Friday, May 16, 2014

Sequel Panic: My Writer Brain

Usually, I write in a vacuum. No plan, no clue, and, importantly, no expectations. Recently however, something changed. Readers liked a book I wrote under my pseudonym. Enough people asked for a sequel that I thought, “I could write a sequel. Why the hell not?”

Here’s why the hell not:

Suddenly, I’m panicking. What if I can’t remember what people liked about the first book? What if this time the narrator’s voice isn’t compelling, it’s irritating?

What if I can’t figure out a plot? The whole problem with resolving the whole problem in the first book is that now I have to come up with a whole new problem. 

What if it’s been so long since I wrote the first one, that I’ve completely forgotten everything I used to know about these characters?

What if the sequel is BORING?

You know that saying about leaving the audience wanting more? I wish I’d remembered that saying before I agreed to write this sequel. But, when I agreed, I only remembered the good things about the book.

Like how I really enjoyed writing in the MC’s voice, and how it was a bit different to the thing I got published before it, and how I put it out there with absolutely no expectations at all, and was totally delighted when people liked it. (It’s still my highest rated book on Goodreads, and has the most Amazon reviews.) What if all of that was just a happy accident that I can’t replicate?

I used to have to write for one person only. The most selfish person in the world: ME! And that was easy. But it’s too late now to ignore the fact that people other than myself are invested in this sequel. They ask about it, which is incredible. And, on the flipside, incredibly terrifying.

I’m not a plotter. I’m a pantser. I’m not sure if we’re qualified to write sequels. I mean, sequels have to make sense. You’re not allowed to say, “Oh, well now this character speaks Italian because I need him to talk to this Italian person” when in that last book he almost died from an allergic reaction to shellfish when he couldn’t read the menu in that ristoranteI mean, the framework is already in place. When it comes to internal logic, I can’t just wing it. I actually have to remember the details.

Did I do character sheets the first time around? Pfft. Of course I didn’t. It’s a small miracle I remembered their names, let alone those of their parents or siblings.

I think I’m going to have to do something incredibly drastic. Something I’ve never done before. I think I’m going to have to read a book I wrote. And I’m not kidding about not doing that before.

I write the books. I edit them. By the time they get through to the actual publication part, I’m sick and tired of them. I usually have my last read of a book the day before it comes out. And then, too afraid I’ll realise it is terrible and my publisher was clearly having some sort of mental health crisis when they accepted it, I hide it away and never look at it again.

Then I smile and nod and thank people for reading it, while waiting for someone to jump out of the crowd and point an accusing finger at me: “You’re naked! You’re a giant fraud! The Emperor has no clothes!”

If you want me, my neuroses and I will be over here reading that book we wrote, and this time we’ll take notes. Just in case we’re crazy enough to write a sequel to this sequel.

Never underestimate the crazy. 


  1. I guess this is what they call the flipside of success. The only suggestions I could make would be 1) take a deep breath, 2) take notes, and 3) make sure you're taking notes of the right book. Good luck!

    I was terrified of doing the second series, because the first time it was just me in my own private little world writing this thing. Nobody expected it to be any good. The second series, the eyes of the world were upon me. It was like running down the street naked, because it had suddenly become everyone else’s property as well.
    - Douglas Adams

  2. I love how you can always find me a Douglas Adams quote for every occasion! The man sure knew his writing processes :)



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