The challenge of writing a sequel

Discussion in 'General Writing Discussion' started by Brian Turner, Jan 15, 2013.

  1.  
    Brian Turner

    Brian Turner Brian G. Turner Staff Member

    Joined:
    Nov 23, 2002
    Messages:
    11,214
    This morning I've been reading a lot about authors and their challenges when writing their second novel after being signed.

    Douglas Hullick posts his challenges here:
    http://www.staffersbookreview.com/2012/07/guest-post-douglas-hulick-in-the-trenches.html

    but there are more to be found on this page:
    http://www.staffersbookreview.com/2012/07

    Point is, I know some of us are kind of split between writing a sequel regardless, and waiting until contracted before starting.

    I just thought it would be interesting to use as reference thoughts on newly signed writers on how they felt dealing with the second novel.

    The general consensus appears to be: with difficulty. Even with a significant body of the sequel written, adapting to life under deadline and having to stay organised doesn't look like too much fun!
  2.  
    Anne Lyle

    Anne Lyle Fantastical historian

    Joined:
    Sep 3, 2007
    Messages:
    1,455
    Ah, yes - Doug and I both did the Debut Authorpalooza last year. Lots of different perspectives on the trials of writing your second novel under contract!
  3.  
    Stephen Palmer

    Stephen Palmer author of novels

    Joined:
    Dec 22, 2009
    Messages:
    1,788
    I was lucky in that I was already very organised. It's not really a problem for an author if you dot the i's and cross the t's.

    These days, with the biz in the state that it is, I'd never write volume 2 or further of a work unless I had a definite deal for the opener.

    The work I'm putting together at the moment, the Green Trilogy, is a bit different as it's one long novel split into three approx. 100,000 word books.
  4.  
    Brian Turner

    Brian Turner Brian G. Turner Staff Member

    Joined:
    Nov 23, 2002
    Messages:
    11,214
    Yep, it was a link on your blog that led me to it. :)
  5.  
    springs

    springs Juggling life

    Joined:
    Oct 5, 2011
    Messages:
    8,142
    I think Kindle, too, changes things. I have in the back of my mind that if Abendau doesn't sell - and it's not a particularly easy book to market, given genre limitations and what not - then if I put it on Kindle, then the model changes. Then, it's in my interest to have the sequel, and indeed the third, completed so that I can keep up the momentum. But that is only if you're happy with that decision.

    I won't, for instance, write a sequel to Inish unless it sells and am happy to trunk it, but I wouldn't be happy to do that with Abendau. (Partly because I believe in it, and want to have it out there, one way or another.)
  6.  
    Leisha

    Leisha Tennis-ball Robin

    Joined:
    Feb 28, 2007
    Messages:
    3,211
    All of the agents and editors' sites I've read have suggested writers start on their next book - whether that be the second in a series or something else - while submitting their first MS. :)

    That's good advice, I feel. And you only improve by writing and reading more.

    Also, back in 2008*, when I hired JJ to critique my novel, he said that I had "many, many hanging storylines" at the end of book one, but that it was "not a problem". He didn't say I wouldn't stand a chance at a deal, or that I wouldn't get taken on one day because I wasn't writing standalones set in the same world. So, I assume if you seem a competent enough writer and your first book is a success, you'll get book two out - especially if you sign a contact for X amount of books. So, the sooner you start writing book two, the better - especially if you are pressured to write a book a year... or less. And, as you say, the pressured writing doesn't sound like too much fun. :eek:


    *Contrary to what this looks like, I haven't been time wasting since then. I'm still working on that novel, writing it again and again until I feel it's perfect. My first book needs to be bigger and better than ever if I'm to get published one day... EEP!




    Edit: Whoa! That's pretty! A row of 3 "you"s at the start of sentences in the text above, and 3 "if"s at the end!
  7.  
    AnyaKimlin

    AnyaKimlin Active Member

    Joined:
    Sep 21, 2011
    Messages:
    3,090
    I've got mine completed to first draft and written the last in the series. I'm working on the second one whilst submitting the first. With having ME I figured a book or two ahead wouldn't be a bad thing. I'll work on the third during the pre-editing break.

    Like Springs the worst that happens is Mayhem and its sequel get self published to Kindle. I can then turn my attention to other works.
  8.  
    Brian Turner

    Brian Turner Brian G. Turner Staff Member

    Joined:
    Nov 23, 2002
    Messages:
    11,214
    That's what I've read, but other people on chrons have read advise to hold back. From what I've read in the above links, I feel more like starting the 2nd before I've finished the 1st!!

    A little more on writing sequels in this discussion between Brandon Sanderson and Patrick Rothfuss:
    http://www.amazon.com/gp/feature.html?ie=UTF8&docId=1000661941
  9.  
    Ursa major

    Ursa major Bearly Believable Staff Member

    Joined:
    Aug 7, 2007
    Messages:
    14,077
    My first sequel (i.e. book two) is very different to the first book - only one named character continues into that sequel, and the setting is completely different - so if the first doesn't sell, perhaps the second might.

    Coming up with a direct sequel to what is now book two would be a problem, though, as the third book returns to the direct consequences of what happened in book one, and the character present in both books one and two doesn't reappear until book four.
  10.  
    Anne Lyle

    Anne Lyle Fantastical historian

    Joined:
    Sep 3, 2007
    Messages:
    1,455
    I think the "don't write the sequel" advice is aimed at folks who dream of publishing a humungous series a la ASOIAF/Malazan/Wheel of Time - which is indeed a tough sell for a debut author. Plus, if you write all those books and then the publisher wants significant changes to the first, that's a lot of rewriting to do!

    That's a whole different issue from "start a new book as soon as you've finished the first", which makes solid sense if you want a career as a writer. It doesn't have to be a sequel if the first book doesn't have sequel potential, but an agent is going to want to know you have more books in you, otherwise you're not much of a business investment! (And of course if you're self-publishing, you need multiple books out to warrant serious interest.)
  11.  
    Kissmequick

    Kissmequick loony

    Joined:
    Nov 12, 2007
    Messages:
    1,103
    I think the challenges of a sequel will differ with every writer, depending on the sort of writer you are etc. (And I didn't start writing the sequel until I'd signed - I wrote something else while I was waiting. Bonus is, now I have something almost ready to sub, and the first series isn't out yet)

    For me it was/is three fold.

    a) I'm a panster. But when we subbed book 1, we also subbed (very broad) outlines for books 2 & 3. So I kind of had to stick with them....which was hard because of how I write. But we managed.

    b) I wrote the first pretty much for fun. Now I'd been paid, and I had to write the book to earn it (never sold a book I hadn't written before)....and it's got to be in the same vein as the first, the character has to still be recognisably him oh, yeah, and it's got to be as good too. Eeek!

    c) Because I tend to worldbuild on the fly, the first book no huge infodumping was easy because I only built the world as and when I needed it, so that's where it went in teh book. Only book 2, ofc, I know the world, the character's backstory (figured that out as I went in book 1 too) and the temptation to dump, or to recap too much was overwhelming.

    Then again, other things were easier, so I suspect it balances out.
  12.  
    Gumboot

    Gumboot lorcutus.tolere

    Joined:
    Feb 12, 2012
    Messages:
    949
    If anything my problem is focusing on my current book and getting it finished before I start on anything new. Although for me writing isn't about getting published so much. I have a field of work I love, and intend to remain in, so it's not my ambition to make writing my main source of income, and even if my first book were to be released and be totally panned, I'd keep writing purely for my own enjoyment.

    The second volume of my series is already written, and I have another stand-alone novel set in the same world that's half written as well. Then there's an ever-growing list of novel ideas that have grown out of my worldbuilding efforts. I've probably already got enough material lined up to keep me busy for the rest of my life.
  13.  
    Warren_Paul

    Warren_Paul Banishment this world!

    Joined:
    Jan 28, 2012
    Messages:
    2,589
    I always wondered about this. One thought that kept going through my mind is what if you sell the first book and the editors advise changes that would alter what happens in the second book - or do they not do that? Do they just let you handle the story, and they just make sure the grammar and spelling is correct?

    I've held off writing the sequel when submitting because I worry I might be wasting my time by writing it before the first book is confirmed to be staying exactly as it is.
  14.  
    Mouse

    Mouse roar

    Joined:
    Jun 2, 2006
    Messages:
    8,584
    I've decided I'm not going to write a sequel for mine, unless by some miracle I do get published and the publishers ask for one. I am trying to start something new though, while I get it ready for submission. (Which is taking longer than I hoped).
  15.  
    allmywires

    allmywires not sure if...

    Joined:
    Mar 8, 2012
    Messages:
    1,483
    deleted, brain is broken, misunderstood the post!
  16.  
    Juliana

    Juliana Between Worlds

    Joined:
    Jun 28, 2012
    Messages:
    1,299
    Mine is basically a longer story divided into 4 MG-sized chunks. So when I started on book 1 I already had all 4 planned out. I didn't start showing anyone until I had book 3 almost ready. But they are really short compared to adult-sized novels, so less time invested.

    I have someone possibly interested in publishing, who was attracted in part by the fact that its an almost-completed series already.

    But if I was writing longer stories, I don't know if I would have started on sequels, possibly I would just plan them out...
  17.  
    Gumboot

    Gumboot lorcutus.tolere

    Joined:
    Feb 12, 2012
    Messages:
    949

    Some writers, if their first work is a series, write the entire thing before trying to get anything published. Fellow Kiwi Russell Kirkpatrick had written his entire "Fires of Heaven" series before he submitted "Across The Face Of The World" to HarperCollins.
  18.  
    Kissmequick

    Kissmequick loony

    Joined:
    Nov 12, 2007
    Messages:
    1,103
    Grammar and spelling etc is the copy editor's job - after the content edits.

    Really, this is going to be different for every book, but while in this series I have made a fair few changes, the general thrust of the overarching plot hasn't changed.* It might for a different book (under my own name, I was required to rewrite my 'Casablanca' ending because I made the editor cry too much :D It meant a certain character lived who wouldn't have done otherwise, so while it DID strengthen the book - a lot as it happens - it also changed the sequel)

    If you want to go for the sequel, then do it (I can think of a couple of big selling authors who, on their first deal, had two or three books ready to roll). Just be prepared!


    *ETA: And also, edits are not usually 'YOU MUST DO THIS!!' in a voice of doom. Mostly it's 'I think this would be stronger if you did X' which you can debate to an extent - more than once I've taken away the effect they wanted, and done it very differently than suggested. Though it's always wise to wait to resist for something you really think is worth it. Not the least because all the editors I've worked with know what the heck they are talking about!
  19.  
    Warren_Paul

    Warren_Paul Banishment this world!

    Joined:
    Jan 28, 2012
    Messages:
    2,589
    Right. I liked his books, and how he adapted real world history, mythology and cultures into the world - especially his race based on Maori. So many bits of his world are related to stories from the bible. The Garden of Eden, Cain and Abel and how they were cast out, The Ark of the Covenant. Some brilliant adaptations.

    Ian Irvine also didn't get A Shadow Upon the Glass published until he had written the entire A View From the Mirror series, but I believe it is noted that he was trying to get the book published the entire time he was writing the series and the only reason is that it wasn't accepted until he'd finished. But yes, he kept writing the series regardless of getting published or not.

    I wonder if the editors were happy with them as they were, or if they made the authors change things....


    EDIT: Post crossed over with KMQ. Thanks KMQ, that's what I thought. So it's a bit of a gamble to keep writing.

    How I see it is, if you finish a book, it could possibly be better to write a completely different one afterwards, instead of the sequel, because it might give you more ammunition. If the first story doesn't sell, then maybe the second one will. If you're not intending to sell it, then of course you'd go on to write the sequel.

    You can't sell a sequel unless the first book sells - unless of course each book in the series is standalone - but you can sell a completely different story.
  20.  
    Kissmequick

    Kissmequick loony

    Joined:
    Nov 12, 2007
    Messages:
    1,103
    Tbh it's up to you - if you've got a fire in your belly to write the second, go for it.

    I wrote something completely different. Bonus here is this: If my agent hadn't sold Fade to Black, I would have something else to sub shortly after. If he did, I had an almost complete work ready for afterwards (the option novel)

    The thing is this: You never know whether that novel will sell, so you keep writing, keep writing, because who knows if the next one will be the one? The main thing is to keep on. If you get pubbed, this works to your advantage. Because what sells your last book? This book. What sells your next book? You got it. The more books you have out there, the more chance someone will pick one up. You can't (okay you can, but your chances are slimmer unless you are a freaking genius, and I ain't) be a one trick pony. Think of your fave writers. How many have only got one or two books to their name? Think of it as an investment in the future. This works the same if you self pub btw. The more books you have out, the more chance you will get noticed by the reader.

Share This Page