As I said, prequels are a risky endeavor because you can easily slip up and make a mess of both series. Continuity becomes very fragile since you’re basically traveling back in time and we all know how often that turns sour. Many authors might think of this as nothing more than writing any other series and assuming their own memories will guide them to safety. Unfortunately, we are creatures of improvement and dabbling, which means we always have a chance of getting hooked on a bad idea because it’s cool for this specific story. So, what are some tips to writing prequels?
- Make an outline or note system that focuses on areas that the two series can or may crossover. Mark down where you go into descriptions for cities and creatures in the original to make sure you don’t redesign them. Note your systems like magic, currency, politics, and religion to keep them either the same or at an earlier stage. As strange as it sounds, you can’t always trust your memory here, especially since you have two series at risk.
- Not every cameo has to be indulged. Sure, I’d love to have Nyx or Luke Callindor meet with Clyde, but there’s a small problem. They haven’t been born yet. Even a hint at their future existence is difficult. You can try to give a nod to future events, but it’s more difficult with characters. If they don’t exist or haven’t done anything to garner even a speck of attention then you have to work extra hard to get them involved. I guess some match ups have to stay in fan-fiction.
- There are ways to make cities differ from series to series. Things change over time, so you can make them smaller and still growing. Still, you need to keep it the same to some extent to make sure people don’t think you made two cities with the same name. For example, Gaia will be smaller in War of Nytefall, but it will still have the arena and griffin mountain. Landmarks can really help here.
- Because I said so is not a way to get out of creating a paradox. Either work a way to fix it or admit you made a mistake. Preferably, you catch everything before publishing though, so this tip might be one that comes too late.
- If you know you’re going to write this series before finishing the first one then put in a few foundation points. This will help establish a link and put you in the right mindset to keep them in the same world. By already having created part of the new story in the old one, you forge a mental link that will carry over. It can be as simple as mentioning old adventurers in passing or showing a creature that will play a prominent role in the next story. It doesn’t have to be blatant, but it should be memorable for you.
- Never be afraid to go back to your original work and notes if you feel like you’ve made a mistake. Our instincts can be pretty strong here, so it doesn’t hurt to take a few minutes to indulge them. This goes for first drafts and editing stages. In fact, you can simply make a note to check later if you’re scared of losing the flow. Although, I would assume that the flow is broken by your own worry and doubt.
- Talk to those who read the original to learnwhat they think about a prequel. You can get an idea of what people expect to see, but remember that you have the final decision here. So, don’t go about adding characters that shouldn’t be there because everyone wanted to see them. This will also give you an idea of what readers remember the most from the original, which will be in their heads when they read the new series.