The Problem with Sequels

When I started down this road of publishing my first book, I was filled with many emotions and thoughts. Oddly, the one thing I didn’t think about was what I would do next. The answer–when writing a series, of course–is, start writing the sequel. Simple, right? Well, my brain has other ideas. Specifically, it has every other idea on God’s green Earth except writing a sequel–including writing this blog so I can bitch and moan about how I can’t seem to focus on writing a sequel to my first book. The second most frequent distracting thought? I just discovered how to make popcorn at home that tastes just like my favorite movie theater’s popcorn. Mmmm. Seriously, that is some awfully good popcorn.  The secret is–damn it! I’m doing it again.

Strange as it may seem, though I’ve been trying my hand at a writing career for many, many, many, many, MANY, M-A-N-Y, years, I have yet to write a sequel to any of them. This surprise is made more surprising when you take into account that almost every book idea I’ve ever written was meant to be book one of a series. Since none of those ‘Book ones’ was picked up by a publisher, I never ended up wasting my time writing sequels to a book that might not get picked up or was clearly not polished enough to get picked up. It was better to either rewrite the unwanted manuscript or move onto another, starting from scratch.

I have, however, written de facto sequels or what I like to call, ‘grandfathered’ sequels. This may be unique to me, but I have a habit of writing an entire book as backstory for another book. I usually end up liking this ‘backstory’ book even more than the original book, and then end up trying to publish the prequel as the new book one. I’ve done this so often that I have a nine part book series that I’ve written completely in reverse. The downside is, as I go backwards in time, I find more and more things that will need to be changed in the original books. Plus, I keep coming up with more ideas for other prequels.  If this doesn’t stop I’ll end up writing about two little protozoic cells, waving little protozoic wands and casting the first spells against each other in a a bid to gain more protozoic magic. Heeeeey…That’s not bad.

Anyway, all of that changed when Fantasy Works Publishing  came along, with their wild idea for actually publishing one of my stories.  Wouldn’t you know it–now I have to write an actual, bona fide sequel. Who gave them permission to do a whacky thing like that? Oh. Yeah. That’s right. I did. What was I thinking?

So now I’m doing the thing where I have to take a character and a story I love, and extended it another 300 or so pages. Worse yet, I have to remember key details about said character and said story that I would have otherwise never needed to think about again. I have to make sure the character has grown since the last story, but still keep all of their behavior within the personality framework I’d established in the last book. Basically, I have to do everything equally good or better than I had in the last book. I finally understand the filmmakers tendency to screw up their sequels by throwing needless explosions and lazily repeating the plot of the original movie. Making sequels can be difficult and nerve racking. At least for me it is.  I find myself questioning every sentence, wondering if that was how I’d describe something the last time, or if this or that person is in character. Luckily, I have the editors at Fantasy Works Publishing to help me out with that problem.

Seriously, the pressure is enough to make my head pop like a kernel of corn…Hmmm, popcorn. That sounds yummy.

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