Writing a Sequel

Well, I’ve officially hit the 70,000-word mark on the ATFS sequel! For some context, that’s a little longer than The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, and still about 20,000 words shy of ATFS. I’m aiming for 100,000 with this book.

I didn’t write ATFS with a sequel in mind, intending to leave the ending rather open to interpretation. Nonetheless, readers have been asking: “So what happens next?”

So, what happens next?

Compared to writing a standalone novel, writing a sequel is a whole different animal. There are rules and restrictions that don’t exist when writing something totally new. There are… expectations.

timcurry.gif
Tim Curry accurately shows how I feel about having expectations thrust upon me

Releasing my first novel for public consumption was terrifying. Before that my characters and my story were mine alone. Now they belong to my readers, who project all their thoughts and opinions and hopes and fears onto them in ways that would never even cross my mind. I’m a firm believer that once a book (or any piece of art, really) is made available to the public, it no longer belongs solely to the creator. People will interpret it in their own way and claim ownership of it in a certain capacity, and if you try to resist it you’ll only end up alienating the people who have supported you and your work.

So, when it comes to the sequel, I’m not just writing characters that I love anymore. I’m writing characters that other people have fallen in love with. I don’t just owe it to myself to be true to them in this extension of the story, I owe it to the people who know and love them. This requires a certain amount of care and consistency that wasn’t expected of me before, when I was creating characters from scratch. It’s not that I didn’t put time and effort and thought into them, it’s just that I could change them if I felt like it, anything from their hair color to their favorite flower. Now, I don’t have as much flexibility.

However, I do have more freedom in other ways. Since my characters are already established, I get to have more fun with the plot without worrying too much about character development. Of course, character development is still what drives the story, but I don’t have to do any exposition or backstory — the reader already knows these characters and can dive right back in. I get to put them in situations that bring out new facets of their personalities that I didn’t get to explore the first time around.

Here are the big questions I’m attempting to tackle in the sequel (without spoiling anything for those of you who haven’t read ATFS):

  • What are the consequences of Laura’s choices at the end of the first novel?
  • Can we ever really overcome our histories?
  • Does love really bear all things?

They’re tough questions with complex answers, which I hope will make for a compelling story. Now I have questions for you!

Writer friends: Have you written a sequel? What were the best and worst parts of writing it?

Reader friends: What do you look for in a good sequel? What differentiates an Empire Strikes Back from a Temple of Doom (James if you’re reading this don’t argue with me it’s a terrible movie)? 

Let’s chat about sequels. Which sequels have you loved and which have been downright offensive to their predecessors?

Curiously yours,

Claire
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Published by clairelaminen

I am a Ventura, California native with a compulsion to create. I'm a storyteller, through writing, photography, and occasionally music. Weekends are for camping with my husband, reading, and hunting for vintage treasures, which I sell in my Etsy shop, Peace & Goodwill. My favorite things include lavender lattes, swimming in the ocean, true crime podcasts, The X-Files, and Peaky Blinders. I hope to become a full-time writer, bestselling novelist, and a continually improving reflection of God's grace. Proverbs 16:24

5 thoughts on “Writing a Sequel

  1. The two things I always hated in sequels or series were
    • a first novel that is clearly just a prequel to the book the author wanted to write instead
    • a “return to the world” after a story closed neatly that just disrupts everything it ended with

    The Hunger Games I loved because of the concept. While the other two books were enjoyable and I had investment in the characters, by the third book I was nowhere near as interested because… it wasn’t the Hunger Games any more. It was just another book about war but with a famous protagonist. I noticed the same trend in a lot of teen dystopia – book one establishes the world, book two changes the world, book three makes the new world. I have never enjoyed two and three as much as one, because by that point they lose their individuality and become the same. Damn. Story
    But equally, I can’t count the number of novels I’ve read which just feel like a cut-in-half book. It’s supposed to make me buy book two but it never does – I just get annoyed at it. If nothing feels solved or tied up, it’s not “a cliffhanger” – it’s just lazy writing.
    Or the book ends… and then suddenly it doesn’t. See: Maze Runner. Loved book one, didn’t bother with the others because the ending of it was so frustrating.

    Essentially, I think as a reader I like to have the option to read the sequel/series, but to not feel pushed toward it. A novel should be complete on its own, without relying on another investment to tie up everything. But likewise, novels can be left with some open-endedness, and I have loved some sequels and series.
    A good example would be the Shades of Magic series, by VE Schwab. The Colour of Magic (1) could be a standalone if you weren’t interested in the others; enough gets tied up, it ends neatly, but if you enjoyed it then you’re excited to read A Gathering of Shadows (2). Weirdly, AGoS then ends on an absolute agonising cliffhanger – which I didn’t mind. Because TCoM ended so well, I was just eager for A Conjuring of Light (3). So in this case, one book works well if you’re not interested in a series, but when you get into the series you just have to finish it.

    As a writer, sequels plain terrify me. I have never planned a sequel that wasn’t just a bigger idea cut in half – one of the exact things I claim to hate! Then the challenge comes in rounding off and solidifying both halves so it DOESN’T end up like something I would rant about being pointless. In another case I started to write one novel with the intention of actually making a sequel afterwards, but found this too intimidating. What if the sequel doesn’t work without changing details from book one? What if I can’t finish it and it stays a half-thing forever? I had to abandon that novel until I had more time to think on it, and it sits a third-way-through draft for now.
    As a side note, I realised partway through Each Separate Dying Ember that it was heading toward the teen dystopia arc I described before – which I then intentionally inverted. No spoilers, but it ends with the intention of ending that story.
    For other novels, I’m sure it will be different.
    A standalone I can smash out. But a sequel? A little too intimidating for me right now!

    Good luck with the AtFS sequel – you already know how exciged I am for it!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. So insightful! I felt the same way about The Hunger Games. It bums me out when something starts so strong and then kind of just peters out.

      Sequelling (it’s a verb now) is intimidating, but the challenge has been really rewarding. Hopefully I’ll learn something from it so I can help when your time comes!

      Like

  2. As a reader, I personally LOVE series, especially in the fantasy genre. If you’re going to spend 80,000+ words creating a world, I want to spend more than just one book’s worth amount of time. On the other hand, I despise unnecessary sequels, or how everything seems to be a trilogy- There’s nothing wrong with a series that’s two, four, five, etc. books long. What’s ‘trendy’ shouldn’t dictate how many books are in your series. Do what it takes to tell your story.

    As a writer, I’m only a third of the way into writing my sequel-my first ever sequel. My creative juices were flowing after I finished my first novel so I just kept writing. But I quickly realized I needed to take a step back and edit the first book first. The scariest part about the sequel is that once the first book is out, you can’t go back and change anything. You’re chained to whatever world-building and characterization you previously established. But like you said, it is SO fun to explore character relationships that are getting more time to develop. I’ll keep you posted on how I feel about sequels once I get back to writing it.

    Good luck with your sequel!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Amen to that, Erin. Trilogies are v trendy right now and sometimes it means ideas that could have been one book get stretched into two or vice versa. Follow your story, not the trends. I hope your writing continues to go well!!! You’ve got this!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I can only say — don’t let our expectations guide the story! We weren’t there when you wrote the first one. Write it as if you never published the first and are only continuing the novel you started. You might exceed our expectations. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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