4 Tips for Writing Sequels

Writing Sequels

When I first started writing Reckless Rebellion, I didn’t think it would be any different to writing the first book, Reckless Rescue. I mean, it’s just a book, right? And I already had half of it written. All I had to do was finish up the book, edit it, and I’d be ready to go. Right?

Wrong.

All went smoothly, until I hit the first plot hole. Usually take a break, think it over, plan, chat to friends, and then once I have a solution, I get back to writing. The problem with sequels is when you hit a plot hole that relates to something that happened in the first book. Reckless Rescue is already published and out there.

So, as I work through writing this sequel, I thought I’d share some of the things I’ve discovered, just in case anyone else is going through the same thing.

1. Keep track of names, spelling and events

This one probably doesn’t need saying, but I’m going to say it anyway. Readers will notice if you character’s name changes from Anne in the first book, to Ann in the sequel. Find a way that works for you. Write a list of characters and places, a timeline, a list of key events. But find something that works.

I plan to read over Reckless Rescue followed directly by Reckless Rebellion before I publish the second book, just to make sure I haven’t missed anything.

2. Jog the readers memory

You may be able to remember all the character names and events of the last book, but even if your readers loved the book, they’ve read 10, 20, or more books since yours.

You don’t have to spent three paragraphs summarizing the last book, but do introduce characters slowly (as you do in a first book), and throw hints to jog a readers memory of any key points they need to know.

3. Get creative in solving plot problems

You can’t go back and change your first book, but that doesn’t mean that everything is set in stone. For example, in Reckless Rescue, Marlee remembers her stepfather being the only person who believed they would be rescued by the Colonies. I had in mind a reason for this, but when writing Reckless Rebellion, I wanted to increase the stakes for my characters, so I changed his reason, and added some extra depth to the story. Since I hadn’t given his reason in the first book, this change works perfectly well.

4. Have an idea for the sequel before you publish the first novel

Write notes, perhaps even write a partial rough draft. I had written about half of Reckless Rebellion before I edited and published Reckless Rescue, and a couple of things happened that I hadn’t planned from the start. Because I still could, I went back and added in some foreshadowing for these events into Reckless Rescue. The more idea you have of what will happen, the more the two books will hang together.

Don’t let this make you afraid to make changes though. So long as you can make it work, go for it!

Have you written a sequel or series? Any hints or tips to share?

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16 Responses to 4 Tips for Writing Sequels

  1. Rosie Amber says:

    Sequels can be fun I’m just editing my own sequel to my first book.

  2. John Wiswell says:

    Hopefully if there will be sequels then the author has seeded some elements for them naturally into the first.

    #2 is a bugbear of mine. Recently read a sequel that had over 50 pages of memory jogging. I felt punished for having read the original. It’s tough to do with a light touch, but a light touch is the only reliable way for my tastes.

    • Rinelle Grey says:

      I think it varies. In my case, I always intended to write a sequel, so it naturally follows on from the first book. In some cases though, I think an author writes a book, then it is popular, and people start asking questions, or the wanting to know what happens to the characters next, and ideas start percolating, and the next thing you know, you’re writing a sequel (or more).

      Jogging a readers memory definitely needs to be done with a light touch. 50 pages is far too much! I’m thinking of a couple of sentences sprinkled here and there. I’ve read books where the writer assumes you remember who is who, and began with all the characters in the first scene. It was incredibly confusing, since it took me most of that first chapter to remember who was who again!

  3. DJ Kirkby says:

    I have written an adventure series for children and it was great fun t have the freedom to let it run but it was a challenge to keep all the threads together sometimes.

  4. I hadn’t intended to write a sequel to Dragon Wraiths until beta readers said more please, so I’m sure I’m going to find all sorts of issues. I haven’t actually started it yet because I can’t decide whether to write it from Leah’s perspective of from a new wraith point of view! I can’t wait for Reckless Rebellion!

    • Rinelle Grey says:

      Ohh, that would be a tough choice. I guess I’d think of ideas for each, and decide which I liked best? One will probably come to you more easily than the other, and if they don’t, then write both!

  5. Sequels can be fun to write … and a bit tricky. The part that gets me is refreshing the reader’s memory. If I read part one, I need very little refreshing, but the writer goes over every detail — mostly for the new reader, I understand. In one book, the “recap” went on for several chapters .. could be a little much. So, a delicate job …

    Silvia @ Silvia Writes

    • Rinelle Grey says:

      Yes, I think it needs to be done very carefully. Dropping a hint here and there should be enough I think. I agree, that it can be overdone so easily, and if you end up skipping the first chapter, it can be really frustrating.

  6. Nana Prah says:

    This post was perfect. Thanks. I’ve just started writing a sequel and I will totally use your advice.

  7. JccKeith says:

    Can’t wait to read Reckless Rebellion. As for sequels, I write new episodes for my fantasy show on a regular basis but it is different than a book because although I have a general direction in mind for the character’s journey to go, I can always change things up or throw in plot twists whenever I want as the readers have no idea where things will end up. That’s the best part about an ongoing series is it doesn’t have to follow a certain expected pattern of events. It only has to keep up character types, descriptions and general goals.

    I do have a question for you though about your sequel. As you wrote your book, did your idea for the sequel change or get altered at all as you finished the first book?

    • Rinelle Grey says:

      A show is different to a book, but also the same in some ways. I have an idea where my sequel is going to end up, but I’m always open to inspiration that strikes me as I write!

      My sequel idea did change a little. I changed the end of the first book as I re-wrote it, which in turn changed the sequel. But the change wasn’t major really, just a little tweaking.

  8. Phoebe says:

    I don’t know if you’ve noticed but you have 3 twice.

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