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!

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