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Here We Go Again
In Which We Talk About Writing Sequels and What a Pain in the Aft They Are
The venting is upon us! Picture us all gathered on the lido deck, kicking back in lounge chairs, drinking colorful drinks, and commiserating with this fellow passenger who says:
I’m writing a sequel right now, and to make matters more tumultuous, it’s a sequel to my debut novel. I’m struggling with my internal pressure of getting it right. I’ve read craft books, blogs, and listened to podcasts. And almost every writer has shared the same thing: do it scared. Write it anyway.
And I understand that in my brain. If I can get a messy first draft done, I can start working on making it better. The issue I’m having is letting go of the pressure. I can’t seem to shake it and it’s choking my creativity. Do you have any advice on how to relax a former gifted kid’s perfectionist mind?
Never has there been a more perfectly timed question because I’m currently in the throws of writing my very first sequel RIGHT NOW. Like, literally, the manuscript is minimized, taunting me while I vent with y’all. It’s the followup to THE SPELLS WE CAST, and I wish I could cast it into the ocean because it’s kicking my ass.
Here’s the thing, S.O.S. (which of course stands for Stuck on Sequel): sequels f@#$ing suck. I think it’s a law of nature, there might even be a Planet Earth episode about it. But as a Type-A person, I completely understand how utterly unhelpful “Write it anyway” can be. The question isn’t whether or not you’re going to write it, we all know you’re going to write it. You’re asking if anything makes the process smooth (or smoother) sailing.
My answer to this is: MAYBE! Aren’t writer tips fun, where they’re so subjective that what could be outrageously helpful to one person does absolutely nothing for another? But here are two things I did, one physical process with surprising results, and the other a sort of state of mind shift that helped me get the words out.
The physical process was one I stumbled upon accidentally when I was given the opportunity to narrate the audiobook for THE SPELLS WE CAST. Reading the book out loud totally made my mind click to a different mode. When I read TSWC in my head, I read it with my author brain, thinking of things that could change and how I could have done it differently. But when I read it out loud, it was like I was reading someone else’s book. I didn’t once think, “Oh, I should change that”. Instead I found myself getting caught up in the action, or laughing at jokes, and totally forgetting that I had written it. Something about hearing the story let me follow along as a reader and have all the details of the world in my brain, in addition to putting questions I wanted answered in the sequel at top of mind. It was a totally unexpected benefit, where the timing of the recording was perfectly synced up with when I had to dive deep in these sequel revisions. I’d already had a draft written, but it required a rewrite. With the words echoing in my mind, I was ready to rock. So my first big tip is to read your first book out loud to yourself, no matter where you are in the sequel drafting process.
The mental mind shift also right after the TSWC recording. Having just finished reading the book out loud, my brain all of a sudden felt like I wasn’t writing a sequel, but continuing the action of the boys I’d just grown attached to. It was no longer Book 2, but the next act of Book 1. It totally took the weight off my shoulders. My brain was like, “Look, you’ve already written all of that and it was a wild romp! Let’s keep it going!” So after you read your book out loud and sit at the keyboard, don’t ask yourself, “What happens in the next book?”. Just ask, “And then what?”
Tada! It’s as easy as that (he says with an entire buffet’s worth of sarcasm)! To be totally honest, while this helped with the drafting, the editing and revising is still making doubts creep in, so I don’t think those ever go away entirely. But I hope in that initial endeavor to get the words out, this feels like a little life saver from floundering in the sequel sea.
What about the rest of y’all? Any sequel writers with tips to pass along? Take a sip of your Piña Colada and share!
If you’d like to vent about anything author/writing related, write to me at email@example.com with the subject: VENTORSHIP. I’ll give you my take in a post, and we’ll crowdsource author opinions in the comments. You’ll remain anonymous, and any haters will be thrown overboard. Ultimately, I think you’re going to be buoyed up by the boatload of author love and support 🛳️