Hey, it’s been awhile. Miss me? No? Well, I’ll still chew your ear off with my stories. So, I’ve been kind of busy the past week reading my novel, Line of Corruption. I realized a few things about it while I was reading it. I have way too many run-on sentences near the end of the book (when the fight scenes became very hectic), and I really miss writing in the world of Line of Corruption.

I miss writing about the characters, I miss the magic system, I miss… Well, everything about it. So, I’ve decided to start working on the sequel to LoC a bit more. In the week after I finished the Line of Corruption, I quickly started a new file for the sequel, and wrote eleven thousand words setting up the groundwork.

After reading over the current chapters I’ve already written for the sequel, I have no idea what I was thinking at a few sections. “Who is this incompetent writer?” I shouted. But, I had a ton of fun just reading about the characters that I’d made up almost two years ago.

So, I’ve begun working on the plot for the sequel. I think I have a very rough idea of what I want to happen. I’m no longer fumbling about in the dark like I was with the first book, and now I’m working on the title for the sequel. If I’m working on the first book, I think… The Circle of Insanity would be a great title!

Nah, I’m kidding… No, I’m serious. I’m kidding. I’ve introduced maybe four new characters in the chapters I’ve already written, and I’ve fallen in love with them already. I can’t say they’re great characters, because I feel like that’d be egotistic, but I love writing from their perspectives. I can’t divulge too much, because it’d be spoiling a lot.

But, I just want to talk about both the joy and the meh parts of writing the sequel. I want to make this the Empire Strikes Back of sequels, or the Godfather II of sequels. So, it’s difficult to think of a way to make this a lot cooler, a lot more visceral, yet still staying true to the book I finished almost a year ago.

Most of the characters, at the end of LoC, experienced life changing event. That isn’t a spoiler, because that’s normally a given. Unlike the first book, I need to plan almost everything about this book. I can’t walk blindly in a circle with a blindfold. (Interesting fact: it is impossible to walk in a straight line with a blindfold. See why I’m thinking of the Circle of Insanity? )

I also need to answer a lot of questions I set up in the first book, and make sure I explain anything the reader might construe as deus ex machina. Basically, I need to work a lot harder on the sequel. Sounds miserable, doesn’t it?

Well, weirdly enough, I don’t find any of it miserable. I happen to think it’s very fun, and it’s yet another challenge of my skills as a writer. For Xenon Bane, I also started working on a sequel before I gave up on the series. I wrote maybe… twenty thousand words in the sequel before I stopped writing. It was so much better than Xenon Bane, and I want to do the same with the LoC sequel. I want readers to read the first ten chapters and think: “Well, I won’t be getting any sleep tonight. This is going to be fun!”

It’s like my reaction when I watched season two of the BBC series, Sherlock. I loved season one, but season two episode one was a game changer. Finished the entire season in one day.

Do you have any experience working on a sequel? If so, feel free to comment and tell me about your fun times and not so fun times.

I realize this has been a short post, but that’s really all my thoughts on it. It’s fun and challenging. I’ve had to rewrite a lot more than when I wrote LoC, since I’ve noticed some slight continuity errors here and there already. Like I said, there are some really slow moments, but if you allow it, it will take you out on a really great ride.

~J.A. Romano

  1. MishaBurnett says:

    I am in the editing phase of Cannibal Hearts, which is the sequel to Catskinner’s Book, and it’s been an interesting experience. I suppose the challenge for me has been the tension between keeping the second book consistent with the first book without making the second book “just like” the first book.

    It’s set in the same world, and features the same narrator, but it’s a different sort of story, more of an ensemble cast. Catskinner’s Book was about a loner learning that there were others like him, I suppose that Cannibal Hearts is more about learning how to work and play with others.

    I’ve had to expand my world without contradicting anything from the first book, which has been nearly as much work as building the world in the first place. I find that what has gone before limits my choices in some ways, and makes me come up with some inventive solutions to problems that I didn’t even realize existed in my cosmology.

    I like it. I had more to my world than I revealed when I finished Catskinner, and now I have twice as much more, because I keep thinking of new concepts that I can’t fit into my current work. So, I have a pretty good idea how to keep things new and exciting in the next one.

    • J.A. Romano says:

      Yup. I’ve expanded my world within the first 11k of the sequel by a lot. In this book, I’ve sent all the characters to different countries/cities, which lets me show off my worldbuilding. : )

      My problem right now is finding a way to keep the plot fast paced like the first book without keeping the reader in the dark about all the new locations and techniques the characters are experiencing. So, I’ll probably have a lot more posts on this subject the farther I get into the book. Thanks for commenting.

  2. My problem with the sequel I’m working on is that I ended off book one with a very specific problem — their ship is captured, and they need to get it back before they do anything else. In the first draft of the sequel, they got the ship back fairly quickly, and then sort of puttered around for the rest of the story. Then I realized the plot should be about them tracking down the ship — because getting it back so quickly was just silly! — so I re-wrote. And now I’m getting feedback from beta readers and planning a third massive overhaul. Gah! So I’d say my biggest problem with sequels is that I have a hard time figuring out what they should actually be about 🙂

    • J.A. Romano says:

      Yeah, I think I’ll have to rethink a LOT of things with the sequel. Like I said, can’t have the characters floundering about, and I don’t want it to be so linear and traditional at the same time. I ended the first book with lots of destruction, and I want to use the cliffhanger ending to my advantage. The problem is I don’t know what to do with certain characters. : )

      It’ll be interesting to see what I come up with in the coming months, but thanks for commenting. Really cool to hear about the rewrites. I’ve rewritten a few chapters so far, and deleted a few chapters. I feel like I have to do a lot more organizing with this book.

      • That’s what I discovered — pantsing works for the first book, but once you get to the sequel … planning is sadly quite necessary. Otherwise you end up like me and re-write half the book three times 😀

  3. dotdotquote says:

    Well you only improve by practice, so it stands to reason that each book will get better. As for me, I have no experience in writing a sequel, I barely managed to finish a first (and standalone). 😛

    • J.A. Romano says:

      Yeah, it’s really a lot different than writing the first book. I’ve yet to actually write a standalone (since I just LOVE biting off more than I can chew), how is that like? I normally don’t write standalone stories because I hate the thought I might not write about the same world or characters for a long time. xD

  4. C.Hill says:

    I’m *technically* working on the sequel to my first unfinished novel, but the only similarity to it is plot jump and characters. It’s written in first person, darker tone, and much, much more complex. I had to plot it out, even if it is the first. But hey, I’m a plotter through and through, except when an action disagrees with the character, but that’s minor stuff.

    When it comes to the sequel, I was good to figure out a name for it. Just yesterday, in fact. Jokes aside, I have a large plot idea for each of the three Parts, scenes I want to put in and where to put them, character arcs, and other stuff for continuity. The details will come as I write the beginning.

    I have a basic idea for the third novel, (named) a beginning scene and an end. Nothing major, really.

    The fourth (named as well) has just a title and an end. Well, it does have the flashback story, but that’s because it’s the plot to my first novel. (See what I did with that?) Little scared by that.

    • J.A. Romano says:

      Oh, interesting. So is your series going to be a quartet, or are you planning for more? My intention starting the sequel was this: “I need them to learn how to live and fight by themselves.”

      So, everything in the beginning is meant to separate them and make them evolve. It’s like when a kid goes off to college and lives at a dorm. He or she can either party all night, or s/he can learn to be a responsible adult. It’s the same with the characters in my sequel, except they can actually die. Remember what I said about Gordon from Radio Silence coming to life and punching me? Yeah, it applies to the characters in LoC, as well. 😛

      • C.Hill says:

        It’s a quartet. Finally decided. Though I have four novellas planned in between to have fresh air for myself. Important characters, giving backstory and whatnot.

        While a big aspect of my MC’s personality in TCS is indifference, the sequel is going to push him and his nonchalant attitude. Big character development for the first book’s ending.

  5. tktrian says:

    For unpublished writers, we have written quite a lot and have encountered two type of sequels so far:

    Solus has a sequel that’s written till the end, but not revised. We just wrote what felt like a natural continuance to the first book, and it was clear the plot remained more or less the same. Of course we wrote a lot of different stuff; the milieu, the sub-plots, but at the same time expanded on the set up world and the over-arching plot, introduced some new characters (careful not to make copies of those who died!), made the old ones develop more, that type of thing.

    Sometimes the sequel comes when you haven’t told everything in the first book as is the case with our hefty fantasy story Red Bricks. The plot of the first book is finished, but the characters aren’t fully developed yet, so it feels natural to continue the story, but in that story there is no over-arching plot, no canon per se, so a new plot has to be weaved.

    Then there are spin-offs, which aren’t really sequels, like our story The Reaver. It spun off from a yet unnamed fantasy. A few characters are the same, but the story starts with an entirely new cast, and the old characters are more like side characters.

    All of it has been fun, and the only problem really is that if we change the main plot in the first book, it messes up the sequel as well 😀

    • J.A. Romano says:

      Yeah, it’s actually why it’s been so long since I wrote in the sequel. I was afraid I might have to change a lot of things in the first book, but after re-reading LoC, I don’t have any major plot points that needs changing.

      The sequel, I feel, explores the characters a lot more. At least, I want it to. So, I am looking forward to fleshing out some of the new characters I’ve introduced, and making sure everything fits. The thing I’m most afraid of, however, is how big the sequel is going to be. LoC was my biggest book at 115k, I’m afraid the sequel might be twice that big. xD

  6. I’ve been planning my sequels for as long as it took me to write the first book — which was a while. It was always meant as a series, so a sequel is kind of a given, right? What ended up happening was that I wrote the full second book before I managed to publish the first, so the second did have a lot of influence and invoke a lot of change in the first — though mostly for setting/mythology/background info I realized I would be using in book 2 and therefore wanted to front-load, or had to sync up between the books because of changes in my perspective while writing book 2. I think it was good for me, and for book 1, to do so, but obviously I can’t do that anymore going forward as book 1 is now out.

    Book 2 being one of those dreaded ‘middle books’ in a series, I’m worried that it doesn’t have the same punch of book 1, which was somewhat self-contained in its threat and problems. It’s become more of an adventure-novel than the chase-novel the first one was. But I suppose it’s not a bad thing that the second book becomes its own beast. It has widened the scope of the story, at least.

    I’m writing book 3 now and trying to manage all the threads I wove through the first two. Really worried that it won’t be up to the quality of the previous, but I just have to work through that. Do the best I can.

    Good luck yourself!

    • J.A. Romano says:

      Thanks! I find that the sequel is also turning out to be a rather different kind of book than the first. It’s a lot more adventurous, and I’m allowing most of the characters to go on solo journeys so they learn how to function without anyone by their side.

      Strangely enough, I’ve got most of book 3 planned out, and I’m trying hard not to make book 2 just one of those: “If I can get through this, I can write book 3!”

      I’m enjoying the experience a lot because I’ve already set up the characters, and I just have to follow whatever path I started in the beginning. Good luck with book 3! I have zero experience writing the final book in a trilogy, so I suspect I’ll have another post like this one next year. : )

      • I think that to avoid the ‘get through this and go onto 3’ problem, you need to set up targets you want to hit in book 2 — ones that excite you as much as the Grand Trilogy Climax. At the least, your book 2 climax should be something you’re working toward: a stepping-stone toward book 3 to be sure, but a great moment in its own right. Book 3 will be seen through the lens of book 2 — will change because of how you craft book 2 — so while I thoroughly support having the whole next book planned out, I have to say…don’t be afraid to do something in 2 that changes stuff in 3, especially if it makes 2 stronger. Stories metamorphose as we write them, and that’s how it should be; often there’s a better story buried beneath the one we think we’re telling, and we have to excavate it when we finally start seeing it.

        Er, I’m rambling. But yeah, I love continuing onward with old characters, getting to know them better. It’s why series stick around.

    • J.A. Romano says:

      Thanks for the advice. I’ve set up a few things for book 2 that I think will really trip up the average ready, and even the above average ones. It’s interesting because I’m trying out a lot more things that I never imagined I’d be doing when I was writing the first book, and I find that I’ve actually changed my plans for book 3 a lot as I write the sequel.

      I just hope that I can execute things as well as I imagined them, and it’ll be, like I said, the Empire Strikes Back or Godfather II of sequels. That’s the goal, at least. I already know roughly how this sequel’s going to end, but I’m trying to give myself some leeway as I write everything in-between. Want to keep it interesting for myself and for the reader.

      Would you say that your sequel is better than your first book? I know, it’s like asking you to pick your favorite child, but I’m curious to hear if it’s the same for most authors.

      • My main beta reader/editor friend says it’s better, but at this point I barely have any perspective left, heh. I think I like book 1 a little bit better because the story is fairly tight; I do start some other characters’ plot threads but most of the action follows the primary protagonist, and he gets a good wrap-up at the end.

        Book 2 branches out a lot more, concentrating on the secondary threads almost as much as the primary, and I worry that this weakens the primary a bit. But then, the primary is no longer quite as all-important; the story has broadened and it’s not just about the main character anymore. Book 2 also let me put flesh on the bones of the world, and add a few characters that had been waiting in the wings, and there are some great moments I hit that I’m really proud of writing.

        I think I’m more concerned with it on a meta level: Does it make a good bridge between 1 and 3? Does it have enough standalone story so that a reader might remember it after finishing the series? I’ve always found that I remember the first book of a series a lot better than the rest of it, with the middle books becoming muddled together in my mind; I wonder if that’s an inevitable facet of it being a series, or if it was a flaw in the books themselves, that they didn’t have enough individual personality.

        So, basically, I’m worried that it’s -not- better. I don’t want to have a good first book then slowly slide down to a mediocre end, or even have a dip of mediocrity in the middle. I don’t want to add to the pile of good-first-book, disappointing-second. Right now I just have to trust my betas though, and let the book go.

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