Friday, June 14, 2013

Writing Sequels and a Giveaway!

With the release of Stalked by Death just under two months away, I thought I'd talk about writing sequels. I also happen to be writing another sequel at the moment, so this is perfect timing.

Sequels are tricky because while you are writing within a series, most publishers want the books to stand on their own. I'm terribly guilty of picking up book two in a series before book one. It happens a lot, so I understand this. The hard part for the author is to make sure you are giving the information needed without info dumping. The best way to make sure is by telling what's needed when it's needed. No one wants to open a book to an entire chapter of recap. One, it's insulting to your reader. Two, it's just plain boring.

The good part about writing a sequel is that you already know the characters really well. It makes them easier to write about. I love getting to delve deeper into the lives of characters I love, and I find the words just come to me.

So that's my two cents on sequels. And I have a giveaway for you. I have a Stalked by Death SWAG pack for one lucky winner. Due to postage costs, I'm going to limit this one to US and Canada. Don't worry though. I'll have more international giveaways soon. Use the rafflecopter form to enter.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

What are your thoughts on writing sequels?

*On another note, Advantage: Heartbreak is only $0.99 for a limited time! Find it on Amazon or B&N.


52 comments:

  1. It's a fine balance between too much info from book #1, and not enough. I personally love a good sequel, both in reading, and writing, mainly because it means I get to spend some more time in a world I love :)

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    1. I feel the exact same way, Meradeth! :)

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  3. While all sequels have their potential issues as you cited, Kelly, this is especially challenging in a NON-open ended series.

    I understand for publishers/lay readers wanting series to stand on their own to not alienate new readers, but sometimes that isn't always possible, for me personally, I write series because I like that progressing story, and that means its not always possible for non-open ended books to "Stand on their own." (At least not in that absolute way I feel gets implied when people in publishing say that)

    Besides, some of the most popular series were NOT open-ended, while they had stand alone elements, the whole story is only clear from reading them all, and unlike series for younger readers like Judy Moody or Geronimo Stilton, where the stories are self-contained to varying degrees, HP also had "self-contained elements" but still had an over arching story that only reading all the books can the reader get.

    Without spoiling new readers, book 5 would not have the emotional weight if you read that before book 3, because a lot of the emotional nuance and relevance would be lost, even though each book had a specific focus unique to that book, they still work together in ways that matter, and you'd miss that if you read them out of order.

    To me, the best series are ones that reward longtime fans who started at book one at the outset, and give them the in-jokes and character journeys that are best understood from reading the books in order, while still welcoming new readers, and that's not easy to do in non-open ended series.

    Kelly, I've got to ask having not read Touch of Death, and I know trilogies are a different beast than a stand alone novel or a series of at least four books versus those multi-book series with seemingly no end in sight, but did you write that to be stand-alone in the way you mention in the post above?

    What I find interesting, though, is that open-ended series are somewhat episodic like those old cartoons, as opposed to television dramas that inherently have that "To be continued" factor.

    There are ways around it, though. Books like "Millicent Min" or "The Misfits" had follow-up books starring secondary characters in both those novels, but took place in around the same timeline, but a different story from a secondary character's POV in the previous book, and that's another way of revisiting the same world that's familiar, but new at the same time.

    From my personal reading experience, I read Poppy before "Ragweed" and in reading "Ragweed" I better understood the emotional impact for what happens to him in "Poppy" (Both by Avi) going into her book, even though those stories are their own, the characters of both books are connected, and that connection is only understood by reading both.

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    1. I agree, Taurean. Some series really don't work as standalones. Especially when cliffhangers or other worlds are involved. For Touch of Death, I wrote the first book as a standalone but decided I wanted to write another book with the same characters. While writing Stalked by Death, I knew it would be a bad idea for readers to read the final book (Face of Death) out of order because there are some things in book two that have to be read first. I couldn't make the books standalones in that sense. It's tough.

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  4. Great post. I hate when I go to read a sequel and the author has the dreaded info dump at the beginning. I understand what Taurean is saying about sequels but there is a way to write a sequel and incorporate pertinent info from the previous book without info dumping.

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    1. Me too. Yes, there is definitely a way to do it without the dreaded info dump.

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    2. I know there are ways to do it. I was just making the case that not all non-open ended series can do that and that's OKAY.


      I feel writers can give each other fatally mixed messages in this regard.

      Some series really do NEED to be read in order, and in full, before the "Big Picture" really becomes clear.

      EVEN if the books have their own focus, like HP, as I said in my earlier comment.

      That said, maybe because outside chapter book series, most series I read have a linear storyline with an end point, even if it's not obvious at first, and you won't get the full story if you don't read them all and in order. I haven't read many NOVEL series that are stand alone in the way Dawn's describing, yet still have the ongoing story that HAS an end point.

      A series I love that is another great example of what I mean is the Hermux Tantamoq series (4 books, and I HOPE there are more...), but while you can read them out of order and be rewarded with a tight and thrilling tale, reading them in order (ESPECIALLY 3 and 4), is a richer experience, there are few open-ended series I've read that can achieve that, at least in the novel realm.


      Obviously picture books and early readers are endless examples, but I see this more in adult novels than middle grade, even YA.

      But to credit Dawn's comment, this series is also a prime example of what she was saying, too.

      In the Hermux series, you do get up to speed with the previous book(s) in the one you're reading, but never feels like the annoying "previously on..." which works in television, not for books and character-driven films, with such a LONG lull between installments if they aren't all out by the time you jump in...

      Like HP, though, each book has a focus unique to that book, but builds on what came before.

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    3. Yes, PBs are a different story. I loved how the HP books did this. Such a great example. Thanks for bringing it up.

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  5. I'll be working on a sequel later this month, as soon as I turn in my revisions on Book 1 for copy-editing.

    The sequel already exists in draft form, and my beta readers gave a big thumbs down on my first chapter -- which I didn't expect. I thought I'd been clever. It opens with some bad guys (and a new POV character) interrogating someone from Book 1 about the events at the end of that book, and then the chapter finishes with a big reveal hat will provide the main conflict in Book 2.

    Nope. The beta readers hated it, wanted me to cut the chapter and get immediately to chapter 2, from the MCs POV. But I can't do that. My gut feeling is that Book 2 MUST begin with this new POV and the big reveal before we return to the MC. (Several Harry Potter books did this, as you may recall.)

    I guess I'm going to revamp the interrogation scene in my revisions, get to the reveal faster, and cut a lot of the recap that I originally put into the scene. Wish me luck!

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    1. Good luck reworking the chapter, Dianne. I'm sure you'll make it great!

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    2. I feel your pain, Dianne. You wouldn't believe how many wayward versions of my debut MG novel there were before I sold it.

      Even when our beta-readers are right about what they bring up, they sometimes overestimate how "simple" it is for your or me to resolve the issue.

      Which is why I try to be the "Editor" I'd want to have, direct, honest, but kind. Not everyone responds to vicious criticism, regardless of how thick your dang skin, and mine's not that thick, but it doesn't stop me from moving forward. Delayed yes. But NOT a full stop.

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  6. I haven't written a series, but I have read them. Personally, even though each book can stand on its own I prefer to read them in order. :)

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    1. I prefer to read them in order too. Usually I'll only read out of order if it's not clearly marked.

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    2. Me too.

      I read "Poppy" without realizing "Ragweed" came before it, if only thematically, because sometimes authors write prequels LAST rather than first, particularly if the series grew more organically and there wasn't a direct plan to do a series, you hear that from authors all the time, maybe less so now because whether for personal or professional reasons, series are often in mind at the start, even if there aren't multi-book deals yet.

      I know I'm going to do a sequel to my debut.

      I didn't at first, but after having worked on this novel for the last decade, I just realized I had more about this world to explore, but I'm kind of taking the route of other authors and writing from a different character's POV.

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    3. Taurean, I love when another character becomes the MC. It's a great switch up.

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  7. While I enjoy series, I typically don't think the books work as well if considered stand alone. In my mind, the main reason for the recap is to remind the readers of the earlier books about points they may have forgotten (since release dates are often a year apart) and not to fill someone in on everything that happened in book 1. If you could do that, why bother reading book 1?

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    1. I completely agree. You don't need to recap everything. That is overkill. Only what's needed and as needed.

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  8. The only time I've been okay with an info dump in a sequel was with the Vampire Academy series, where the MC, in her very personable voice, told you she was going to catch you up, and spent exactly one chapter doing that. Basically she gave you permission to skip that chapter if you knew everything going on, and I did. It's such a fine art, weaving all the details in without overwhelming the reader. =)

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  9. I so agree with everything you said, Kelly. As a reader, I'm not a fan of the info dump, but as a writer it's like coming home when you step back into the shoes of the characters you know so well.

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  10. Since I bring back some of the same characters again, it could be thought of as a sequel, but I do prefer the book to be self contained.

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    1. Lots of authors do that to great effect. The books I mentioned, both "Millicent Min, Girl Genius" by Lisa Yee and "The Misfits" by James Howe have companion books that take place around the same timeline, but different POV characters, and a mix of old and new characters. It can be a great way to revisit the same world without the same POV characters from the first book.

      Good luck making it work for you.

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  11. I love sequels. Give just the right amount of back story, remind the readers only what they need to know, and drop chaos all over their perfect little lives. *evil laugh*

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  12. It's dicey business writing sequels! I've only written one--and I'm only just now revising it--but boy, there is definitely a balance one needs to strike between reminiscing on the previous book and moving forward with a new plot and story. Good luck!

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    1. Yup, it is a definite balance.

      Loved your vlog today. :)

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  13. I just sent my first sequel to the publisher. We'll see if it works. Never tried a sequel before but it was fun. May do another one.

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  14. Thanks for the advice about sequels. When I finished my novel, I adored it and my characters and was dying to write a sequel. But after a year of querying and finalizing the contract, I've lost interest. I think that's kind of sad... both that I've "lost that lovin' feeling" (lol) and that no one seems to want a sequel anyway. :P

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    1. You might change your mind. You still have edits to go through and you might fall in love with the characters all over again.

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  15. The creeping info is the hardest part about a sequel to me. I like to write the first draft completely ignoring the need to add in "catch-up" info and then add it in during later drafts. That way, it doesn't interfere with the current plot line and I have a chance to see the whole picture to know where it really needs to be.

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  16. I have to say that I think J.K. Rowling did an awesome job in the HP books of catching every one up to speed on events in the previous books, but w/out boring you to death. But what am I saying? J.K. Rowling did everything awesome, lol! I'm going to be attempting a sequel here in a few months, but I'm sorta cheating- it takes place many years later & follows my first mc's great- granddaughter.

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    1. That does make it a little easier, doesn't it? ;)

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  17. I like sequels just fine so long as the author doesn't dwell on too much detail while catching the reader up to speed.

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  18. I like sequels, but my favorites are almost always companion books. I like to get to know the other characters from their own points of view. I like to know all the stories about all of them.

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  19. Oooh...the dreaded infodump. Not a fan. Sequels should stand on their own, so there has to be some backstory -- but not too much, or you'll irritate fans. A delicate balance to be struck, methinks. (My sequel was published before it's prequel, so that was interesting.)

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  20. I once picked up a book two and I was able to follow most of it. I'd like sequel books to be connected, but also to be able to stand on their own.

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  21. I love reading sequels and reconnecting with characters I met in earlier books.

    Thanks for the giveaway!

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  22. I haven't read too many sequels, come to think of it. The most recent are from Sharon Creech and Gennifer Choldenko, but those are like 2 books in each serie. Have a great giveaway!

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    1. I have a two-book series coming out next year. If you can call it that. I really just think of it as a book and a sequel.

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  23. I would imagine the secret is to keep revealing new tidbits about the characters, a flaw or three, and for the new story to be even more .... exciting, interesting, intriguing, and just as compelling. Yes?

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    1. Yes, definitely. Always something new in the mix.

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