Sunday, August 17, 2014

To Sequel or not to Sequel ? That is the question.


How do you decide to whether to write a sequel or not? I'd be so interested to hear from others as to how they made their decision to continue on with the same characters in the same settings. Was it all planned before you ever put pen to paper for the first book or did you realize at the completion of writing that the story just had to continue?

For me I vowed and declared that there was NEVER going to be a sequel to "Broken Pottery the Life of an African Girl". Mainly because sequels can fall into the "ho hum" and "going nowhere fast category". Personally, I think writers need to think really carefully as to whether there is enough material for a sequel and take the time to write it properly.

After much thought and prayer I finally became convinced that a sequel was needed. What changed my mind?

1. Requests from readers: It was very kind of readers to want to know more about the characters and what happens next - which made me think, what does happen next?

2. Strong themes: For me books are theme driven first and I as the writer need to be invested in those ideas and believe that it is useful for all of us to think about these things together. You may be surprised but my sequel has two main themes woven into the storyline.
                                    a. Witchcraft and wrong belief in the supernatural and what does the bible say?
                                    b. Persecution of Christians, our response and the comfort that God gives.

What made you decide to write or even not to write a sequel?

Are sequels harder to write than other books? - definitely I have found the answer to be "yes". Just making sure that all the characters remain true and the scenery is exactly the same as the first book does pose its challenges especially if you haven't catalogued any of this. Cataloguing details of your first book is very time consuming.

I'd love to hear from any of you about helpful tips for sequel writing that you may have to offer. All advice is helpful.

By the way the working title of the sequel is "The Vulture and the Finch" - due out February 2015.
Jennifer Ann

JenniferAnn.info

Jenniferann/aroma of Life



27 comments:

  1. As a reader (sorry not a writer), I do like finding out what happens next to characters, mainly because life doesn't happen in just a short section of time but continues on after a significant event.
    One thing I do find frustrating is when an author changes the name of a character (even if it is a minor character) between books. I've found this in a couple of series, particularly if it is a second series based on characters from the first series - the names and sometimes existence of children changed.
    Thanks for being brave and writing a sequel!

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    1. Thanks Beth, it's great to have a readers input. And you've hit the nail on the head, I have found it challenging to make sure I don't make a mistake and change details, which is then very irritating for the reader. Thanks for your reply it has spurred me on to triple check everything before I publish.

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  2. Glad to hear you're doing a sequel Jennifer Ann. I love to know what happens next to my favourite characters. I generally like sequels as long as there's enough to justify new books. I think crime or mystery books lend themselves to this really well because the sleuth just has a new case to tackle. I love the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series by Alexander McCall Smith (14 books and counting) and the Flavia de Luce novels by Alan Bradley. Dee Henderson's O'Malley series and the Anne of Green Gables books are also highlights.

    However, it can be disappointing if a sequel is written just to capitalise on a popular book but without having a good reason for the characters to appear again. Am thinking of some Hollywood movies that were popular but then had sequels that bombed. If the sequel has a great story arc and characters that the reader loves, bring on the sequels.

    Good luck with Book 2 Jennifer Ann.

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    1. Thanks Nola, I love the No1 Ladies Detective Agency books too!!! And who cannot adore Anne of Green Gables. Oh well I'll soon learn how my sequel compares, hopefully it won't be tossed into the "ho hum" bin. I think as time passes I enjoy writing even more because it is creative and you do live and learn so to speak, and become more open to others opinions, Which in the long run can only be helpful. Thanks Nola for all the work you do behind the scenes in keeping this blog site "happening".

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  3. Hi Jennifer, I always expected a sequel to Angelguard from quite early on. I knew that Jack, my lead character, had more to tell and more to explore about how spiritual warfare impacts us as individuals.

    I soon learnt through pitching to agents & publishers they like to receive ideas for series as readers enjoy reading them.

    But, like you, I've found writing it a lot harder than the original. This is for a variety of reasons. Angelguard is very plot driven, but I wanted to have the sequel be far more about Jack's character arc. This has made the writing process more challenging.

    Good post, Jennifer.

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    1. Thanks Ian, I'm totally with you on a sequel having more challenges than the original book. Your books sound very interesting all the best with pitching to agents and with your sequel.

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  4. Jennifer, I never set out to write a sequel to my first novel 'Helena', but ended up with one when the publisher told me my first novel was too long and asked if I would divide it into two--which was far easier said than done! So 'All the Days of My Life' became the sequel to 'Helena'. Since then, however, I have stuck to writing single titles. Even my fifth novel 'Helena's Legacy' is not 'Number Three' in the 'Helena series', from my perspective, since it does not follow on chronologically after my second novel 'All the Days of My Life' but rather explores the story of one of the characters from that novel further and how she journeys on with Helena.

    From my experience, the good thing about writing sequels, as others have said, is that many of our faithful readers like to find out what happens to our characters. But one practical down side I have found is that it's always a bit time consuming and difficult to have to explain to potential customers at my book table or wherever I am book signing how one book is the sequel to another etc. With my sequel (ie my second novel), I was careful to make it a 'stand alone' novel--and I think you would have to do that too with the sequel you are writing. But if people don't know your books, they usually want to start with the first one before reading the sequel, even if you tell them they can start wherever. Hence you end up selling more of your first book, which is good in a way, but usually not so many of your second. Hope that make sense!

    My other reason for not choosing to write sequels is that I have too many other ideas floating around my head and want to explore those instead! Having said that, however, one day I might write a sequel to my sixth novel 'The Inheritance'. After all, I do want to find out what happens to Michael and Alexandra's daughter Grace!

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    1. Thanks Jo Anne it was good to hear from your experience. How interesting to have to divide your first novel, I'm sure that wasn't easy. I agree each novel still needs to be a stand alone so anyone can pick it up. I can understand why you would sell more of the first novel because I always want to start at the very beginning when I read a series because I'm scared that if I don't I'll miss out on some vital detail. I do enjoy the thrill of creating something completely new but then a good sequel is worth the time and effort. My vote is for the sequel to your 6th novel.

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  5. Hi Jennifer, I must admit I've never entertained the idea of writing a sequel but I can imagine the challenges it would present. From a reader perspective I do enjoy reading a sequel as well as a series of good books with strong characters and well formed plots etc. I also think at times after finishing a good stand alone book that I would like more and can be disappointed that there won't be anymore. So I guess what I'm saying is that if a sequel is begging (especially from feedback from readers) and there are a few ideas running around in our heads for a sequel then what can it hurt to give it a try and see whether it becomes viable.

    Great post though.

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    1. Thanks Lesley, that's very encouraging. Yes I know, I too have read a good book and wanted more. I came to your conclusion too , why not give it a go and see what happens? After all you can only do your best and there is no perfect book. For someone reason I find that a comforting thought. All the best and thank you.

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  6. When writing my debut novel, The Heir, I always knew it was going to have sequels and that there would be two of them. Maybe it was just because the full story would only fit in three books!

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  7. I wasn't going to write a sequel either, but I succumbed to reader requests. I've changed the scenery and added a central new character (basically, she goes to visit her long lost grandma) but the challenge has been to make sure there's enough character development to make it worthwhile.

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    1. That sounds great. Good idea on the different setting and one central new character. Sequels are definitely more challenging.

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  8. Hi Jennifer,
    I'd originally written 'Picking up the Pieces' and 'The Risky Way Home' as two stand-alone novels, but started having ideas incoporating younger characters from each of these two stories. I wrote it as a sequel to both, named 'A Design of Gold', which ties the three of them into a trilogy. Very unexpected for me as well as for the readers who'd told me they'd like to know what became of the characters.

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    1. Its definitely a journey. That's a fantastic idea combining the offspring of characters from two novels. Very ingenious. It would have kept all your readers happy. Sounds like it was a fun project too.

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  9. Hi Jennifer

    Looking forward to the publication of your next book - the themes sound intriguing.

    When I started writing my first book I was just doing it for the fun of it but my characters continued to have adventures (in my head) so by the time I had finished my early drafts of Adelphi I had a sequel plotted out and ideas for a couple more. When I began writing again after a long break I was glad I'd taken notes of my ideas - and started on the sequel, but somehow ended up writing a prequel first (Akrad's Children) which has become three books - a trilogy prequel.

    I think with fantasy having the same setting and world is a decided advantage but cross checking is definitely an issue. In a way, I'm glad I haven't published my earlier books yet because it gives me time to make sure my world is consistent - and I can throw in a new character and then write her or him in the earlier books if necessary. On the other hand, because I've tried to make all my books 'stand alone’ - I'm finding writing the third book of the trilogy harder than the others - as I have the overarching trilogy threads that developed over the previous 2 books to bring together with the plot threads of that particular novel. Still, it is fun and as I write courtly intrigue (a bit like Game of Thrones without the R-rated scenes & profligate killing off characters) and what develops into family saga - I always seem to have new plot angles and themes to cover. Hopefully the end result will be something readers enjoy :)

    BTW I did an article on writing (& reading) series for ACW http://australasianchristianwriters.blogspot.com.au/2014/05/multiplying-magic-on-writing-series.html

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    1. Thanks Jeanette, its very creative of you to write a trilogy prequel I can't imagine doing that. Yep the cross referencing is a bit tedious. Next time I will make notes. I do like to have all books even if there sequels as stand alone as well, so someone can just pick it up and read a full story without having read the other books. We definitely need your books set in that era without the R rating. Sounds fantastic.

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  10. I can say ditto to all those authors of sequels.
    I have completed two sequels to Signed Sealed Delivered, in which i follow the lives of my main character's daughters.My readers want to read them, but so far a publisher hasn't gone with them. I think because I had Book I published by another publisher. So that has been really sad for me, especially when I am consistently asked why!!!!! Maybe I'll try again as I have worked on them and deleted several characters' POV's as requested.

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    1. Hi Rita, that is sad especially when you have a reader base who wants to know what happens next. I'm just going to self publish as I moved from my publisher also. Its really quite easy and your books then are out there for your fans.

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  11. I had a reader beg me to write a sequel to 'The Manse'. That was years ago, and I was a bit annoyed at her persistence, as at the time I thought 'there is no sequel'. She said she was going to pray that God would give me a sequel, and I thought that was just silly. Anyway, it wasn't a sequel, it turned into a series - The Heart of Green Valley series, that has sold over 25,000 in Australia, NZ and UK. Each title in the series was set in the same place, and characters from previous books took secondary roles in the new book. Each book had new central characters, and a new story of their own. BTW I have Number 6 in that series plotted and planned, and I intend to write it and release it to celebrate the 20th Anniversary of 'The Heart of Green Valley' series - that will be in 2017

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    1. Wow that's a great story. What a persistent reader!!! It is interesting that we have ideas that we think won't change and then suddenly for example writing a sequel is an option. So glad you wrote the sequels and #6 is on the way. Have fun celebrating the 20th Anniversary.

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  12. Interesting thoughts, Jennifer, and I can appreciate your perspective. There are sequels that seem they've been written 'just because' (I think that's the ones referred to as 'contractual obligation works' or something like that) and there are sequels that are sheer brilliance, leaving you begging for more. Love it when each sequel in a series just gets better and better!

    As a writer, I think sometimes you can just feel a sequel bubbling up as you write the first manuscript, other times it is seems to take you by surprise. (Or perhaps obligation based on some of the comments here! LOL!) For me sequel manuscripts have been sometimes harder, sometimes easier to write - depends on the genre and how well prepared I am to get in and write.

    I loved 'Broken Pottery' (accompanied by the trusty ol' tissue box). Looking forward to reading the sequel.

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    1. Thank you so much Adele for liking my book. that's lovely of you. I know that's the challenge for me, to make it just as good or better than the last book. As a new writer it's been an interesting process and it's been so helpful to hear from others. All the best with your writing.

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  13. Sorry guys, I just noticed all my grammar and spelling mistakes. Please just ignore them. I'm a bit under the weather health wise so didn't spend time double checking.

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  14. I stumbled upon this article on sequels - and thought it relevant and helpful http://www.betternovelproject.com/blog/sequel-ending/?utm_content=bufferccb0b&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer

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  15. Thanks Jeannette I'll read it. That's very helpful.

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