Writing the Sequel

We’ve talked about planning and writing series here, but now that I am knee deep into writing my sequel, I thought we could talk about what goes into making a good sequel. I’ve learned that sequels are inherently more ambitious, there’s more characters, more going on, and more to juggle to keep it all straight, but I’m also more equipped to do so having written the first book. So let’s look at some things to keep in mind when writing sequels.

  • Make sure you have enough story for a second book. Don’t just write a sequel for the sake of having a series. Or to have another book to sell. Do you have enough plot for another book? Will you be able to develop your characters enough for another book? Don’t write a sequel stuffed with filler and static characters. Story comes first.
  • Don’t add filler. Every scene and character needs to move the story forward or serve a narrative purpose. Don’t fill your book with fluff that doesn’t serve the story. Your reader will get bored and may even put the book down, never to read you again. This is the number one killer of a good sequel.
  • You still have to start with a hook. Don’t just continue exactly where book one left off. You won’t need to go in depth reintroducing your characters and story world, but you do need to intrigue your reader and get them hooked on reading this new story.
  • Your sequel needs to be connected to the first book, either in plot, theme, or both. Usually the theme of the sequel will be a continuation of the first book’s themes or another side of the same coin. Also, unanswered story arcs from the first book are carried into the second one. Books one and two have different subplots and events, but are clearly part of the same overall story. Don’t lose your focus and tell a completely unrelated story in book two.
  • Keep writing dynamic characters. This means your characters continue to change and grow. Don’t stop developing them in book one. They need to react to what is happening to them in book two as well.
  • Keep your tension building. Your protagonist needs to keep facing growing conflict that rises to the climax where something great is at stake. Don’t drop your tension in the second book, keep it building to even greater heights.
  • Don’t overshare what happened in book one. Book two has to work as a standalone novel, but we don’t need to recap every single thing and person that happened in book one. Give pertinent backstory from book one as needed. Don’t go on and on explaining it.
  • Know the ending. Know where you are taking the story and what this book’s climax is going to be before you start. This way you can build towards the ending from page one. You can plant necessary information for the big payoff in the end. Make sure your story builds off the first book. Plan ahead.
  • Take notes on book one for consistency. You don’t want Steve, that blue-eyed hottie, to suddenly have green eyes in book two. Or for the sidekick to suddenly have different parents than in book one. I keep a master journal of all these details, so I can easily look them up as needed.
  • Don’t be afraid to add depth with subplots. Subplots are threads of side stories woven into the main plot. These can include the main characters, like in a romantic subplot, or further develop the theme using a minor character. They add complexity to your story, just make sure to weave them in.
  • Don’t ignore time. The events going on throughout the second book should show a natural passage of time from the first book. For instance, book one of my series takes place in the summer. When we get to book two, the weather is cooling and we move into the fall. It just wouldn’t be believable for two books worth of action to all occur over one season.

So these tips should help you out as you write your sequel. Sequels can be challenging to write, but it is definitely worth the effort. Having a plan will help you move forward, even if you don’t make a detailed outline. What are your best tips for writing a sequel? Share below and happy writing!

Julia

Follow my column at Our Write Side and Twitter for more writing tips and inspiration. Find me on Facebook for weekly prompts.

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Signs of Amateur Writing

Now before we begin, I will say that these signs of amateurish writing can be easily fixed once you know what to look for. So don’t get discouraged, especially if you haven’t heard this advice before. Now let’s look at these signs of amateur writing.

  • Using italics or exaggerated punctuation for emphasis. Because seriously how on earth will the reader ever know what I mean to emphasize if I don’t. Write. Like. This? Honestly, they will know because they have a modicum of intelligence and empathy enough to know which words have a stress to them. Trust in their intellect. Also, if it’s not clear, then you can use descriptions, like “he said the last word like steel.” You get the idea.
  • Exclamation points!!!! You may want to use them. You may even want to use multiples of them or use them in tandem with a question mark to make the elusive interrobang. Do not give into these urges. Fitzgerald said using exclamation points was like laughing at your own joke. That’s not a good thing. It’s actually obnoxious to laugh at your own jokes. They say limit one per story. Use it wisely.
  • Using dialogue tags other than said (or asked). Your characters should not eject, articulate, shout, or ejaculate words. These are hugely amateurish and distracting for the reader. This sort of intrusion of the author can be irritating for your readers. Said and asked are non-intrusive and the reader can just glide right over them. Stick to said and asked.
  • Not knowing when you need a new paragraph. Whenever a new character speaks, you need a new paragraph. Whenever a passage of time is shown, you need a new paragraph. If you change place, new paragraph. New topic, new person, new paragraph.
  • Relying on adverbs and adjectives. This is weak writing. Instead use strong verbs and concrete nouns. Paint a strong and clear picture with your words.
  • Purple prose. Purple prose is prose that is too elaborate or ornate. In its flowery nature, it draws attention to itself, inserting the author into the story and becoming a distraction and a chore to slough through for the reader. Remember your descriptions should serve the narrative and push the story forward, not just exist to sound fancy.
  • Head hopping. This is where the POV jumps from character to character without proper scene breaks or sticking to proper POV rules. Stick to one character POV per scene or chapter. Any character switches should be clear and keep each character POV so distinct and unique your reader will always know which POV it is.

If you’re guilty of these signs, don’t forget that good writing is rewriting. You can always make your writing stronger. What are your tips for avoiding amateur writing? Share below and happy writing.

Julia

Follow my column at Our Write Side and Twitter for more writing tips and inspiration. Find me on Facebook for weekly prompts.

Diversity

Something everybody seems to be talking about these days is diversity and I think that’s great. Diversity is about inclusion. We include diverse characters, not because the agents you want to query are asking for it, but because our communities are made up of all kinds of people that want to be represented in the media they consume. It’s not about a catch word, it’s about acceptance. So what are some things to keep in mind when dealing with diversity? Let’s take a look.

  • Diverse people can’t be reduced to a single trait. Nor do they represent everyone who shares that trait. Don’t tokenize people or resort to hurtful and limiting stereotypes. Diverse characters are more than just their skin color, orientation, or disability.
  • Write them as human first. Human with their own distinct personality. We are all people and can relate to each other through our humanity. Make your character three-dimensional and fully fleshed out. They should have story goals and flaws to make them relatable and real.
  • Research is key to getting this right. You want to accurately portray your diverse character’s story. Talk to people from that culture. Read interviews and articles online. You would do research to accurately describe an archer loosing an arrow or using medieval weapons, so do your due diligence here.
  • Don’t include diversity just to fill a quota. You want them to be fully realized characters that serve a purpose in your narrative. Don’t write a POC just to kill them off first.
  • Respond to criticism with grace. You’ll never be able to satisfy everyone, but listen to critiques and revise accordingly. If someone is giving you feedback, recognize that as a gift. Someone is giving you a glimpse into their story. Don’t get angry, it’s not a personal attack against you. Respond with grace and try to understand where they are coming from.
  • Similarly, get beta readers from the community you’re trying to represent. Listen to their insights. Make sure your story is as strong and well represented as it can be.

Diversity makes our stories stronger and more realistic. This world is wide and includes all sorts of humans. Don’t limit yourself or your characters. What are your best tips for writing diversity? Share below and happy writing!

Julia

Follow my column at Our Write Side and Twitter for more writing tips and inspiration. Find me on Facebook for weekly prompts.