Thursday, January 26, 2012

Some Thoughts on Writing a Sequel

So the website isn’t ready yet, because as usual with all things technology related, it’s taking longer than I wanted. In the meantime, I’ve been working on and off on the sequel to The Nightmare Affair. I won’t say I’ve started writing in earnest, because I haven’t. Earnest to me means dedicated, recorded daily word counts, and I’m not at that level of devotion yet. Soon though.

But I have done enough to share a couple of things I’ve run across even so early in the game. Please bear in mind this is the first time in my life I’ve ever attempted to write a sequel, which means I’m feeling my way along and learning by trial and error. Still, what I’m learning might prove helpful.

If you’re currently working on the first book in a series, here are some activities you might want to do to make writing the next book easier. Some of these are things I did automatically when writing The Nightmare Affair, and some are ones I wish I had done.
  • Lay the groundwork in book 1
This is definitely the hardest activity on the list, by far. It requires that you think ahead and that you allow yourself to envision the possibility that the current story you’re working on might live long enough to make it into the next story. But once you get past the worry of whether or not the book is ever going to get published, it’s easy to lay this foundation.

Mostly, what I do is drop little details and clues here and there of ideas, character motivations, events, etc. that I might want to explore in the next book. If writing a book is like weaving a tapestry, these are threads I intentionally leave sticking out. They’re small, small enough that none of my critique partners or beta readers will complain that I didn’t explain the significance of that thread. Again, these are minor, minor details. The best example I can think of is how J.K. Rowling mentions the locket in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, one whole book before it becomes significant.
  • Keep a timeline of events
This one is easy. As you go along, make a note of the relative time when something important happens as well as the time in between. If you’re writing something set in the modern world, this is extremely easy. For The Nightmare Affair, I made notes on my day calendar of when important events would take place in the story. Nowhere in the book do I reference the actual date, with the exception of Halloween, but being able to reference a real date made keeping tracks of events significantly easier.
  • Keep a glossary of all names of people, places, and things
This is an activity I’ve done from the very beginning. No matter how insignificant a name might seem, I try to record it in a glossary. Names are pretty easy to forget, even for the writer. This is especially true when you’re talking about the second book. Referencing those same minor names in a second book is a nice way to provide coherency to the series. In addition to recording the name, I also copy and paste any relevant descriptions into the glossary. And trust me, remembering the appearance of characters can be tough. A glossary takes some of the brain work out of it.
  • Write Chapter Summaries
It’s nice to know where exactly things happened. And this is something you should consider doing even if your book isn’t the first in a series. Writing chapter summaries will help you write the dreaded synopsis. And depending on how detailed/analytical you make your summaries, it can also give you a visual guide to how the story progresses, which in turn can help you identify areas where you’ve gone off on a tangent or when you need to hurry up/slow down.

So there you have it folks. Be sure to stick around for the website reveal and query letter contest!

Happy Writing


  1. Great info, Mindee. Love the day planner idea.

    1. Glad you like it. The day planner stuff is kind of fun, especially when you write something book related on it weeks in advance and then see it again later when the month arrives.

  2. Thanks. Hope you find it helpful. :)

  3. What excellent tips! I wrote my first book, but before I start working on the next book in the series I am going to backtrack and do some of the things you mentioned. First up- the timeline. I wish I had done that all along! Best of luck with your writing. :)

    1. I did my timeline post-first book, too. And really, it wasn't that bad. I found that I identified the time of an event pretty early on in the chapter. With any luck, yours will be the same. So good luck!

  4. You've definitely hit many of the key points that helps me keep everything straight.

    When it comes to sequels and series, I think having an idea big enough to extend beyond the first book is most important. Coming up with a plot for the sequel or to continue the series is hard if I didn't take the time to plan ahead in the first one.

    1. I definitely agree that you need an idea big enough for it, as well as characters interesting enough.


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