Writing Week: Sequels

The lateness of this post should attest to the dire-ness of writing sequels...

I'm in the midst of writing A MILLION SUNS right now--it's due on Friday actually. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, but while I'm reaching for it, I thought I'd lay out here what I've learned so far:

  • Write it as quickly as possible
    • I'll admit: I took a bit of a summer break last year. Once I finished ACROSS THE UNIVERSE (edits and all) I was a bit burnt-out--I'd been teaching full-time as well as working on the book, and I thought I deserved a break. Looking back, I wish I'd taken a shorter one and spent more time getting ready for Book 2
  • Listen to critique buddies
    • When will I ever learn this one?! I guess I'll add: you might feel crunched for time (I certainly do) but when you're working on a sequel, keep in mind that it's better to do it right and take a little more time, than do it wrong and have to start over again.
  • Do as much non-book necessities as soon as you can
    • Did you know it was tax day today? I ain't gonna lie: taxes were another reason why this post was late! Boy, I wish I'd finished them off in February!
  • Don't be afraid to let the house go
    • I've not done dishes in...awhile. And the yard hasn't been mowed this year. I'm sure my neighbors think we're a bunch of lazy rednecks, but the grass can grow another week until I can finish this book!
  • The Crockpot and frozen dinners are your friend
    • But perhaps not the friend of my husband, who's getting sick of them.

As you can probably guess, I'm a bit frazzled with edits and everything else (namely: life) right now. Let me show you what's been going on lately:

  • Summer 2010: Begin rough draft of A MILLION SUNS, but (honestly) I'm taking it slower than usual
  • September 2010: Finish first draft of AMS and send it to critique buds with a desperate and hypocritical plea for a fast read so I can edit before it's due.
  • October 2010: Get crits back. Realize that the story is completely wrong.
  • November 2010: Write a completely new draft with a different mystery, different plot, different bad guy.
  • December 2010: After some feedback from a new set of readers, get the new draft to agent and editor
  • February 2011: Get feedback from editor. Realize the story is completely wrong (again). Scrap 90% of the draft and start over.
  • March 2011: Mail in new version of AMS to editor. Get more feedback realize that the story's not completely wrong, but that it still requires a lot of work to get it up to par.
  • April 2011: Rewrite (again). 
  • April 18, 2011: *dies*

OK, maybe I'm exaggerating. But for those of you in the wings keeping track, I'm on draft four of Book 2. The short answer: sequels are tough to write. It's not just about keeping readers up to date with what happened in Book 1 and leading into Book 3...it's about visualizing the book as both a story-arc of it's own, and also a part of a larger story arc of the whole series.

I'm sure the rest of the League is going to lay down some serious advice this week. As for me, all I can say is: if this doesn't kill me, I'll be actively seeking a time-turner, TARDIS, or flux capacitor for the next book!


Amanda Bonilla said...

Writing a series is stressful! I finished book 2 in my series a week or so ago, and though I'm way ahead of schedule (it's not due until October), I'm wondering...does the story arc work? Does it read like a book 2? Have I recapped book 1 enough? Will my editor stomp on it and send it back to me with RE-WRITE splashed over every single page?

It's important to give yourself time once you're under time constraints. I'm trying to stay ahead of the game so I won't fall behind. Deadlines are NOT my friend. ;)

Artemis Grey said...

Wow, I love you for this post! I almost think that in a strange way, sequels are what separate the haves from the have nots of the writing world. As in, the 'have nots' just looooove the idea of sequels (Don't try to get an agent/publisher with a standalone, write five and sell it as a series!) and the 'haves' sit back and understand just what an undertaking a second, or third book really is.

That said, I don't yet have an agent, or a publisher and I have at least one series all outlined, and a second under construction, along with a companion novel to the book I've been querying. But I fret over those sequel books. I mean, assume I sell the first one, and get a deal for more. Chances are, any second or third books I've already written will be entirely rewritten anyway (as evidenced by your multiple drafts, this isn't unusual) so it's good to know that someone like yourself thinks sequels are trifling things that often become tigers by the tail before you finally get them straightened out. Most of the established authors I've spoken with feel this way, hence the haves, vs the have nots.


Jenni Merritt said...

What a great post!

Please don't die... we are all wanting more! Hopefully you are done with the rewrites (finally) and can get moving forward! I'm rooting for you!

Bkloss said...

Awesome post! Thanks so much for sharing your journey through the process. It helps me realize that even at that level, people don't expect things to be perfect the first time. Not that we shouldn't try are hardest to make it great, but that there is room (and some patience) for improvements.

Thanks again!

Veronica said...

Sorry that it was such a difficult road. I have to tell you, though, that it's comforting to read/hear. Sequels ARE hard. Can't wait to read A MILLION SUNS!

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