Fire bad, tree pretty, sequel hard

It seems simple enough, right? You already know a bunch of your characters, you’re comfortable in your world, you’ve got a solid story under your belt, and you know what you’re doing, right?

Oh, no. This is not as easy at it looks.

But you knew that, right? I mean, you’ve read enough sequels to know that getting it right is a dicey business.

Here’s my problem with reading sequels: I read them back to back. I hate waiting to find out what’s going to happen next, and waiting six months to a year?? Oh no. Lack coping skills. So yeah, I have to stick my head in the sand to avoid spoilers, especially on the big ones, but it’s a small price to pay. Equal opportunity binge-er here! I also don’t watch TV and instead wait for the entire season or, preferably, series, to be out on DVD before starting to watch the episodes back to back.

Anyway, when you don’t have six months to forget the details, when you’ve just read the book, tossed it aside, and pounced on the next one, eager to find out what happens, re-reading everything you just read is incredibly frustrating. As the ebook trend grows, as “out-of-print” becomes a thing of the past and more people are able to find all the books in a series, in order, whenever they stumble upon it, this will be an issue for even more readers.

The answer, I think, is to start each book like it’s totally new and fresh. Forget about the previous book and every adorable word you put in there, every remarkable moment you lived through with those characters that you want to reminisce about (but suggesting that they want to reminisce). The reader’s here to find out what happens now.

In the first book, when you’re starting out, you know that you’re developing a character for the reader. You’re not dumping her, her vital stats, living arrangements, most traumatic moments, and grocery list on page one. You’re doling out tidbits as you go, as they become relevant to the story.

Well book two? Same goes. The event of book one are now part of the character, part of the backstory of book 2. You know better that to dump a lot of unnecessary backstory into your book, right?

Objection, your Honor! Relevancy?

Now, in case you haven’t figured this out, this is me, talking to myself. Heroes ‘Til Curfew is kicking my butt. What I know about not bogging a story down with irrelevant backstory and useless detail, and what I seem to really want to write, are two different things.

This is way harder than I thought it would be.

I’ve never written a book two before. I’ve never completed a book one I thought was worth following up on before. So now I’m in this whole new world in which I see this whole series of books before me…

This is a skill-set that I seriously need to learn. And I will.

While I work on this, any thoughts? Advice? Commiseration? Are there book twos you’ve just thrown at the wall because you didn’t want to hear about book one anymore?


Filed under Heroes 'Til Curfew, Hush Money, story structure, Talent Chronicles, tips, what not to do, writing

9 responses to “Fire bad, tree pretty, sequel hard

  1. Stacey Wallace Benefiel

    As someone who just finished writing her very first sequel, I couldn’t agree more. Very hard. Hurt head. You can’t do an info dump and catch everyone up quickly, but especially if your characters have some sort of powers or your world has rules, you have to figure out how to set everything up all over again. I definitely went back and forth. I mean, why would anyone ever start a series on the second book, right? So, you don’t have to retell the whole thing. However, I am the kind of reader that will wait until the next one comes out (allthough I do love a good binge) but I’m horrible at rereading the previous books, so I usually need just a little refresher. Two writers come to mind when I think of this topic. One does a great job with the refresher and the other goes way overboard. Hint: If you find your books are becoming progressively longer because you’re feeling the need to include a lot of back story, you’re including too much back story. Ha!

  2. mm.hmm..
    A bit of refresher do help readers. A lot of it, not a good idea. I don’t know with others, but I get bored reading lots of old stuff. I could name a book! It reduced my liking to the book. >__< sorry. I'm willing to help! Anything!

  3. OMG! *looks at the post I’ve left before* That is so embarrassing. I must have accidentally deleted the… Oh, well… Here’s what’s supposed to be up there.

    A bit of refresher do help readers. A lot of it, not a good idea. I don’t know with others, but I get bored reading lots of old stuff. I could name a book! It reduced my liking to the book. Did I… err… kind of, distracted you last time we were chatting? And I was such a chatterbox about the story that time. >__< sorry. I'm willing to help! Anything!

    I know I typed those words. I wonder why they're gone.

    • BD, distract me while I was working you mean? Oh no, don’t worry about that. When I’m seriously working, I turn everything else off. I don’t know how anyone can stay in their story world while people are tweeting all the time. Sometimes that’s why it takes me so long to respond to tweets, because I’m writing and don’t have twitter or email open at all.

  4. I am not an author, so forgive me if I have no idea of what I am talking about but – I agree with BeeDee a little backstory helps – since I dont usually have time to pick up the first book to read before I read the 2nd book in a series…

    Also, what’s wrong about reliving what happened already, whats wrong with writing that other than it takes time? If that’s how the characters are coming to you, telling you there story, then they are doing it for a reason – forgive me if I am wrong, but stop resisting and go with it…let them lead for a bit, you follow –

    When the story is out, then the editing begins and you can pair down scenes if you want – but right now, it seems they know where they are going and need the lead – it’s your job, as the amazing author we all know you are, to let them take it for a bit to see what beautiful things they want to show you!

    OK shutting up now, since I no not what I speak!

    • Thanks, Jenn. NO! They must OBEY ME!
      LOL, as if. That’s like trying to tell Eric not to drive.
      Seriously, I’m not sure I can let them get too out of hand. Joss and Dylan have been literally all over each other every time I turn around lately.
      But I will try to ease up on policing everyone and see what happens. Thanks.

  5. HMM all over each other huh, sounds sexy and steamy LOL

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