In some ways, writing and releasing a sequel is like being a sophomore in high school (or college, I suppose). You’ve been around the block. You know your way around campus, more or less…at the very least, you’re no longer getting lost trying to find the cafeteria. The initial overwhelming OMGWHAT of freshman year has faded, and even though the excitement is definitely still there, it’s a new kind of excitement. You’re no longer the “new kid,” and you’ve probably carved out a bit of a niche for yourself, found your friends, and your clubs, etc.
But it’s still only sophomore year! There’s so much more to figure out, and learn, and discover. You encounter things you thought you knew, only to find out you really didn’t. Entirely new things pop up. Things change. You change.
And of course, in the end, the analogy does break down a bit. A second book (especially a sequel) brings on all kinds of pressures. For many writers, it’s the first time they’ve written on contract, with deadlines from the very beginning. Drafting a book over the course of a year and drafting one in a couple months are very different beasts! Plus, you have all these new responsibilities about marketing the first book, and all these worries—will people who loved the first book love the second one? Will they think it’s too different? Too similar? Will it have that dreaded “middle book syndrome”? Will you disappoint the readers?
Nearly every single writer who I’ve talked to about a sequel says this almost word for word: “I’m worried it’ll disappoint readers.”
Of course, writers worry plenty about first books, too! But there’s something about the second that at once increases and decreases the worry. On one hand, you’re a little more sure of yourself since you’ve done it before—had the launch party, and the happy reviews, and the not-so-happy reviews, and you’ve survived it all once, and are the smarter for it, so shouldn’t it be easier the second time? It can be, a little. You know what to expect, generally. But this is still a different book, and not only a different book, but one that expands upon a story people have already been introduced to—one they now have expectations for.
It can all be rather nerve-wracking!
But personally, I’ve always loved sequels for the same reason I love television shows. I love entering a story already knowing the characters, and feeling like I have history with them. I love encountering them in a new situation and being able to smile to myself and think, “oh, I know just how they’ll react.” Not that sequels should be predictable! But there’s a certain familiarity that I enjoy.
Sequels sometimes get a bad rep as “bridge” books, that serve no purpose other than shuffling the characters from Book 1 to Book 3. It’s true that they often involve a lot of set-up necessary for a Big Book 3 Showdown. But—and maybe this is because I’m a huge fan of character-driven plots—I do like how characters tend to grow and mature in second books…and the lovely anticipation of knowing the storm is coming 🙂 Of course, a fast-paced plot is necessary, as well!
What do you think? What are some of your favorite sequels? 🙂
In celebration of the fact that we’re a little less than TWO MONTHS (eep!) from the release of Once We Were, I’m giving away an ARC of the book, plus an e-copy of What’s Left of Me. (they’re two separate prizes). Both are international!