Preparing to Write a Sequel

So many approaches!

Depending on who you ask, there are many ways to approach writing. The challenge is finding the one that is most efficient for the purpose, time, and genre of the work. Storytelling has its own unique characteristics that can lead to writers getting bogged down. Trying to be consistent in a sequel can be uniquely difficult.

With the release of my novel, The Hustings: A Family Web, I have wondered if my own approach to this fictional work was the most efficient. At the same time, I wonder if efficiency is the best goal for novel creation. Granted, it is good to have a sense of where you are going and how you will get there. That’s not unlike any journey. But part of living the journey is all of the detours along the way. In writing a novel, the detours can be the deadly end to that book!

There are plenty of authors and people I would call experts on novel writing who share ideas on social media. The term “pantsing” comes to mind. Before reading about novel creation, I had no idea that such a term existed. Yes, I know how to fly by the seat of my pants when writing. And yes, I know enough about myself to feel that’s not very dangerous. At least it wasn’t dangerous until I wrote my characters into the proverbial corner that had no escape.

Oh, but wait! There was always a way out. The challenge with pantsing one’s characters into the proverbial corner and fishing them out through a hole in the back wall is creating the hole and the means by which each character will crawl through it. These little journeys have an efficiency cost. Time. Time is lost finding your way out of your own paper bag.

So, where does one begin a sequel?

Embarking on a sequel novel can be daunting. The idea of getting caught up in pantsing and being anything but efficient in producing the necessary follow-up story in a reasonable amount of time is not attractive. Well, maybe the follow-up novel is only necessary for the writer. It’s very possible readers won’t care at all about what happens to characters whose lives have not been fully revealed. Although, most of us know that’s not how it works. A good story shouldn’t just end. It should end only after the characters are imprinted on the minds of readers.

When the task ahead is large, and when you know it’s large, where do you begin to tell the story? In the middle? At the beginning? No, wait! the beginning already happened – that was the first book.

You may have a little journal filled with outlines. You know where you’re going with this sequel, and you know what has to happen to every character. But what happens if you get “pantsy” in attempting to expand the outline?

You probably know all about the snowflake method of writing. It’s a very effective way to build a story. But be careful in the process. Building that snowflake lead down a rabbit hole unless you know where you want to take the reader. Every writer probably has had the experience of writing a synopsis in a creative moment. That exercise is early in the snowflake process. Sometimes, the resulting one-paragraph summary can be a whole lot more intriguing than any detailed outline in a journal. It may be necessary to revise the outline if this one-paragraph exercise is going to drive your work.

All of these “how do I get started” kinds of questions lead, again, to inefficient writing. So what’s a creative mind to do?

Just write!

Don’t think about the method – just get down to the work of writing. Yes, work. It is work.

Some authors love outlines, others are pantsers with great results, and some produce many novels with a snowflake method. It doesn’t really matter which method you use. Just write and see what develops.

Let the characters lead the way. They may lead you through the outline that can be “snowflaked” into a good yarn that weaves the first book into the second book. Or, they may just have you pantsing away.

Let go of the story that’s running around in your head. This is the most pleasant way to go.

Happy reading and happier writing!