Jan 29, 2013

Challenges of a Sequel

It is roughly two years now since I sent my submission for Locked Within to WiDo. At the time I was beginning to doubt whether the story would even see the light of day, to say nothing of getting to write a sequel!

In many ways, writing a follow-up was much harder than writing that first novel. It might have been less pressure just to write a completely unrelated book as my second novel. But Nathan Shepherd was, and still is, firmly in my head and my heart. I couldn't let him go.

Even though the manuscript I wrote a year and a half ago ended up being re-written into a new version, I faced several challenges when I started to approach it.

  1. New story. One of the worst kinds of sequel is one where the same plot from the previous story is essentially re-told either in a different location or some different set dressing. This might sound obvious, but a lot of series have suffered in this regard. The Star Wars Expanded Universe novels, for example, went through a phase where every book/new trilogy centered around yet another superweapon standing in for the Death Star.
  2. Which characters to use? Obviously Nathan would have to return, as well as Roland and Dorian. But what about Cynthia? What happened to her after Locked Within? How would she fit into a new story? Would I have Dorian take a primary role as an antagonist, or risk weakening the threat he poses in favour of expanding on the world I had created?
  3. Reader expectations. I started writing the first draft of the sequel well before Locked Within had even been released. The few people who had already read the first book had only seen early versions which featured whole characters and events that no longer existed. Everything I wrote was based on guessing what elements would be the most popular, and what would provide the strongest continuation of story. At least now I have a wide range of comments from readers who've offered fantastic insights into the things they'd like to see in the rest of the series.
  4. True to my vision? I hate that word. Vision. When I hear an artist talk about their vision it sets of warning bells and I immediately suspect that the artist cares more about being congratulated for how amazing they are than making sure to provide something that their audience truly loves. But of course, I had a vision for my story. I was learning so much from editing Locked Within that I was certain I'd nailed the right format for the sequel. I had to learn, very quickly, that the original manuscript just wasn't going to cut it.
  5. Time. My biggest fear was how soon I'd be able to get the book published. The last thing I wanted was a two-year gap between my first book and my second. The thought of having to work almost from scratch to get publicity and enthusiasm going for not only the new book, but also the first to remind people of the series as a whole, was daunting. Granted, I still have work to do promoting the first book and increasing my readership, but my goal was to get the second book out in 2013. When I get my edits, I'll be putting all other writing projects aside on hold. I'll delay blog posts, put off work on drafting new books, and work myself to the bone to get my edits done on time. I believe strongly that a one-year gap between installments in a series is the ideal amount of time and I have a lot of people already asking me about the second book. I promise to do all in my power not to let you guys down, because without you buying and reading this stuff, I wouldn't even be getting the change to continue the story.
Can you guys think of other challenges faced when dealing with sequels? Have any sequels particularly impressed or disappointed you?


  1. I've thought about sequels but they always seem too daunting to write ... I worry that the story I wanted to tell has been told and so what will I write about? I love reading sequel and series books though... :)

  2. I've thought about sequels but they always seem too daunting to write ... I worry that the story I wanted to tell has been told and so what will I write about? I love reading sequel and series books though... :)

  3. I found the 2nd not too bad to write because I had already worked it out in my mind and had almost finished it before the 1st was published it was the 3rd which terrified me - how was it possible to write another - I had had comments back by then - some queries - some guesses - I felt I ought to unlock a few unknowns (but not too many) the characters had to grow, how? I was so sure I hadn't pulled it off I was reluctant to publish - it was okay as it turned out but it was more nervewracking than the first two. All the best:)

  4. It is hard writing a sequel. We expect too much, maybe we're try to write something that's too different and it doesn't fit with the character. I'm writing a sequel right now, after many false starts, and finally have plotted the whole thing out to where I feel it's solid and could stand on its own.

    Jack Finney wrote a sequel for Time and Again and it wasn't near as good. There's just so many expectations!

  5. I think my biggest problem with sequel writing is boredom. I'm ready to move on to new characters and it's difficult to have to revisit the same ones-- what I'm struggling with now in my Diamond series. I have another one semi-plotted but not sure when I'll really get into it.

  6. Writing a sequel... *shudders in terror*

    I think you captured all my fears. Glad I have time! (Still need to finish book 1 and find a home, lol). But I appreciate these are all on your mind as you work on book 2. As a fan of Locked Within, I'm definitely looking forward to the next installment. :)

  7. Ugh. Lots to worry over, isn't there? I write series, but there isn't a continuing plot with my stories (maybe a subplot, but not a main plot)...which makes things a lot easier.

    Know you'll do a great job, Paul!