Setting off into Sequel Country
Setting off into Sequel Country
About a year ago, after about 30 drafts, I finally “finished” (or abandoned) my debut novel. For several years I had been nurturing another, quite different idea which I thought I would turn to next. But as my thoughts started to turn now and then to publishing, I started to think about what my potential readers might like to read: perhaps something more in the same vein, rather than a ninety-degree turn that might serve a completely different audience? My novel, Parallel Lines is set in the 80s and I have some ideas for a 90s novel – why not make it a sequel to Parallels?
I’ve had a year of false starts and writing fragments that I’m not happy with. Now it’s time to put what I’ve learnt to work and do it right. But, like Joan Didion, I need to write to find out what I’m thinking. So I’m going to set out my thoughts about sequel writing, the process and what else one might see in the surrounding area. I also want to capture some of the things I learnt along the way of writing the previous novel (which for simplicity I’ll call my “first” since the ones that came before are better forgotten). Much of what I learnt, I learnt by doing, but I’ll also include some good advice I’ve picked up from other writers from Ursula K. LeGuin to Preti Taneja.
I love maps as well as writing, so there will be quite a lot of map-related metaphors. I’m also fond of question-answer format so…
Who is this for?
Myself, firstly, to explore what I think about this topic and to avoid forgetting what I learnt writing my first novel while I write the future ones! But I hope it will also be of interest to other writers. I’m writing commercial/literary novels but the issues I’ve been mulling around writing a sequel aren’t that specific, and many would apply to most genre fiction. I know I’ve acquired a lot of transferable writing skills from reading about poetry and screenwriting let alone fiction. I’ll share some of what I’ve read and maybe someone out there will share something I haven’t that could unlock one of my many problems!
What, when, and how much?
This is going to be completely free. I’m going to post a piece every Sunday all this year. I will aim for pithy, rather than rambling, so it won’t be a burden to read. I’ll review these aims at the end of 2023. And to be super clear, nothing that appears here will have been written by anyone other than myself (or AI-generated) except for the odd explicitly attributed quotation.
Pithy, you say? So what’s it about in 100 words?
Writing a sequel is hard. Most literary novelists never attempt it, since literary novels reinvent the novel itself each time. As a reader of general fiction I want something substantially new for the price of the sequel, along with the elements I enjoyed from the previous book. And as a new novelist, I want my second book to attract new readers who didn’t read the first – so the sequel can’t assume anything. This substack will explore the terrain of the sequel as I pick my way across it, and recall some landmarks from the process of writing my first novel.
I would love your company on the journey…
Why not hit the subscribe button and see what I have to say? Besides, it will honestly help to know that I’m not alone in this landscape. Did I mention it’s free? It’s also dead easy to unsubscribe if you think I’m wrong or boring.
Because social media loves a picture, here’s what I’ve used as the logo for this substack. This and all the pictures/artwork I use are all my own work too.
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