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!