It hasn't even been a month since I published The Purple Door District, and I'm already feeling the dreaded sequel struggle. You know the feeling. You finish book one in a trilogy or series. Ideas blossom in your head for the next story. Your characters weave their tales and are ready to continue their journeys. You sit down to write.
Yes, this is going to be one of those raw blog posts where I talk about my struggles and then still try to provide some advice thanks to the help of other incredible writers.
Right now, I'm trying not to throw my computer at the wall because I'm so frustrated with the book. I managed to write part of the story during NaNo, but now I feel stuck. One reason is because I'm intimidated by book one! I've received a lot of really good feedback, and while I know I can still make changes, I don't want to write a sequel that's subpar. Not only that, I'm not working with the same exact cast. New characters are popping in left and right, and they're making the story that much more detailed and difficult.
Don't get me wrong, the second book was meant to be more detailed and have bigger stakes, as it should, but I didn't think it would cause me quite this much stress and fear.
I reached out to an incredible romance writer named Eliza David who sent me one of her blog posts about writing a sequel. You can check it out here. She provides some incredible tips such as taking notes of your characters from the first book, and also allowing characters (and conflict) to grow. Check it out!
As I've worked on my sequel, I've learned a few things that I thought I'd share as well. If you have tips, let me know!
Character Bios: Make sure you have character bios and descriptions from the first book and keep adding to them for the second book so you don't have to keep researching and remembering who has what eyes or hair.
Talk it Out: I spent part of the day talking to my co-creator about book two. She had a bunch of valuable advice, and you can do the same with a fellow writer, especially one who has read your book. Outline the next story for them to see if it makes sense and if your book is going to hold your readers' attention as much as the first.
Read Your First Book: This might seem obvious, but I didn't really think about it when I started in on the sequel. I'd spent so much time editing PDD 1, I thought I wouldn't have to read it again. Boy, was I wrong. I think it'll help me stay in the groove of working with some of the same characters once I review it.
Outline: Outline your sequel to see if it makes sense in the world of book one. And if you have another book after the sequel, try to outline that book as well so you know where number two needs to end. Granted, this is more for the plotters rather than the pantsers, but I think it's beneficial to both.
Allow Yourself to Feel Frustrated: Seriously, writing a sequel is scary and hard, so if you get frustrated, it's completely normal. Allow yourself to feel (kick, scream, and cry if you need to), then get back to work. It's better than keeping it all in.
Remember First Drafts Suck: Don't get intimidated by your edited writing in book one. It started off as rough and unpolished as the sequel. The most important thing is to get the words on paper. You can clean it up later.
Believe me when I say you're not alone in your dread of writing a sequel. Do what feels right for you, and look up suggestions for how to get through blocks and over hurdles.
My biggest suggestion is try to find a way to embrace your book and not be afraid of it. Because if you're afraid what could happen, the only person who will ever know the story is you.
You can do it!