The Challenges of Writing A Sequel

how much do you refer back to a previous novel? that's just one issue to confront when writing a sequel.

How much do you refer back to a previous novel? That’s just one issue to confront when writing a sequel.

Writing a sequel is filled with joy, and also difficulties. I wanted to reflect upon and explore that experience today.

Writing a sequel was a pain at moments, but I’m glad I did it. It interests me that the sequel process must be different for everyone who undertakes it. Some people introduce more new characters than others. Sometimes the action picks up right where the previous novel left off. There can be a greater or lesser variation in tone from one installment to another…. One of the most fascinating things I’ve noticed since starting my blog is that writers write so differently from one another! Everyone’s process is unique.

With a promo going on for “The Magic Council,” the second book in my Herezoth trilogy, that novel is on my mind. In particular, I’m remembering how daunting it was at moments to write that part of the series, because the concept of a sequel brings all kinds of challenges.

“The Magic Council” takes place fifteen years or so after “The Crimson League,” so it doesn’t continue the action of that novel. It’s a new story entirely, but it does involve many repeat players, and events in the first story need referencing from time to time. While the story can make sense without the first one, I knew a number of those reading it would be familiar with the first one. Some of my biggest struggles, struggles involved in any sequel:

  • BALANCE IN REFERENCING THE PREQUEL. Some people won’t have read the first installment. Others will need reminders of what happened and who was involved. It’s a real balancing act to give enough information about previous events so that the story makes sense, but not so much info that you frustrate and bore people who remember the first novel well. I relied heavily on my beta readers for this. (That’s important: you as the author will remember the first novel MUCH better than you can expect others to. Beta readers are more indicative of your readers and what things they’ll take with them.)
  • GROWING WITH THE CHARACTERS. Zacry Porteg is eleven in “The Crimson League.” Now he’s twenty-six. That’s a huge jump, and a huge gap of time. It was difficult–but very, very rewarding–to consider how he would have grown/matured, and which aspects of his personality would still be part of him. What events in his life to happen in those “lost” years would have shaped him? I had so much fun seeing my characters change but at the same time, remain true to themselves. It was a joy I can’t even describe. As I don’t have kids, I guess this is the closest thing I have to watching a child grow up. Of course, many a sequel follows on the heels on its predecessor, but even in that case, you’ll need character development and growth coming through.
  • WRITING A FULL STORY WITH MORE POTENTIAL FOR A “NEW CHAPTER.” It’s not the easiest thing to write a story that’s complete in itself, but also leaves the possibility of a next story to follow, one independent of and yet connected to the one that came before. Since I wanted to write a trilogy, I had to keep in mind that I wanted loose edges and curiosity, but not to the point I had a cliffhanger on any kind on my hands. (I don’t like cliffhangers.)

Well, that’s all I can think to say…. Have you written a sequel? Considered it? Are you determined not to touch one, ever, in your writing career? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Like I mentioned above, I have a sale and free promotion going on right now. The first novel in my trilogy, The Crimson League, is only 99 cents through January 11th. The second novel, The Magic Council, is FREE until January 11th. I invite you to check them out, if fantasy is your thing.


18 responses to “The Challenges of Writing A Sequel

  1. I haven’t got anywhere near finishing my first novel, but I plan for it to be part of a trilogy, with each book carrying on minutes after the last. Basically, I think they’ll have plot ends (seemingly for some characters), but leave enough suspense over characters fates we are unsure of. Mine won’t have a huge time gap, but it must be interesting to write!

    • Your idea sounds fun!!! Wow! I did things differently, and it was SUPER interesting to see my characters grow through the years and to imagine what their lives were during the gaps….

  2. Also, stories with really gripping characters who you care about are the ones you want to know more about, so sequels work if you have strong characters as opposed to just a strong plot…

    • Fantastic, fantastic point. Just one more reason good fiction is character driven more than anything else (excepting maybe certain genres like action or thrillers or police stories. But even then, a really memorable lead character makes those stories better and can differentiate them from the fold)

  3. My current attempt at a sequel is going fairly well. My first draft was lacking in plot, according to my beta readers, so I had to do some massive re-writes. It’s shaping up much better now.

    I love the idea that you’re skipping forward so many years. One of my favourite things in a book is to watch a protagonist mature from boy to man (girl to woman — whatever!). My own sequel takes place like IMMEDIATELY after the first book, but I’m thinking of doing a brief time skip before the third book to help move things along down the timeline.

    • sounds like a great plan! I follow your blog, and I’m so glad to know your rewrites are going well and you’re pleased with the results! Rewriting is a pain but it can be SOOO worth it! I’m with you to about loving to watch characters develop and change. One of my favorite things about the seven year span of Harry Potter.

  4. I have a rough draft for the sequel to my second book Debts & Druids. It is put to one side at the moment because it has proved very challenging and possibly exists for the wrong reasons. I felt to tie up the loose ends of Debts & Druids would have added another 40,000 words at least, so the idea of a sequel seemed a good plan at the time.

    • Your plan makes sense to me! An other option would be to expand the first novel, I guess, or add a second part to it. (My novels are all in “two parts” except for “The King’s Sons,” the yet-to-be-published end to my first trilogy

    • I’m sorry you feel you maybe started the sequel for the wrong reasons! That’s always a bummer. I’m wondering that myself about my NaNoWriMo novel, and whether it needs a total overhaul as a result. We’ll see.

  5. Pingback: A sequel of questions or opportunities? | Writing Wings

  6. great info, I’m currently working on book two of my trilogy

  7. Hi Victoria my name is Luna I truly enjoyed your sincerity and your comments. My twitter isn’t working to well these days so I’m hoping that I can continue reaching out and reading your comments and your advice. You touched on some very important facts regarding writing and I be following your advice. Thank you. Hopefully I’ll be able to contact you again.

    • Luna, thanks for the lovely comment! I have such fun with the blog, and it’s so wonderful to hear that people find my posts helpful in some way!!! Best of luck to you. Please do continue to keep in touch!!! 🙂

  8. I am currently working on a sequel for my upcoming debut novel, Faded. I am finding the biggest problem to be how much retelling of the events from the first book is enough and how much is too much. So far its a lot of stop and go, wrestling with whether or not I need to retell this certain event or not. I’m hoping once the first couple of chapters get out of the way the rest of the story will be much easier to write!

  9. Pingback: Three Categories of Series: What class does your favorite series belong to? | Creative Writing with the Crimson League

  10. My first novel is called Sisters with a Secret. There are 2 sets of sisters, both hated each other, but later when they found out they’re witches, they become friends. And there was an enemy, witch hunter leader who turned out to be their principal. One of the girls’ friends were witch hunters, so the girls had to kill the friends and the principal. The 2ndary characters are Tibby who is a sarcastic, tough girl who seemed to help one of the girls deeply and their other friend, Sophi…well she didn’t do much but she was still in it. Both girls knew they’re witches, but didn’t seem to care. They are mortals or whatever you want to call them.
    At least they thought they killed the principal. He possessed one of the girls, then they tried to exercise him, didn’t work.

    The sequel, Sisters Exposed…obviously the 2 sets of sisters will be exposed, but I’m trying to figure out how to expose them. It could end in disaster or fame, at least that’s how I see it. Look at Fantastic 4, they were pretty famous. Hellboy 2, people were scared of him, although people were scared of The Thing in Fantastic 4 also.

    Anyway, my two issues are should I keep Tibby and Sophia? I mean they were pretty significant characters in the first, more Tibby than anyone.
    Also, I have about 8 different scenarios as to how the girls could be exposed and what would happen.
    One scenario is having a cop or someone expose the girls. He could probably blackmail them. “Do this or else I’ll tell.” Then I have to figure out what would happen if they don’t do it. Like rob a bank or something. Maybe someone could die and the cop could blame them.
    Or the cop could be a good cop and have the girls use their powers to take down someone the cop tried to arrest.

    The other scenarios, this could be scary (young adult) is someone could capture them and hook them up to things and test their powers, maybe escalate it by threatening they’ll dissect them. It’s young adult, so I wouldn’t, it’d be too graphic.

    Maybe something could happen where the girls turn against each other and their powers weaken, especially since in the first book there was a spell that said, “When the most unlikely become friends, the great the power transcends”. So…yeah, that’s why they became friends.

    I really don’t want another witch hunter, maybe I should rewrite the ending and remove him.
    Someone suggested I have him mad that they tried to kill him and maybe somehow he uses his spirt powers to see them use their powers and post it on youtube or something and it goes viral. Then maybe be invited to shows like Leno, or Oprah or something.

    Another scenario was the college campus caught on fire in the middle of the night because soemone didn’t put out her cigarette butt. Wakes up everyone, but when they rush down the hall, the girls are trapped beacuse the stairs have collapsed and they have nowhere else to go until one of the girls uses her powers. The girls could either be freaked or grateful and promise to keep their secret. Maybe they could literally keep it or say they will and tell the news.

    Someone suggested rescuing a plane from crashing but I think that would be too out there.

    Someone also said that maybe their new roommate (new minor) which I may or may not keep, could be a good witch.

    Another said maybe the good guy could be working for the bad guy.

    Finally inner conflict.

    I also looked online for female villains in movies or just girls who kicked ass, I found about 50, some I didn’t realize were part of that style.

    • I always love that stage when you aren’t quite sure what’s going to happen 😛 It can be frustrating but it’s also so filled with potential. I like the idea of a video going viral!!! That’s kind of fun 🙂

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