The art of writing a sequel

Although the logical and efficient way of writing a series of two or more books is to outline the content of each in advance, I don’t have enough foresight or organisational skills to use this method myself. In any case I would rather be free to go with the flow of inspiration than have to stick to a prearranged plan, and I imagine many other authors feel the same.

While I was working on my novella Carmen’s Roses the possibility of a sequel did not even occur to me. This was my first venture into independent fiction publishing and I found it a very positive experience, so much so that I went straight on to write a second novella, featuring different people and places. Now this is almost finished, and I am wondering – what next? Having already created quite a varied cast of characters with the first two books, it could be interesting to have their stories continue and interlink in a third, rather than starting afresh.

I realise, however, that writing a sequel can be a bit tricky (and a prequel probably even more so). Here are a few points to consider.

If there is even a faint possibility of a sequel to the novel you are currently writing, be careful not to tie up the loose ends too tightly. For example, if you killed a person off in the first book, it will be difficult to introduce that character again unless you can arrange a flashback, a spirit apparition or a resurrection from the dead.

When writing a sequel remember that some readers will not (yet) be familiar with your first book. But you want to encourage them to read it later. So, while you do need to give some background information to introduce the characters, beware of “spoilers”. For example, if the previous book contained a mystery, don’t reveal any clues to its solution.

Pay attention to continuity, especially if the dates of events or the ages of the characters have been specified anywhere in the text. It is a good idea to draw up a detailed timeline. Although many readers will not notice or care about minor factual discrepancies, it is preferable to get these details right.

Ideally each of the books will be self-contained, so they can be understood and enjoyed even if not read in chronological order.

If you have any other tips on sequel-writing technique, please leave a comment below.

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