had very clear conflicts for three different books. So I figured it would be nice and easy to just go write the follow-ups.

Well! I had a few dilemma’s.

  1. I wanted to write book 1 again. I wanted to go exploring character interactions, personal story arcs and such. But character love isn’t a good enough reason to write a sequel.
  2. I wanted to take the path of least resistance. I believe a good book is one that challenges your perceptions, makes you think deeply, and resonates on a personal level (no matter the genre). But writing that sort of a book means you have to go deeper as a writer than you’d ever expect your reader to go. You need to find that clarity within yourself and wrap it in a kick-butt storyline. So the path of least resistance isn’t one  a writer can really take.
  3. I started worrying about my readers, their expectations and my budget. But those things really  aren’t good enough reasons to write a sequel. I knew my sequel needed to get written. I just couldn’t get my eyes on the wrong reasons for writing, otherwise that would overflow and result in a forced, empty piece of literature – AKA everything I hate!

I had a whine to one of my writer friends at netball the other night – yes, netball. Because sci-fi and fantasy authors play netball people! Takes the edge off the crazy. (I’m kidding. Neither of us are crazy. I swear). He had a piece of sage advice for me:

“Don’t write it as a sequel. Write it as a brand new book. Just do it with the characters you already have.”

Lightbulb moment – for the win. I think I already sort of knew this. I knew it because I hated (nameless trilogies) that were awesome in book 1 and terrible in book 2 and 3. I’d cringed when I read meandering story-lines that now lacked relevance and suspense, and whined when I read meaningless shoot-em-up action sequences that left me wondering why it was necessary in the first place.

So today I turned off the wifi so I couldn’t be distracted by Facebook, sat in the sunshine and let the thought processes burn a little deeper. I remembered the key conflict I already knew needed to take place. I planned a better storyline – one that could stand-alone, but this time will be written with the added benefit of established characters and continuing personal story arcs. I can’t hope that this will be easy to write. In fact, if it is, its probably going to be a crap book. So goodbye path of least resistance. Goodbye shallow reasons for writing a book. I’m on track again.

So thats the personal journey. For those of you who have stumbled on this post because you’re at the beginning of a sequel – here’s what I found on the interwebs for people like us. You’re welcome.

  • For the good reasons to write a sequel, and the bad reasons to do it, check out K.M Weilands post on how to make your sequel better than your first book. It’s here.
  • For a reader perspective on what every sequel should have, check out The Savvy Readers opinion here.
  • For some practical tips on what every sequel needs, check out Brent Hartinger’s rules for writing a good sequel. I’ve never read his stuff, but the article is good. It’s here.

That’s me for now. I won’t pretend I know everything about sequel writing yet, but following a little time out to reflect, I do know that this one is going to rock. I just need to do the hard yards and write the darn thing. It’s exciting. It’s terrifying. And that’s what writing should be. I’ll keep you posted along the way.

Until then – good luck with your sequel!

Post Holiday Blues

I’m winning at life today. I’ve been operating under the impression that it was Monday all day. Then I came to the crashing realisation that a) it was Tuesday, b) I was supposed to be at coffee with a friend of mine and c) I didn’t have enough time to get cute.

Don’t knock me man. It takes this girl time to get cute.

But I blame the weekend. Its the whole “post-getaway come-down” thing.

We spent the weekend in Hobart celebrating the birthday of my sister-in-law and dear friend. What a lovely city! I swear every building was photo-worthy and there were no bad views. None at all! I only got a few photos in, but here they are…just to give me something pretty to look at while I try to get my work routine back on point.

And what I mean by that is that I’ll be staring at beautiful books all day long. The Remnant has arrived and I’ve got a launch party to plan! WHOOP!

Over and out!

Cheers
C

Hobart (1 of 7)

 

Hobart (2 of 7)

Hobart (3 of 4)

Hobart (3 of 7)

Hobart (4 of 4)

Hobart (4 of 7)

Hobart (5 of 7)

Hobart (6 of 7)

Hobart (7 of 7)

The Irrefutable Laws of Grammar

There are none. 

There I said it. This is what I say in the silence of my own mind whenever I smile back at a person who just told me “I can proofread your work. I’m really good at spelling and grammar.”

Oh man. Wow. Where do I start? (Perhaps I’ll start by prefacing the body of this blog post by warning you its a bit ranty. Yes! I’ll start there.)

This post might be a bit ranty. You’ve been warned.

Language has always evolved. It does this over time. Its inevitable. We change. Our technology changes. Its inevitable that our language does.

Twice in this blog, I’ve done something that wouldn’t have been done ten years ago. I wrote “Its” and I didn’t use an apostrophe. Guess what: that’s no big deal. The little word “Its” is now acceptable without the apostrophe. Its (see what I did there) part of the evolution of language.

In previous years, there would have been an apostrophe there regardless of whether it was plural or possessive.

Now, just because there are no irrefutable laws of grammar due to the evolving nature of language, doesn’t mean there aren’t any golden rules.

Consistency is one of those golden rules. If you start a manuscript using Australian English, don’t switch to American English half way through, or decide to use American spelling for some words. If you decide you do need an apostrophe in “its” then use it the whole way through your manuscript. If you decide on using the Oxford comma, use it all the way through your piece.

Consistency is one of those things that you need an editor for. Often a writer will lapse over the course of a manuscript and switch to another style. A good editor will pick this up. My weakness is quotation marks. This can be a problem if you write thought sequences and dialogue close together. I usually use single quotations and italicised text for thoughts, and double quotation marks and non-italics for dialogue. But…sometimes in the heat of creativity, I get mixed up.

Consistency with spelling, grammar, capitalisation, quotation marks and formatting make a manuscript stand out. So that’s golden rule #1 in my book.

Keeping a watch on descriptive words is another golden rule. Okay, it might not be a golden rule for everyone but it sure should be, especially in creative writing. I read one novel (which was amazing) but it had this little irritating factor: the main character was always giving a ‘sardonic’ comments/smirks/demands/etc. It was like she found a new word and went “Oh! I like this one. I’ll put it in everything.”

Another book I read featured a main character who looked like she was an Irritable Bowel Syndrome sufferer, simply because the only way she expressed emotion involved her stomach. (her stomach twanged/pinched/lurched/tightened/etc. This type of repetition in descriptive words can get a little old after a while!

There are some words that you can’t avoid repeating in a paragraph: the, there, that, and, or, the – that sort of thing. However, repeated descriptive words can be avoided. If you have described something as “unruly” once in a paragraph and are tempted to use the word again, try “unkempt” or another descriptor. It keeps the writing fresh. Thesaurus.com is a wonderful tool! You even learn stuff.

Good punctuation is absolutely a golden rule. I like to make sure I’m not overusing exclamation marks, so that when I do, they’re effective. I also like to decide whether or not to use the Oxford comma and then stick like glue to that style. Capitalisation is also a tricky thing. Decide at the beginning what you are going to cap and stick to it. This does hail back to the consistency rule, but it rated its own mention because it has to do with commas and such. If you don’t nail it on punctuation, you won’t nail it on expression.

Now, all of this sounds easy – right? Anyone can check over a big manuscript for this type of thing, right?

In fact, it isn’t all that easy. It takes a trained eye. An untrained eye will (hopefully) get caught up in the suspense of your storyline and forget to see whether you are consistent in your hyphenation, punctuation, capitalisation, descriptors, etc. Sure, the big typographical errors will be more obvious, but some won’t. For example, if you are really into a story and not reading every word individually “the” and “they” will sound the same in their heads. There is no misspelled word, so it gets through.

Just a few little flags for you! There are many more golden rules in the great and grand world of grammar. But these are the only three that would fit in a blog post on a Friday afternoon. I’ll return with part two. But for now, I’m off to celebrate another week closed and another book published!

Cheers
C