To every author, alive or dead, who completed a series, I applaud you.
To those who’ve made a living, I am in awe.
Even having published a trilogy, I’m fighting the start of the second book enough that I’m about to tell myself to forget the first book and just write. I’m not releasing either until I finish the series anyway! HA!
I did go looking for some tips on how to wrangle this strange thing that becomes steadily more shaped like an Elder God. I was surprised at one tip from Writer’s Digest.
In the article, “Writing Sequels: 7 Rules for Writing Second Installment,” the advice is not to pick up where you left off. It also seems to assume you’ve been published and now you’re on the hook for a second in the series. As I said, I was surprised because their articles used to be much better than this. Let me pick at the “where do we start” issue a bit, though. Where you start is where you need to start for your series. Are you trying to create a series that will tell stories within a world, or are you trying to tell a very long story?
If you’re telling stories in a certain world, then no, you probably don’t need to start right where you left off in the previous book. One example of this is Anne McCaffrey’s Pern novels. I know there are many others, but that’s the one that comes to mind for me. These are the series that are self-propelling and can last for decades.
On the other hand, if your series is written with an end point in sight, you need to keep that time line from becoming a nightmare for your readers. I recently finished reading the “Wake the Dragon” series by Kevin Anderson. It’s a great example of keeping the time line consistent. (It’s also a good example of how to run multiple story lines side by side, so if you’re trying to do that, read this series for insights!)
My series is one of the second group, just as my first trilogy was.
Why didn’t I have this problem in the first trilogy? Well, see, the entire story was written before I started trying to divide it into books. This may be a lesson for me. Don’t go deciding where the books need to split until you finish writing the entire thing.
This time, I’m in the timeline, having skipped a week of mostly boring things. I’m bringing the action in the opening chapter. I’m introducing the main conflict points in both first and second chapters. I’m also trying to do that “thing” where I give enough world building to refresh readers who’ve been away and also draw in new readers who missed the previous book. It’s a fine balance between info dump and “here’s the bare minimum you need to know.”
I keep writing well beyond the opening, but I’m forever going back to it and I’m just not yet happy with it. Somewhere in here is a balanced opening, a launchpad to the rest of the book.
Would I find it if I ran the pages through a shredder? I mean… everything is digital, I can always print another copy.