Meanwhile, I get lots and lots of questions about sequels, and while I’ve addressed them tangentially in the past, as far as I can recall I’ve never devoted a whole post to them. Until now. Behold as I defy the laws of physics to write my first post about sequels. I guess this is the prequel to the sequel post about sequels.
Sequels are fun to write! Or so I’ve heard. You’ve already created the world, you know and love the characters, you may have even left off your last book with plenty of story to tell. What’s not to like?
Well…. here’s the thing. Sometimes authors get so connected to a world they’ve created they develop symptoms of a disease I’ve previously diagnosed as acute sequelitis.
Acute sequelitis is characterized by an aversion to starting fresh with a completely new project even after being unable to place the first book in a series. Authors suffering from acute sequelitis then write a sequel, then the third in a trilogy, and pretty soon have six or ten or a dozen interconnected books, the fourth of which might actually be publishable… if it didn’t need the three before it in order to make sense. Side effects include an aversion to yardwork and bathing.
Now don’t get me wrong. If your primary writing goal is to have fun: more power to you! Write a fifteen book interconnected series and don’t let anyone tell you your front lawn swallowed a neighborhood dog.
If, however, your goal is to be published, writing a sequel to an unpublished, self-published, or under-published book is probably not your best strategy. Placing a book these days is really really hard. Placing a sequel to an un/self/under-published novel is virtually impossible, no matter how good it is.
Unless, of course, the sequel can stand on its own. And I don’t mean squint your eyes, fudge some plotlines, and nudge nudge sure thing it can stand alone. I mean it can completely and utterly stand alone and you can credibly pitch it as the first book in a possible series. In that case, well, just pitch it as the first book in a possible series and don’t mention the one in the drawer.
As I always say, it’s not a series until the second book is published. And yes, it’s hard and painful and gut-wrenching to set aside dreams of a massively long series when the first book in the series doesn’t work out.
But take it from someone who set aside dreams of a massively long series when the first book in the series didn’t work out: you really can create a new world, and chances are you’ll like it even more than your last one.
Don’t let acute sequelitis happen to you. Sequels should be undertaken only under close consultation with publishing professionals. Talk to your critique partners about starting a new world. You’ll be glad you did.