It’s inevitable sometimes. No, not a reboot. I’m not talking about a remake either. This is about the good old sequel. A story that doesn’t completely finish in one shot needs closure or maybe people are still clamoring for more, which means you can do a second tale with the same characters. So, what are some things to keep in mind?
- For the love of every punctuation mark, keep continuity in mind. A sequel can allow you to change a few things, but if you rewrite everything that came before it then it can weaken the whole thing. After all, people will read a sequel to see the continuation of the story instead of an overhaul that makes it something else. That’s what reboots and remakes are for . . . Well, that and cash grabs.
- Never be afraid to doubt yourself when writing the sequel. You aren’t a master after one book or even one hundred. People make mistakes, so you need to follow your gut on what works and what doesn’t. This is especially true if you fear that you’re forgetting something that’s been established.
- New characters need to shine, but try not to overshadow the established cast. A few can take some steps back to make room in the spotlight, but you don’t want to replace everyone. Bring the fresh faces up to equal standing with the veterans, especially through interactions.
- Don’t think that just because you described a character, location, monster, or thing in the first book means you can skip it entirely. Some readers might not remember the details while others could be starting in the middle of the series. You don’t have to go in-depth, but pepper reminders throughout the story in regards to key points like hair color, nervous tics, identifying marks, etc. This also helps with creating a bridge between the volumes.
- As much as you have to remember the past, you still have to pave towards the future of the series. This means, you never stop world-building. Create layers upon the foundation you built in the first book and flush out whatever shows signs of being more than window dressing. Besides, you never know if there are other stories hidden in the details.
- Be careful changing cover styles and series titles. If you decide to rename the series or simply put a series name on it then be ready for a little confusion. This can be greatly reduced by announcing it and making the proper changes to the first volume. Not a good chance of the same happening with the cover. You’d be surprised how many readers will see a cover style change and assume it’s a new series. If you can afford to revamp the previous book as well then it helps, but you’ll have to make clear note of the book being a sequel in the blurb to reduce this headache. (Talking from experience.)
- Don’t forget to have fun. Once the writing becomes more work than play, you risk losing that spark.