Friday, March 5, 2010

On Writing Sequels, and a WINNER!

There was a time when most books stood completely on their own. The writer had characters, a problem, and a story, and by the end of the book that story was told, the problem solved, and it was time to say goodbye to the characters unless you reread the book. That was it. The end.

In most genres that isn't the case anymore. When querying genre fiction, it isn't even necessary to say the book is a first in a series. That is assumed, so you better have an idea for a second book.

Right now, I am still celebrating and promoting the release of the second book in my Haven series. At the same time, I am preparing to send the second Alex Craft novel off to New York. One sequel I started after the book was already in print, the other I started before I even received my revision notes on the first book. One I knew what readers were saying about the book, the other I didn't even know if the setting was going to remain the same. One of those probably should have been easier than the other, right? But which one? The one where I felt pressure to fix what people didn't like and try to preserve what they did? The one that could change drastically if the first book had a major change? Okay, no. Neither was easy. In fact, I would say for both series it was harder to write the second book than the first. After all, you want the second book to be better, stronger, and more entertaining than the last. That's a tall order.

My advice from the trenches?

-Write the novel for you and for your characters.
Reviews on the net can reveal issues that truly are problems. But, at the same time, opinions are just opinions. I noticed that with any book, if you read the reviews, what one person loves someone else inevitably hates. So don't get caught up in reviews. If something resonates, take it as helpful critique, but write the book that needs to be written. Trying to incorporate everyone's opinion just makes a person insane.

-Keep good notes.
Okay, yes I wrote this character, but that doesn't mean I remember every detail about him or her. And yes, I remembered that happened in the first book--okay, I forgot, but I sort of remembered somewhere in the back of my head. Some sort of reference sheet is a must to keep facts straight.

-Don't wait for lightening to strike, get out there with your kite and tie that key to it.
People loved the first book, after all, that's what you sold and earned the contract with. But now you have to write a second one??
With my Haven series, I have a pretty clear idea of where I'm headed with the series. I don't have all the details worked out but I have an idea where I want the series to end and several things which have to occur before my characters can reach their happily ever after. My Alex Craft novels are a little more vague as far as long term planning goes. Also, hands down, I think GRAVE WITCH is the best book I've written to date (but, of course, I plan to top it--I'm not yet done with the second book in the series or with the third book in the Haven series.) It can be paralyzingly terrifying to sit there thinking you might not have another great book in you. When plotting the second book, I honestly had the thought (on several occasions) "What if I can't do this? What if I let everyone down?" That is counter productive and totally unhelpful.
You can't sit around waiting for a great idea to hit you (at least, not after you have deadlines to worry about.) It might mean starting the first draft while still searching for that magical element that will take the book from 'eh' to something you can't wait for people to read, but, as they say, the muse comes to those who are at the keyboard ready to write. And, while lightening rarely hits the same spot twice, if that daily return to work is your kite, you are far more likely to get a jolt.

And with that, it is time for me to head back to my own writing. After all, I have a manuscript which I need to make sure sparkles before it is time to send it off!

Before I head out, it is time to announce the winner of the signed copy of TWICE DEAD. The random number generator has spoken, and the winner is:


Congratulations! I have a stack of items that need to be shipped in the next few days, so if you can shot an email to contests(AT)themodermythmakers(DOT)com with your shipping address and who to make the book out to, I can hopefully get the book in the mail at the same time as I ship everything else.

Well, that's it for today. Have a great weekend everyone!

1 comment:

throuthehaze said...

Thank you! I just sent my info :)