Wednesday, December 2, 2015

5 Tips for Writing a Sequel


SHONNA SLAYTON is the author of the YA novels Cinderella's Dress, (Summer 2014) and Cinderella's Shoes (Fall 2015) published by Entangled Teen. She finds inspiration in reading vintage diaries written by teens, who despite using different slang, sound a lot like teenagers today. When not writing, Shonna enjoys amaretto lattes and spending time with her husband and children in Arizona.


I always wanted Cinderella’s Dress to have a sequel, but the publisher only bought the first book, and had a “wait and see” approach about the second. During the editing process, whenever I saw a thread that would work well as a reveal in the sequel, I’d put in a note saying something like: “I could say this here….but it would be more interesting if it came out in the sequel.” Hint, hint. Wink, wink.

Fortunately, my editor was interested in the sequel, so she let me hold back on some of those reveals, which gave me hope there would be a book two. However, I still had to end book one in a satisfying enough way that should sales not pan out and the second book not get picked up, readers wouldn’t be disappointed that they’d never find out some big plot point.

*Then SHOES was greenlighted*

When I started writing SHOES I only had a general idea of where I wanted the story to go. I hadn’t created a detailed outline for SHOES before finishing DRESS because I’d read advice that said not to plan too much because the first book might get edited so deeply that you will end up having to rewrite too much in the sequel. I’m still undecided about that advice because nothing big changed, and I could have worked ahead. But I did learn a few other things.

Here are five tips I learned about writing a sequel:

1. Re-read the first book and take notes. You would be surprised at some of the details you’ve forgotten, especially if you made changes late in the editorial process and your brain keeps remembering the original way you wrote certain details. (I’m sure if I went head-to-head in a trivia contest about my book with a fan, I might lose.) After I wrote the first draft of SHOES and completed one edit pass, I went back to DRESS to read them both back to back.

2. Watch out for repetitions. You don’t want to repeat the first book. It’s easy to slip into comfortable character behaviors because you are familiar with them. Actually, I think this point goes for writing any next novel, whether it is a sequel or not. Just like we can inadvertently repeat words, we can inadvertently repeat dialogue or plot points or character interactions.

3. Create repetitions! I’m talking about the good kind—“plants” that you intentionally or unintentionally wrote earlier in the series. I love it when I’m reading a series and something seemingly inconspicuous in the first book comes up again in another book. As a reader, it gives me a “that was cool”moment, and I think: “Clever, very clever, Ms. Author!”

4. Get someone who has never read the first book to read the second and see if they understand it. Although I, personally, could never start a series mid-stream, some readers do! My publisher had two editors on each book, but with SHOES one of the editors was new. She was very good at pointing out places that weren’t sufficiently explained. This is also helpful for readers who read the first book a year ago and also need a refresher to remember who all the players are.

5. Learn what readers loved about the first book, and if it matches your vision, give them more of that. I’m not a big fan of reading reviews after a book comes out because reviews are really more for readers than writers (and often the advice is contradictory!). Once the book is published there is nothing you can do to change what it is. But when you are writing a series, you do get to take that feedback and respond accordingly. If the people want more dragons—give them more dragons!

Readers love series books. They love to find out what happened next to the characters they came to know in the first book. As for writers, series books are fun to write, too. We become attached to our characters so it’s a pleasure to send them off on new adventures. I hope you find at least one of these tips helpful if you ever get the opportunity to write a sequel.

Enter to win a signed (and glittered) paperback of Cinderella's Shoes
Contest open to USA entrants only, please.



Book Synopsis:
The war may be over, but Kate Allen’s life is still in upheaval. Not only has she discovered that Cinderella was real, but now she’s been made Keeper of the Wardrobe, her sole responsibility to protect Cinderella’s magical dresses from the greed of the evil stepsisters’ modern descendants.

But Cinderella’s dresses are just the beginning. It turns out that the priceless glass slippers might actually exist, too, and they could hold the power to reunite lost loved ones like her father—missing in action since World War II ended. As Kate and her boyfriend, Johnny, embark on an adventure fromNew York to Italy and Poland in search of the mysterious slippers, they will be tested in ways they never imagined.

Because when you harness Cinderella’s magic, danger and evil are sure to follow…


Author Website: http://shonnaslayton.com/

33 comments:

  1. Thank you so, so much for this! I'm querying the first book in a possible series and have tentatively plotted the second. After I plotted, I realized one of my main plot points was pretty much an exact duplicate of one in the first book! I'll just need to figure out how to twist up that point when the time comes.

    By the way, your books sound really neat. :) Thanks for stopping by GTW!

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  2. Thanks for the advice! As the author of several sequels, with several more in the hoping-planning-works, this is pretty useful for me.
    On the avoiding repetition- I've found that one of the best ways to do that is to let the world and characters grow. I mean, the first and third book in my series are relatively similar in basic plot (four original MCs go on a search for missing sibling/information about missing sibling and end up making a sort-of-raid on the bad guy headquarters)- but the changes in setting and in characters, I think, help set them apart by making the larger plots distinctly different.

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  3. Thank you so much for this post! I don't need any sequels at the moment, but I plan to in the future.

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  4. My sequel just released two days ago, and reading through this list, I can see where I stumbled through learning all of these things. I went ahead and wrote the first three books in the series before I went back to edit. Book 2 then got the double-whammy of having to change things that I'd learned while writing Book 3 and while editing Book 1.

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  5. Thank you so much for the advice! I am currently writing a sequel (finished the rough draft for Nano). I definitely think all of these points apply to sequel writing. Especially read your first book first. I totally agree at forgetting things that you wrote about! It's really helpful to re-read the first book to find those creative repetitions! Something I definitely need to work on, though, is making it understandable without the first book. That's definitely something I struggle with.

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  6. Thanks for these tips! As editor for my daughter's fantasy series, I'll be keeping these things in mind. Making the second and third books stand alone, while not being too repetitive -- it's a hard balance to walk. :)

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  7. Shonna, your book sounds so interesting! Thanks for being our guest on Go Teen Writers!

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  8. Thanks for the tips! I haven't tried to write a sequel at all, but my WIP is the first book in a series, so I will be writing the second soon hopefully soon. Anyways, thanks again!

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  9. Thanks so much for sharing with us! These tips were all very helpful for me as I'm writing my WIP with a sequel in mind. :)

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  10. This is great advice, Shonna! Thanks so much for coming on Go Teen Writers! :-)

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  11. It's just my luck that this showed up in my inbox! I'm not sure if my sequel will happen- both book could turn out to short, in which case I'd have to combine them. But I have a feeling that a one-year time skip and major character personality changes in the middles of a story wouldn't be the greatest thing to happen.

    Great advice, this plot is rather complicated, so now I know what to look out for!

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  12. Great advice :) I'm thinking about making my current WIP into a series, so I'm looking forward to using some of the tips mentioned here :)

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  13. Shonna, your books sound intriguing! Adding them to my to-read list! :)

    Great list of tips. I'm figuring some of these things out as I prepare my third book in my debut series--especially that bit about having someone new to the story read it for understandability. :)

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  14. Thank you for this post! I've never attempted to write a sequel but still found this very interesting-I'm planning to write a spin-off 'sequel' to a first book of mine... Meaning different plot and characters but the same world.

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  15. Good tips. :-) I'm almost finished with a book that will most likely have a sequel, so this is a good time for tips like these.

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  16. There's only one thing I can say (besides thanks so much): YAAAASSS!

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  17. Thank you so much for this post! I just finished writing a novella, and I'm thinking about putting together a sequel for it, so this really helped me.
    The synopsis of your book really intrigued me, if I don't win the contest, I just might need to find some other way to get my hands on it :). And also, both the covers are GORGEOUS!
    ~Savannah Perran

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  18. All of these are such lovely ideas! Though I've never tried writing a sequel, I most definitely plan to, and am looking forward to it. Thank you for this wonderful post! :)

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  19. I've never thought that I could dump that much of one idea into two or three different books so I never tried. This is really helpful though. (and your covers are both incredibly beautiful ;D) I love fairy tales and both of your books look reeeeeally interesting.

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  20. Great advice! My current novel has the potential for sequels, and though I'm not writing or planning them now, this is good to keep in mind :)

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  21. I'm currently writing my first book, but I've entertained the idea of a sequel, thanks for the advice!

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  22. This is really interesting. I've written one sequel, and I opted for the "write the first draft of both books before editing" method, reasoning that at least that way I would be able to change whatever I needed in the first book. But it's true, now that I've started rewriting the first book, the second one is going to have to change too...so it kind of seems like a lose-lose situation, haha.

    I never thought about having someone read through the second book who hasn't read the first. That's an interesting idea.

    Thanks for sharing! Your books sound fun. :)

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  23. What a fun bunch over here at Go Teen Writers :) Glad to share what I learned. It sounds like there are a lot of good books in the works. Thanks for hosting me Jill and Stephanie.

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  24. This book seems really interesting.... I've neber written a book or a sequel but I bet its really hard.

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  25. I really like tip #4. While I personally would never start a series in the middle, (too much of a series purist), I know some people do that, and I would want to write in a way that they might understand. But I also get so frustrated with authors who basically spell out the entire first book in the first chapter of the sequel. Give me enough backstory to have it make sense, but don't rewrite the first book. I've already read it.

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  26. Do these steps apply when writing multiple books for a series?

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  27. Thank you! This has been great as I'm looking at writing a sequel for one of my books! You've given me more confidence. :) Thank you for that.

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  28. I liked the reminder to watch out for repetitions. As a reader, this is a "turn off" for me. And as a writer, I could see how it is easy to accidentally repeat a dialogue or interaction.

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  29. Great tips, thanks!

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  30. Thanks for these really great tips!

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  31. I have two big fears when it comes to writing a sequel. The first being that I'll just write a copy of the first book and the second that my characters will not mature enough in the second book and the reader won't be able to go on the discovery journey with them.

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