How to Write a Sequel
My first book, Out of Order, turned out to be more than I could ever have asked for in a first book. It’s gotten good reviews, people other than my immediate family have bought it, and it was even nominated in two categories of the Bisexual Book Awards. So when it came to following up my debut novel with a sequel, I was terrified. How was a second book ever going to live up to the first?
I asked myself a lot of questions before I started writing Order in the Court.
The first thing I had to consider was whether I should I keep the style consistent with the first. In a book called Out of Order, fragmented and unsequential chapters seemed like a no-brainer, but with Order in the Court, there was really a hard decision to be made. I ended up going with my instincts and keeping the non-linear style for the second book, but I constantly second guessed that decision, and every other decision I made.
Would people like the new characters? I wondered. How much time should I spend recapping the events of Out of Order, if any? Will everyone reading Book Two have read Book One? Will it still be a good book on its own, outside of the series? How do I solve The Bisexual Conundrum?
Of course I wanted my second book to be just as good as the first. In fact, I wanted it to be better. I know I made some mistakes in the first, falling into stereotypes and tropes that, unfortunately, have dominated wlw fiction. So, from all my trial-and-error, doubts, and practical experiences, here is How to Write a Sequel, AKA What I Wish I’d Known When Writing Order in the Court:
- Don’t Try to Recreate Your First Book
Writing a sequel seems hard because you’re forced to think about what worked and what didn’t in Book One. But outdoing one’s first book, especially if it did well, can seem daunting. How can you do the same thing you already did but better? Simple: Don’t even try. It’s not about recreating your first book but NEW AND IMPROVED WITH MORE CLEANING BUBBLES. It’s about finding an idea that is just as strong, or stronger, than the first. Do something new! Explore some new angle. Don’t let Book Two fall into the Weaker Sequels trap by trying too hard to do the same thing again. It can be (and should be) different!
- Make Sure You Have Enough Plot
If you wrapped things up neatly in Book One, what will Book Two be about? Make sure you have just as strong a plot as in your first book. Something new should be happening. It needs to have its own story arc, its own character development, its own themes; again, you can’t just extend Book One. Book Two has to be able to stand on its own two feet.
- Do Not Dismiss Lessons Learned in Book One
Your character development should be complementary from Book One to Book Two. Make sure you remember what your character learned over the course of the story, and have it change them. Your character won’t be the exact same at the start of Book Two as they were at the start of Book One; they’ve already undergone a development arc. In order for a sequel to feel genuine, it has to complement, enhance, or further develop characters. If your character was a jerk who discovered his heart of gold, he can’t be a jerk again in Book Two. He has to navigate events with his new perspective. But characters should still evolve over the course of Book Two; you don’t want them to stagnate. Just remember where your starting line is, and make it consistent.
- Don’t Forget Continuity!
One of my character’s hair changed colour between books somehow, and another’s name was spelled differently. These errors got caught in post-production (thank goodness), but don’t let it happen to you! Facts established in the first book need to carry over, whether those are Laws of Magic or just the appearance of your characters. I suggest rereading your first book with fresh eyes and noting down pieces of information you might end up repeating, just to make sure you stay true to what you wrote the first time.
- Balance the Recap
Keep in mind that people reading a sequel, especially when marketed as such, will probably have read the first book. Your characters won’t need to explain everything that happened to them in Book One, and it will feel really unnatural if you do. But maybe someone will read your sequel without having read the first, or with a long period of time between them. Some recap is necessary, but it’s a balancing act. Try to keep exposition to a natural level. People will talk about the past, but not in detail and not all the time. Remind your readers of important facts without hitting them on the head. Subtly reminding them of an earlier scene can help move the plot forward, but too much of it makes it seem as if everything important has already happened.
- Characters Make or Break It
Characters are the heart and soul of every book. While many sequels, including my own, introduce new characters, keep in mind that returning readers are coming back for what they know: the characters they fell in love with. While it may seem like a good idea to start fresh, keeping a solid returning cast will keep readers invested. Balance new characters with old favourites to make something new and fresh while still maintaining the heart of your series: your cast.
About the Book
Publisher: Harmony Ink Press
Series: The Survivor’s Club
Sequel To: Out of Order
Length: 180 Pages
Category: Mystery/Suspense, Teen Fiction
Purchase Links: Dreamspinner Press || Amazon || ARe || B&N || Kobo
Blurb: Corey Nguyen watched her three best friends fall victim to a killer, but it’s becoming clear her ordeal won’t end there. While trying to be a college student, have some kind of social life, and just be normal again, she learns the murderer is demanding a trial. He claims he’s innocent and was forced into confessing—which means Corey will have to testify to what she saw.
The idea of facing the killer in court worsens Corey’s anxiety and forces her to relive the horrifying events of that night. And just when she thinks things can’t get worse, she realizes her mother and the prosecuting attorney are probably more than friends. All Corey wants is to put the tragedy behind her, but it’s clear the end is not yet in sight.
About the Author
Casey Lawrence is a 21-year-old Canadian university student completing an undergraduate degree in English Language and Literature. She is a published author of LGBT Young Adult fiction through Harmony Ink Press and has been actively involved in LGBT activism in her community since she co-founded a Gay-Straight Alliance in high school. Her first novel Out of Order is available through all major online book retailors and its sequel, Order in the Court is currently available for preorder.