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.
- 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.
- 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?
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.