Saturday, 4 July 2009

Writing a sequel

It's trickier than it looks. Or at the very least, trickier than I expected.

Finding the right place to begin a story is always a bit difficult for me. And I'm discovering that it's even harder when I have a previous story to build on. I have such a sense of who these characters are and what they've been through that I leave out information that new readers are going to need. And I throw too many characters into the mix too soon.

After thoroughly confusing my crit group with my opening chapters, it was clear that a simple tweak wasn't going to fix the problems. I had to start over, to a point where I could introduce the characters and situations in small doses. In my case, that meant actually overlapping with the end of Disenchanted, the first book.

Technically speaking, Suffer a Witch is not really a sequel. It is another story, set in the same world, following on the heels of the events of Disenchanted, but with no single story arc.

Can you think of any sequels where this kind of transition was handled gracefully? Or have you written one? What did you learn?


Cathi-Lyn said...

I have tried drafting sequels in tandem, so that there's an overall flow. But I switched main characters and tackled the development of supporting storylines in more of a "spin-off" style.

My original technique was to pick a moment from the first ms for the starting moment of the 2nd ms, and so forth.

Jacob R Parker said...

One thing I've noticed is that it seems like authors can get away with more telling in sequels, at least at the beginning. In the first book all the characterizing had to be shown, but in sequels it seems like they just go ahead and say it if it's already been covered in the first book. Something like: "Martha frowned. She'd hated seafood ever since her run-in with the giant squid." Little hints like that seem to litter the first few chapters of sequels, whereas in a book one it would probably be seen as a shameless attempt to inject some backstory.

Jared said...

Alastair Reynolds' 'Revelation Space' series.

Alexander Field said...

There are other fantasy series in which each book stands alone, in a way, while the character grow or learn over the course of the series. I think Jim Butcher's Dresden Files novels are like that. : )

Janet said...

Cathi-Lyn, that sounds similar to what I've done.

Jacob, do you think they're really getting away with it, or are they just doing it? I'd like the beginning of #2 to be as fresh as #1, but it's a challenge. I'm trying... ;o)

Jared, I don't know that series. Is it worth searching for?

Alex, that's true. I've read the first two, despite my lack of enthusiasm for urban fantasy, mainly because I figured I owed Jim Butcher something for his excellent blog on writing. I didn't read the second one with this particular question in mind though. Maybe I should take another look.


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