Slogging Through That Sequel

July 21, 2018

 

Sequels suck.

 

One look at the summer movie lineup, and it's hard not to agree.

 

Incredibles II? Fun, but not quite up to par (buh dum tsssh ... I'll let myself out) with the original. Especially since they made us wait over a decade.

 

Jurassic World (dos)? Just plain missing a plot and a three-dimensional villain. Happy to see pachycephalosaurus representation, though.

 

Ant Man and Wasp? Funny, but again, missing a conflict or two. And the humor was dry in spots. A very hard feat in a Paul Rudd movie. 

 

Sequels rarely live up to the original. So what do you do when tasked with writing a sequel for a book? How do you reincarnate that quirky voice you used in the original without info dumping? And what if book one doesn't sell well? Does that mean all your effort for book two, book six, book seventeen is all for nothing? 

 

I'm about 30,000 words into my second book for Den, 50,000 to go. Here's what's been helping me get through the sequel slog.

 

Remember you've grown from book one.

 

Sequels seem harder to write because you can't reenact the quality of work presented in the final draft of book one (because, well, that took six-ish drafts to do ... you're on draft one). 

 

But if you glance at a previous earlier versions, you'll realize how far you've come and how much you've learned. You no longer overuse em dashes and parentheses. You start off chapters with a quote instead of a telling information dump. 

 

Book One took time, so will Book Two.

 

We've all seen examples of authors who spent years on the first of a bestselling series. Then the publisher said, "Yo, do it again. In a year, or less." 

 

Oh, goodness. So on a time crunch, the author slaps together a hack job of a plot. And the fans complain. 

 

If you have a chance to take your time, do so. You're dealing with more characters in the sequel. With higher stakes and more complicated relationships. If you're not matching the word count of the previous (or at least coming close) you're not doing it right. Take your time. Marathon runners, when doing their second race, don't sprint. They know how long it took them the first time and will pace themselves for the second.

 

Don't be afraid to make Book Two different.

 

One of my biggest beefs with movie sequels are they try to bring in too much from the original *cough Star Wars Episode Seven cough*. Sure, loyal readers want to you to hearken back to something that happened previously, perhaps as a refresher (they've been waiting a solid year for the sequel; they might need a reminder). But they want an actual book. With an actual plot. Not just a conglomeration of throwbacks to previous movies *looking at you, Infinity Wars*. 

 

Don't shy away from quirky twists. 

 

Book Two of Den is significantly darker than Book One (I kill off about three times as many people in Book Two, introduce darker harder subjects, and toss in a bird so my ornithology friends will feel represented). 

 

Am I scared the readers won't like the changes? Heck yes.

 

Will I try to be different anyway? Heck yes, because I refuse to give them something they've read before. 

 

 

 

And above all: Keep Writing. Even if it won't see the light of day, your characters deserve to have the second part of their story told. Don't disappoint them. 

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