Monday, November 27, 2017

When to Sequel

I feel like I've written about this before, but I'm still hearing questions about when is the right time to write a sequel. You've finished a book you love, got it as perfect as possible, and have started querying it. Do you start on something totally new or head directly into writing book two? There's the simple answer and the more complex answer.

The simple answer is absolutely not. Start something totally new. It's time to leave those dearly loved characters behind and move on to something different. Why? Because an author only has so much time in a day. Even the fastest writer can only produce so many quality manuscripts in a year. Don't waste your time working on the second part of a story line that may go nowhere. That's the harsh truth. 

Sadly, if the plot and characters weren't right for the market in the first book, it's unlikely to fit better in the second book. Now you are in the no man's land of your first book has played out with agents and you have nothing new written to send out to them. That puts you out of looking for an agent for a good six months. Not a great situation to put yourself in.

If you can't move forward because your brain and heart are hooked on your old characters, then do a short blurb about a sequel. Write a quick outline of your ideas. Something that won't take much time. Maybe write a couple of chapters. But then it's time to pull up your big girl pants, find your discipline, and move on to something else while you let querying play out. 

It's possible that querying will be successful. You'll land an agent who loves your story as much as you do. So start that sequel with an offer in hand?

Nope. Do not go there. Keep finishing the something different you should have started. Why? Because a fair percentage of first books on submission do not sell. And then once again, you've wasted a writer's most valuable resource--your time--working on something that's not going anywhere. Now you have nothing new to send your agent if wonderful book doesn't sell, except a sequel to wonderful book that they can't use.

If book 1 doesn't sell, it's pretty damn likely publishing isn't going to jump ahead to buy book 2. I mean it can happen, but it isn't likely.

I say again. Start something new. Start something new. Start something new. Until you have a sale and the publisher is open to giving you sequels.  

So now the complex answer. There are a few exceptions to the just say no approach.

1. You plan to self publish. Totally acceptable to query a story you love and have no luck, but decide to self publish. Or don't query at all and just go straight to self publishing. There are pluses and minuses to either path you choose. Traditional publishing has some advantages and shortfalls and the same with self publishing. This is not the post to discuss those, but if that's the path you want, then write those sequels.

2. Your heart is stuck. You just can't move onward to something new. You have no other ideas of what to write. It's either write these sequels or face writer's block forever. Then just write a sequel to get it out of your system. 

3. The sequel is 100% better than the book you finished and should have been book 1 in the first place. I've heard this a few times. People start in the wrong place with their story. Sometimes they start in the wrong place with an entire book. If you say but book 2 is where all the action starts, then why did you start with book 1? Perhaps you started with what should have been backstory for the real opening book. Warning: this is going to be incredibly hard to judge because you are likely way too close to the situation. But it can happen.

So there are my thoughts on when to write a sequel. It's not always the happy answer but it's the answer that is the most logical. 

How do you feel about the matter? Feel free to set me straight in the comments.  


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