The Problem with Sequels

August is here, and that means the second session of Camp NaNoWriMo is over.  As I have during both November and April, I took up the challenge and set out to write a novel in one month.  During my first attempt, I completed my novel but did not hit my word count.  The second time, I hit my word count, but did not complete my novel.  This month was the least successful for me personally as I achieved neither. My word count was short, and my story was incomplete.  Even worse, it was crap.  My problem was simple, I attempted to write a sequel.

It is a generally accepted the sequels can be iffy.  It either takes the characters and circumstances you loved and makes them better, becoming the best thing ever, or takes them, strips away all that way amazing, and kills the series.  On occasion you can be really lucky and they simply make a lateral movement, not getting better or getting worse.  It is a risk to create a sequel, and not one of my personal strengths.

For this particular attempt, I was attempting a sequel to the novel I had written in April.  You know, the one I didn’t finish.  I knew how it was going to end, but somehow I had been struggling with the words.  I had continued on, because it was a critical scene I could not seem to write.  I assumed I was just feeling the pressure to get it write and a little distance might prove to be helpful.  So, I skipped it and started working from a half finished outline.  Perhaps it should have been a clue that something was off when I couldn’t even seem to finish the outline.

Yes, there were many warning signs I should have heeded, but well.  I didn’t.  I plowed through completing 20,742 words on a story that was wrong.  I had been unable to write the ending to the first novel because it was going to end wrong.  Then, I began again from the wrong ending.

I have had problems writing sequels in the past.  Simply put, I don’t know how to do it.  The times when I felt a sequel was necessary, I began with an idea.  As I asked myself questions, forming who did what and when and how it will all end, the story gets bigger, too big for the one novel I was working on.  Instead of finishing the first novel as a complete tale, I finish it as a section of a story.  Yes, I have finished the tale I began with, but I left it open for the next part.  Instead of beginning, middle, end I know have beginning, middle of the beginning, and end of the beginning, ready to be followed by beginning of the middle or beginning of the end.  Somehow, it ends up being beginning of the awkward transition.

I have only tried two sequels at this point.  The first time, it required moving the characters to a new place, completely different from where they had been before and introducing some new characters who both fit and didn’t fit into the world.  It was so far from where the first one had been, I felt like I never found my footing.  This time, I tried to bring the characters right back to a familiar place, only to realize later, it didn’t make any sense.  They needed to go somewhere different, because the change in their life was too big for them to stay the same.

There are so many great sequels out there in the world.  Let’s be honest, every time you turn around there is another trilogy, and many of them are really good.  It’s hard to tell, am I simply doomed to only successfully write single books, or will I one day find the formula that makes a good sequel?  Either way, it is time to take a break, and work on something different.  Perhaps in time, the second book will come out.


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