Sunday, October 2, 2016

The Nature of Sequels

Writing a sequel, I've come to discover, is different than writing the first book in a world. I felt that way when I wrote the sequel to Shadow's Messenger, and I'm feeling it even more with the sequel to Dragon-Ridden.

With a first book, everything is new. Every detail you make up, every character you name, every cool idea you insert into the story. With a sequel, you have an established history. Names and character descriptions have to stay the same from book to book. No changing a blonde to a brunette. No giving a character a back story that completely contradicts what happened in the last book. It can be maddening trying to remember everything.

To get around this problem, I've made extensive note cards filled with character descriptions, place descriptions and major themes or plot points from the first book. It helps, but there's always something missing from my notes. Often I find myself forgetting a character's name and having to insert xxx as a place holder so I don't slow the rate of writing. This works, but occasionally I have so many xxx in a chapter that the characters run together and I have to untangle the threads during edits. 

The more difficult problem, aside from keeping characters and places consistent across books, is giving the world context in the sequel. How do you get across all of the major details of the world without providing your reader with an info dump or a complete rehash of what happened in the last book? Additionally, the writer needs to layer on those details to create an even more complex and rich world with every book they write in the series.

Dragon-Ridden's sequel feels infinitely more difficult to do this with than Shadow's Messenger's sequel. Maybe because I had to create everything in that world whereas Aileen's world takes place in modern day Columbus. Or maybe it's because it's been so long since I worked in Tate's world that its taking me a moment to get back into the rhythm of it. Either way, I've managed to get several pages of words down this weekend. I'm happy to say I officially have a beginning. Though I have no idea how much of that beginning will make it to final edits.