I’m writing a sequel, and I’m terrified. Yes, I know, there’s not a lot of pity for someone who has to write a sequel. Boo hoo, you sold two books.
But, I never intended to write a series, and I am a YA book buyer for an indie bookstore who leads a monthly group of teen readers, so every four weeks, teens complain to me that the second or third book in a series is a HUGE disappointment.
Why? The character changes in book 2. The dynamic girl they fell in love with becomes weak and needy. The romantic triangle turns boring. A character they didn’t really like in book one takes over book two.
Not surprising then, that writing a sequel that will equal book one feels impossible to me at times. In fact, I had a dark night of the soul after I signed the contract and committed to delivering a 100,000 word manuscript in one year.
It was ironic and, perhaps, predestined when I snagged a last-minute spot at a weekend retreat with Martha Alderson, The Plot Whisperer. It was after midnight in my dark night, and I’d begun to read and work through her approach, and to feel my way towards book two.
I knew my sequel had to resolve the unfinished business of book one. My character had transformed from tentative to strong, but she was still in danger. Her romance had blossomed, but was still at risk.
Luckily, I was finishing rewrites on book one so I could leave more plot points unresolved. And my genius editor had forced me to add a hunky character in the last part of the book–insisting that I didn’t need to write a love triangle–but that I should insert the potential for one in the future.
Martha Alderson emphasizes character transformation–but how was my character going to continue to transform when she’d already gone from helpless to powerful?
How could her story be more than a run for safety?
And what part of my protagonist’s character had to die so she could be reborn?
For two days I listened to Martha, did her plot exercises, and finally talked through the plot of book one with her. The Aha moments started to happen.
How could my protagonist continue to transform? She could stop thinking primarily of herself while others sacrificed themselves. She could finally commit to the cause.
And what could prompt her to devote herself of the plight of others? Witnessing suffering even greater than her own. The world I’d built had to be even more perverse than she or I’d had ever imagined.
And the climax? The worst thing that could happen to my character who was on the run? She gets caught! No longer evading capture, abandoning all hope of rescue, she would have to face her biggest antagonist.
When I go to write every morning, I don’t always know where I’m going, and I’m not sure how all the plot points will weave together, but I know that I must be harsher, and braver than I was in book one. Maybe book two won’t please my readers, but unless I risk it all, it will be a faint echo of the first.