Thursday, April 11, 2013

To Sequel or Not to Sequel




Budding authors hear all kinds of advice in the beginning. What to do and what not to do.








You've probably heard this before:
"If no one picks up your manuscript immediately, don’t bother writing a sequel. It is a waste of time"
For my first ms, I ignored this advice and wrote another 50K words in the storyline and outlined a third and fourth as well as the ending. After several partials and full requests, it didn't garner an agent, mostly I think due to the writing not the storyline. Someday I will return to Of Oak and Dragons to test that theory.

I took the “no sequel” advice to heart on my second ms and although I knew there was more to the story, I left it and went onto the next project. My notebooks and Post Its that continued The Magic Withheld were put in a folder and set aside.

At that time, the characters in The Adamant grabbed me and I followed them, happy as a dog with a Frisbee.

But a funny thing happened. Musa Publishing, Urania Imprint picked up my novel, Magic. And they wanted a second and possibly third book in the series.

Holy Talking Cats! What great news!

I turned my focus from Adamant and back to Magic. Well, boy howdy, I found I didn't KNOW the characters, Justus and Sable. I had to re-introduce myself to them.

We treated each other like vague strangers for weeks, polite and formal. Well-bred discussions followed about the weather and we served teas with white gloves and icy fa├žades.
   
Note: The above paragraph is for writers only since they know what the heck I’m talking about. They are the ones nodding their head and murmuring, “yep, yep.” The other folk are thinking that I heard voices, was talking to myself, and...oh, wait. Actually, they're right.

I needed to get back to the characters’ inner demons and conflicts. I pulled my notes from the corner of my file cabinet, blew off the dust, and rolled up my sleeves. It was a difficult slog though. It was like I was reading someone else’s notes. I skimmed the top like a pond skater bug where it was all polite smiles. The information I needed wasn't on the surface but down deep like buried treasure.

It wasn't until I took a three-hour drive that my characters dropped their inhibitions and revealed themselves again. Now I’m on track. Now I see through their eyes, feel their passions, fears, and goals.

Bottom line, advice is great but only you know what is *really* going on in your head. Stick with the manuscript if your heart is in it. Finish the sequels if you believe in your MCs. Because finding them after a time period is difficult.

Have you ever “lost” your character and storyline after a little downtime? Did you “find” them again?

12 comments:

  1. "For my first ms, I ignored this advice and wrote another 50K words in the storyline and outlined a third and fourth as well as the ending."

    Whoa. Whoa. Whoa. Hold it right there. You're saying that I should write an outline...BEFORE I write a novel? Yuck. Sort of takes the fun out of not knowing, I think. And it might create plot structure that would seem somewhat overwhelming to my two dozen regular readers. No thank you.

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    1. Nah. I did the outline after writing 150K plus. My story started to wander and I needed to focus on a goal. The outline gave me that place to shoot for.

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  2. I like writing sequels. It allows me more time to spend with characters I find attractive.

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  3. Jim Butcher was only picked up because he'd already written Three Dresden Files books, so I think sequels are a good way for a publisher to know that you're serious about what you're doing.

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    Replies
    1. Jim Butcher has his own spot on my book shelf. He has some great advice on writing, arcs, the scenes, and Point of No Return.

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  4. I never planned a sequel in the first place, so it was interesting picking Byron up again. Another reason I jumped ahead twenty years. Changes and differences seemed more natural.
    Cool they might want more than one book!

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    1. I thought it was cool also. Then the work started. Ha.

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  5. I never plan on doing sequels when I write the first book, but they'll sort of just pop up when I think I'm done and, most times, I write a little way into the 'sequel' to clear my head of them, then move on.
    On one occassion the sequel gave me an insight to be my character which made me completely overhaul him in the first book.

    But, after a story I've been working on for years bumped over 200k (and is seriously eyeing up hitting a 230k mark), I've decided it'd need to be several books. So I've got myself a series.
    And a sequel to that series ... a series sequel?

    ... apparently my brain hates me ...

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  6. I like to shuffle through different stories, so all the characters are fresh to me.

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  7. Great post. I have a sequel partially outlined but I'm not planning on pursuing it if the first book falls through the cracks.

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  8. *squee* We're going to get more of Justus and Sable's story?! I'm so excited!

    I so understand the losing of characters. They are so real until you ignore them. Then they get vindictive and make you beg forgiveness before they'll move back in.

    Good luck!

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  9. I have enough trouble conjuring up any storyline for a novel, much less imagining a sequel! A good three hour drive, or a three mile walk often brings me to a breakthrough, though.

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