Something about Sequels

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!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


51 Responses to Something about Sequels

  1. Natalie Aguirre Jul 19 2013 at 6:18 am #

    I’m incredibly nervous about the thought of writing under contract. It’s one of my big fears of ever getting a publishing contract. I worry about writing a book quickly since I’m not doing that right now. And I agree there’s the worry if readers will consider it good enough. Can’t wait to read Once We Were.

  2. Anna J. Boll Jul 19 2013 at 9:32 am #

    I heard an interesting piece on NPR this morning about how all the summer films are “2’s” because for Hollywood it is a sure thing. As you said, there is a little bit of the McDonalds effect. People think, “Well, at least I know what to expect.” Funny that so many people prefer comfort to challenge in their film-going. I wonder if that is a factor with books as well. Congrats on book 2!

  3. Mary H Jul 19 2013 at 10:00 am #

    Through the ever Night. Unravel Me. Asunder.

  4. Andrea Chettle Jul 19 2013 at 10:17 am #

    Great giveaway (my fingers are crossed for the Once We Were ARC) I think my current favourite sequel is The Demon’s Covenant by Sarah Rees Brennan The Demons Lexicon series is a great favourite of mine and this book perfectly continues the story
    Right now I’m really looking forward to two sequels The Glass Republic by Tom Pollock and (of course) Once We Were by Kat Zhang

  5. Emily Schroeder Jul 19 2013 at 10:17 am #

    school’s out forever, saving the world and other extreme sports, final warning, max, fang, angel, nevermore,the gift, the fire, the kiss,every which way but dead, the good the bad and the undead, etc.

  6. Marie O. Jul 19 2013 at 10:20 am #

    Siege and Storm, The Crown of Embers, Asunder, Through the Ever Night…The list goes on! Thanks for the giveaway!

  7. Joni Jul 19 2013 at 10:51 am #

    Great post. Favorite sequels… hmm… I actually seem to have a LOT of “book 2″s in my TBR pile. One sequel that stood out for me would have to be Scarlet By Marissa Meyer. That book just stacked more action right on top of the first book, Cinder. Thanks for the giveaway!

  8. Amhrán Jul 19 2013 at 10:53 am #

    That’s actually a very difficult question! Mh… there’s lots of books I love that I wish they have sequels but don’t. I think it is because, as you said, I love to see the characters grow!
    But if i had to pick an actual sequel I’ve read as my favorite… I wouldn’t know. Maybe “the Girl Who Played with Fire”.
    I’m really looking forward to “Once We Were” though!
    Thanks for the giveaway!!

  9. Peggy Eddleman Jul 19 2013 at 11:13 am #

    Fabulous post! I just started on my third edit letter on book 2, and YES to everything you said! It’s nice to know this is normal. 🙂

  10. Alysleaena Jul 19 2013 at 11:29 am #

    Unwholly, sequel to Unwind. Almost better than the first book!

  11. Tanja Jul 19 2013 at 11:40 am #

    First of thanks for this amazing giveaway! 🙂 I can’t wait to read the book.
    My favorite sequel would be Froi of the Exiles! 🙂

  12. Eleni Alexandraki Jul 19 2013 at 11:43 am #

    For YA, I loved the sequels for Frostbite (Vampire Academy #2) and Scarlet by Marissa Meyer (Lunar Chronicles #2). Companion books I loved were Ink Exchange by Melissa Marr (Wicked Lovely) and Sweetly Jackson Pearce (Fairy Tales Retold)

  13. Hayley Jul 19 2013 at 12:05 pm #

    Oh gosh that’s a hard question. I guess I would say Frostbite ( vampire academy 2) it was way better than the first book! 🙂

  14. _Sandra_ Jul 19 2013 at 12:32 pm #

    My favorite sequel.. Probably Insurgent, Through the Ever Night and especially Siege and Storm. Thanks for a giveaway! 🙂

  15. Mable L. Jul 19 2013 at 1:09 pm #

    Favorite sequels would have to be The Haunted and The HIdden by Jessica Verday. Can’t wait to read Once We Were! What’s Left of Me was such a compelling book. I’ll be adding it to my favorite sequels too.

  16. Qing Qing Jul 19 2013 at 1:39 pm #

    Although I have very many favorite sequels such as Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Game of Thrones, the Millenjium series, I really like Scarlett by Alexandra Ripley, the sequel to Gone with the Wind. Even though I didn’t like some of the plot sequences. I was really happy of the fact that there was a posthumous sequel to Gone with the Wind.

  17. Christina Jul 19 2013 at 2:00 pm #

    I do love sequels–and it can work the other way around. Sequels can totally BLOW the socks off the first book. too. I loved Catching Fire of the Hunger Games series–it was my favorite book out of the three!

  18. Jessica Jul 19 2013 at 2:30 pm #

    Of course, as soon as I’m asked, I forget. But I did pretty thoroughly enjoy The Madness Underneath, the second book of the Shades of London series. In most cases, I found that the 3rd, 4th, etc books of a series were better than the 2nd book…

  19. Anna Jul 19 2013 at 3:03 pm #

    Frostbite by Richelle Mead (Vampire Academy), Rules of Attraction by Simone Elkeles (Perfect Chemistry), Prodigy by Marie Lu (Legend), and Scarlet by Marissa Meyer (Cinder are some of my favorite sequels.

    I hope that one day I will get the honor of being able to write a sequel!

    And I can’t wait for the new book, I’m sure it’ll be just as good as the first one if not even better!

  20. krsz Jul 19 2013 at 3:44 pm #

    I really loved Divergent

  21. Alicia Jul 19 2013 at 4:04 pm #

    Can’t wait for ONCE WE WERE ~ I think my favourite sequels are probably within The Infernal Devices Trilogy, Harry Potter Series, Shade Trilogy, and Legend Trilogy !

  22. Vivien Jul 19 2013 at 4:44 pm #

    Harry Potter of course!!

  23. Raven Jul 19 2013 at 7:55 pm #

    I only read the first five chapters but I have a feeling that Siege & Storm is going be my favorite sequel this year.

  24. Janita Jul 19 2013 at 9:11 pm #

    I’m always tentative about starting the second book because I love first books and beginnings much better than the middle or end, but that’s just my personal preference. I’m generally a starter, not a finisher. Usually all my favourite books are the first in the series!

  25. Llehn Jul 19 2013 at 10:31 pm #

    Crown Of Embers

  26. Kelly Jul 19 2013 at 10:42 pm #

    Sometimes I think the second book of a series is the best book. The last book disappoint me because the authors don’t always tie the loose ends. I will have to say that my favorite sequel is The Subtle Knife, the sequel to the Golden Compass.

  27. Andrea Jul 20 2013 at 4:31 pm #

    I’m assuming by sequel you mean the middle book(s) in a trilogy/quartet, in which case I love: Fire (Kristen Cashore), Royal Assassin (Robin Hobb), Golden Fool (Robin Hobb), Gathering Blue (Lois Lowry), Messenger (Lois Lowry), The Hero and the Crown (Robin McKinley – not a trilogy), Through the Ever Night (Veronica Rossi), and Insurgent (Veronica Roth)

    There’s a special place in my heart for sequels that continue the story from another character’s point of you (Fire, Gathering Blue, Messenger, The Hero and the Crown).

  28. Macy @ It's a Book T Jul 21 2013 at 2:17 pm #

    My favorite sequel is probably Insurgent by Veronica Roth.

  29. ~renate Jul 22 2013 at 2:43 am #

    Actually, the second book was my favorite in the Hunger Games trilogy.

  30. Jen Jul 22 2013 at 11:28 am #

    Probably forever and always Harry Potter

  31. Vivian Jul 22 2013 at 1:45 pm #

    Harry Potter, Pure (Covenant series), Onyx (Lux series), and too many others to name!

  32. Kim Jul 23 2013 at 2:23 am #

    I’m super excited for ONCE WE WERE! My favorite sequel currently is Girl of Nightmares by Kendare Blake. It was a perfect ending to that series. I love to sequels, because I enjoy going back into a story I’ve already learned to love, but they are also scary. The “Middle Book Syndrome” in a trilogy does happen from time to time 🙁

  33. Alexa Y. Jul 23 2013 at 11:11 pm #

    Sequels are an interesting thing to me! When it’s a sequel for a book I really enjoyed, I get very excited to be reunited with the characters and to continue reading their story. However, I do end up having high expectations of the series! Generally, I’ve found that my expectations are met (particularly this year, the year of AWESOME sequels) though!

  34. Cassie Jul 24 2013 at 7:57 am #

    I had the fortune of reading Crown of Midnight, which was an AWESOME sequel. Siege and Storm was also amazing, as was The Crown of Embers. Catching FIre was also my favorite book in the Hunger Games trilogy.

  35. Kate M Jul 24 2013 at 10:35 am #

    It would be Thornhill, Crown of Midnight AND PHOENIX!

  36. Hazel Jul 24 2013 at 10:44 am #

    My fave sequels would be Unravel Me, Pandemonium, Rules of Attraction and It’s Not Summer Without You. 🙂

  37. Chenise J. Jul 24 2013 at 2:07 pm #

    I absolutely love Dead Tossed Waves, the second book in Carrie Ryan’s The Forest of Hands and Teeth trilogy!

  38. Krystianna Jul 24 2013 at 5:20 pm #

    My favorite sequel of all time is definitely Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins. Thanks for the giveaway! 🙂

  39. Anthony Isom Jul 25 2013 at 1:36 pm #

    My personal favorite sequel, of late, has been Insurgent. I think it flawlessly displays character development, character familiarity while also providing an actual, quantifiable advancing plot. I loved it!

  40. Dianne Jul 26 2013 at 3:12 am #

    At the top of my mind, Catching Fire. I’m kind of lucky that the books I have read don’t suffer from the middle book syndrome. Great article, Kat!

  41. Sandy Jul 26 2013 at 3:25 am #

    My favorite sequel right now is Clockwork Prince, but I have a feeling it might be Crown of Midnight soon!

  42. Brooke Jul 26 2013 at 8:18 am #

    Unravel Me sequel to Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi. It was EXCELLENT. Also, Clockwork Prince by Cassandra Clare, even better than the first, Clockwork Angel.

  43. Krutula Jul 26 2013 at 8:22 am #

    There are so many – but the first that comes to my mind is Days of Blood and Starlight by Laini Taylor

  44. Tammy Jul 26 2013 at 8:37 am #

    I loved Unravel Me, more than Shatter Me.

  45. Sandy Jul 26 2013 at 12:08 pm #

    Favourite sequel – Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K.Rowling. I know it’s the third book in the series but I started the series from Chamber of Secrets after I saw the first movie. Up until book 6 I always thought the following book was better than it’s predecessor. Also in the Artemis Fowl series I thought The Arctic Incident (Book #2) was better than the first. Frostbite from Vampire Academy is my favorite from that series, I never worry about being disappointing by Skulduggery Pleasant sequels I always think the book are better or just as good as the previous book. The only time I get weary about a sequel is when I think the first book was perfect on it’s own and I felt like it had reached its conclusion.

  46. Kim-Anh Jul 26 2013 at 12:45 pm #

    Favourite Sequel- Scorch Trials- James Dashner

  47. Whitley Abell Jul 26 2013 at 2:30 pm #

    Favorite sequel (and three-quel) – Rebel Angels and A Sweet Far Thing by Libba Bray. Normally, I don’t tend to love follow up books in a series nearly as much as I love the first book, but I feel like the books get better each round.

  48. Adriana Chavez Jul 26 2013 at 9:51 pm #

    Favorite sequel? It’s so hard to choose! I guess I would say The Chamber Of Secrets 🙂

  49. jazmen Jul 26 2013 at 10:04 pm #

    Favorite Sequel? Insurgent.

  50. Kate @ whYAnot Jul 26 2013 at 10:06 pm #

    I’m not usually a sequel fan. I just read them to bridge the gap from 1 to 3. But I adored Days of Blood and Starlight by Laini Taylor. It’s such a gorgeous book!

  51. Cyh Aug 22 2013 at 3:15 am #

    Favorite sequel ever: “This Book Is Full of Spiders” by David Wong (Sequel to “John Dies at the End”)

    It had all the amazing atmosphere of the first book, but the path it took was incredibly different and was filled with suspense and new twists. I’m often ambivalent about sequels and even trilogies, but this one caught me off guard.

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