Hollis Jo McCollum
Writing the Sequel
So, I wanted to share with all of you that I am presently in the middle of writing the sequel to my first novel, To Save a World. Yes, all your favorites that survived the first book will make an appearance in the sequel to some degree, I promise. Of course, I'll be adding a few newbies to keep it spicy. There will also be a brand new villain (or villains) for you all to love or hate, as well as a whole new problem for the characters to resolve. They already saved that world, so I needed some fresh turmoil with which to torture them. I actually feel like the problematic situation in the sequel is more emotionally dire for the characters than the whole saving their dying planet was in the first one. Guess you'll have to read it and let me know for yourselves when it comes out.
In light of writing a sequel, I realized there were a few writing process tips, specific to writing a sequel, that I wanted to share with all of you. If you're not a writer, I hope this gives you an interesting insight into the brain of at least one writer. If you are a fellow writer, I hope this helps you if you ever decide to write a sequel yourselves.
First of all, I needed to re-read my own book. I know what you're thinking: "Why would she need to re-read her own work? Doesn't she remember her own story?"
Yes and no.
Yes, of course I remember my own story and characters, and all their names. I created them. They are my imaginary children in a lot of ways, but just like parents of real children, I remember all the really important stuff about my imaginary kids. However, it can be easy to forget what their favorite color is or the name of that one stuffed animal. I also need to remember the world I created for them to live in more acutely. What were all the names of those random towns anyway?
I am also doing this in order to familiarize myself with the writing style of the first book. We writers are people, and as time goes by people change and evolve. It's natural. This can pose a bit of a hurtle when it comes to writing a sequel to a book, however. Writing styles tend to evolve with the person, and often change. Your readers will expect there to be a bit of evolution in your writing style and characters, but you don't want it to be too different from your former self. Remember, people are reading the sequel because they became attached to how you expressed the story and characters in the first book, so stay as true to your original writing style as much as possible. Alienating your readers is never a good idea. Especially, if you're a no-name, indie writer like me. We need to hold on to every fan we've got.
After I have re-familiarized myself with the first book, I then like to delve deeper and check my notes from when I was writing the first book. I don't know if all writers keep their notes like I do, but I'm the sentimental sort. Besides, my notes are filled with ideas, and background information on each character that wasn't necessarily expressed in the first book. For example, there are at least two situations, or scenarios as I like to call them, that I did not get to implement in the first book. I just couldn't make them fit in the flow of that story. They do, however work well with the story line of the sequel! If I hadn't kept my notes, I may have lost out on my super cool ideas. I think they are super cool. Awesome, actually. I'm really excited about finally using them. Besides, having those notes from the first book and using those ideas also helps to keep the feeling of the new story bonded to the first one. Those ideas were born of your inspiration while writing the first book, so the energy or vibe of that will better unify the second book to the first.
Now you're ready to pull together an outline for your sequel! Huzzah!
Using those unused notes and/or ideas from the first book helps a ton in outlining as well. I must tell you that I am what is call a "pantser" in the writing world. It means that my personal style is to write by the seat of my pants using only a loose outline to keep myself on track. The opposite of this is called a "plotter." Plotters are those writers who map out virtually every detail of their story before sitting down to write it. Both are completely valid. It just depends on how your brain works when it comes to writing. I will say that that most famous pantser that I know of is Stephen King, so I feel I am in excellent company.
Anyway, I will usually use a traditional outlining method of a roman numeral for each major milestone in my story, and if there any specifics I already know about that go with or in between those major milestones, I'll jot the general idea down in the appropriate place in the timeline. Then, I sit my butt in a chair, put pen to paper and wing it.
Hope this was helpful, or at least an entertaining read!