I’m excited to share this article by Abigayle Claire– I found it full of useful information (just as I had hoped– I asked her specifically to write something on sequels)
About the Author: Abigayle has been a writer ever since her mother taught her how to hold a pencil. However, she devoted more time to reading words with her green eyes than penning them with her left hand. Inspired by a crazy dream at the age of sixteen, she set off on a journey to self-publish her first novel, Martin Hospitality. Since then, Abigayle has devoted herself to sharing what she has learned through the mediums of freelance editing and her blog theleft-handedytpist.blogspot.com … when period drama films are not calling more loudly. None of her successes, including winning a 2017 Readers’ Favorite Award, would be possible without the support of her Savior, large family, and online community.
I admire all of you who have ever written a sequel. In my mind it’s quite the feat (like slaying a dragon or sea monster). For those of who haven’t written a sequel, sequel-writers deserve to have all our inkwells poured out on their feet. Or maybe you’re like me and you fall in the middle: trying to write a sequel.
All writing has its ups and downs, of course. No draft is easy, but I’ve found sequels to be particularly challenging. So maybe this post can be your special armor or sneaky enchantment you need to slay the monster yourself.
Why I think sequels are hard
I published my first novel Martin Hospitality because I enjoyed writing it and it came together. (Again, not as easy as it sounds, but generally speaking.) I have a gazillion story ideas like the rest of you, but I’m going to spend the most time on the ones I think will come together.
Because I have other ideas for the characters and because my readers enjoy them, I intend for there to be one if not two more books in the series. So I’m currently working on the sequel to Martin Hospitality. Actually, I’ve been working on it off and on for the last year. *dies*
I thought writing a sequel might be easier, and for some of you it might be. After all, it’s the same world/universe and characters. It’s a lot less creating from scratch. But that’s exactly where I hit my main roadblock—I’ve already taken my characters so far, it’s hard for me to take them further still. Gotta love character arcs.
How to make it easier on yourself
I think I made some initial mistakes that stunted my writing initially and led to my burnout last year. Trust me, you want to avoid burnout if at all possible. I don’t typically have to do full rewrites, but I started completely over on draft one after setting it aside for awhile. You want to avoid starting over again and again too.
So here are some things to try to make writing a sequel easier:
1. Ask yourself if a sequel is necessary. I honestly don’t think Martin Hospitality needs a sequel anymore. It never did. People just want more, and I had some scene ideas, so I thought why not.
2. Don’t make promises. Had I not promised people a sequel, I might not be writing a sequel … Not that you can’t change your mind as a writer—plans do change. But it’s even harder to go back on what you have in print (front title page: MARTIN HOSPITALITY Martin Generations Book #1) than what you say online.
3. P-L-O-T. I am a genuine plantser (half planning, half winging it), but you have to plan a sequel. I am convinced there is no other option. I cannot plan out everything to a tee, but scene cards, character sheets, personality typing, etc. all saved my life. Scene cards especially. Find your thing that will help get the jumbled fluff in your head at least into chronological order.
4. Consider timing. This might not be a problem with everyone, but my timeline is killing me … more and more quickly with each passing day. How do you jump ahead 10 years if Book 1 was a contemporary? Is it OK to skip years twice in one book? Do the concurrent events even line up for people’s ages? Yeah, those kind of problems.
5. Read the first book! I really resisted reading my own published novel. I published it, people liked it … I never had to flip past the title page for signing copies. It was great. Until I needed to know what color so-and-so’s eyes were. Or what mannerisms I’d given someone. Did that scene make it into the final draft? The only way to answer those questions is to reread the book. Plus, you’ll find a wealth of tidbits to springboard off of—things you accidentally set up for a sequel. 😉
6. Maybe plan out the whole series to begin with. There really should be more than “accidentally setting things up for a sequel.” I feel like the only writer on earth who wrote Book 1 without really planning Book 2. (To my credit, I did plan Book 3.) I think most of my character arc problems would be solved if I’d written with a sequel more at the forefront of my mind.
7. Don’t resolve it all!* If everything ties up, it’s a standalone, not Book 1. I’m not saying you have to have a cliffhanger, but there needs to be some stakes on the table still—not just loveable characters. The ending to Martin Hospitality is open, but there’s not much you need to read on for.
*there are some series that cater to being individual stories in a single world or with connected characters—such series don’t require the same intense connectedness.
8. Learn as you go. Obviously this is what I’ve had to do, and I won’t be able to cut the learning curve completely short for you either. Contrary to what it might have sounded like earlier, I don’t regret sticking with writing a sequel. It’s been an amazing test of patience and writing when I simply don’t feel like it. A wonderful pain. And, yes, I still intend to write other series. I’m just going to approach them differently.
Of course, several of these can be issues even in standalones. However, for me, these issues have all come out more prominently in sequel-writing. But I’ll survive and so can you! I hope this will help you on your way to writing sequels because I’ve learned one thing through all this: the only thing harder than writing a sequel is writing a standalone.
Have you ever written (or tried to write) a sequel? Do you think it would be harder or easier for you than writing a standalone?
Readers’ Favorite 2017 Christian Fiction Honorable Mention
Gemma Ebworthy is eighteen, pregnant, and alone. Now that she’s been evicted, she finds herself sleeping in a barn, never dreaming that tomorrow could bring kindness of a life-changing magnitude.
The Martins aren’t a typical family–even for rural Kansas. With more kids than can be counted on one hand and a full-time farm, Gemma must make a lot of adjustments to fit in. But despite their many differences, Gemma finds herself drawn to this family and their radical Christian faith.
When Gemma’s past collides with her yet again, she must begin revealing her colorful history. With every detail Gemma concedes, she fears she will lose the Martins’ trust and the stable environment she desires for herself and her unborn child. Just how far can the Martins’ love and God’s forgiveness go?