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.
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?