Starting a New Series/Sequel
by Tara Sim
It is extremely difficult for me to write standalone novels. Maybe it comes from a childhood of reading fantasy series, but something about writing a singular book is rather outlandish to me. I keep wanting to know what happens next, how these characters will develop, what new earth-shattering problems will arise.
But that doesn’t mean I find writing series any easier. I’ve written three series and have just begun a new trilogy, and every journey shows me new pitfalls and new strategies. The more books you write, the more you begin to see patterns, especially if you’re partial to trilogies. (For example, my book twos tend to end with cliffhangers. Sorry in advance).
If you’re writing a sequel for the first time, though, that can be scary. Really scary. And fun. But still scary.
So how exactly should you approach writing a sequel or a series? Generally, from my experience, there are two methods:
– You know ahead of time that you’re writing a series.
– The fact that you’re writing a series will sneak up and club you in the head when you least expect it.
First approach: Congratulations, you’re embarking on a series! This means you get plan things ahead of time, which is, trust me, your best friend. In terms of what to plan for, here are some things I find most helpful:
– Character Arcs: Who are your characters in the first book? Who will your characters be at the end of the series? What will happen to them in the middle to change them into those people?
– Escalation of Plot: My number one rule for writing a series is that the last book has to be the worst possible scenario in your world. After that terrible thing happens, that’s it—that’s the end. So all the books that come before have to somehow ramp up this tension in lesser, but still dramatic, ways. For example, let’s say that worst thing that could happen in your world/to your characters is the destruction of the planet. In earlier books, you could show the destruction of smaller things—a nation, a continent. This will ramp up to that big terrible thing in the last book’s climax.
– Themes: What type of story are you trying to tell, and what themes should you explore in each book? What are your overarching series themes that will come to a head in the last book? How can you show those themes being developed in the middle books?
Second approach: Oh no, this is going to be a series. What now? This is actually what happened to me when I wrote TIMEKEEPER, my debut coming out later this year, which is the first of a trilogy. This approach is harder, because then you have to make sure that everything lines up, and you’ll frequently return to the first book to add threads connecting it to the others.
Here are some useful tips if you find yourself in this situation:
– Find the most linear approach to your storytelling. Always keep in mind what comes next in the plot or what came before. Cause and effect is your friend.
– Read through the first book again and find ways in which your characters can develop, what new information they can learn, what new obstacles can get in their way (that most makes sense to their character/role in the story).
– What is the one thing that most connects these books? If someone was looking at your series and had to choose one image to portray it, what would that image be? (For example, TIMEKEEPER’s would be clock towers).
Writing a sequel or a series can be intimidating, but it’s also amazing to watch your story, your world, and your characters evolve—sometimes in ways you never even expected! Plan as much as you can, but also: HAVE FUN.
Bonus Tip: I’ve found that using Scrivener for worldbuilding purposes comes in very handy. Use a different template to break down things like characters, countries, magic systems, religions, etc.
Tara Sim is a YA author typically found in the wilds of the Bay Area, California. When she’s not chasing cats or lurking in bookstores she writes books about magic, clocks, and explosives. TIMEKEEPER (Sky Pony Press, Fall 2016) is her debut novel. Follow her on Twitter: @EachStarAWorld.
Timekeeper (Timekeeper #1):
*Cover to be released!*
*Book to be released later in 2016!*
Every city in the world is run by a clock tower. If one breaks, time stops. It’s a truth that seventeen-year-old Danny knows well; his father has been trapped in a town east of London for three years. Despite being a clock mechanic prodigy who can repair not only clockwork, but time itself, Danny has been unable to free his father.
Danny’s assigned to a damaged clock tower in the small town of Enfield. The boy he mistakes for his apprentice is odd, but that’s to be expected when he’s the clock spirit who controls Enfield’s time. Although Danny and the spirit are drawn to each other’s loneliness, falling in love with a clock spirit is forbidden, no matter how cute his smiles are.
But when someone plants bombs in nearby towers, cities are in danger of becoming trapped in time—and Enfield is one of them.
Danny must discover who’s stopping time and prevent it from happening to Enfield, or else he’ll lose not only his father, but the boy he loves, forever.
Thank you to Tara Sim for writing this wonderful guest post! I was just talking to one of my writing friends about this the other day. Writing a series is definitely stressful and a lot of work! You spend half the time stressing about whether this will all fall together, whether it’s even worth writing, and whether or not you will actually be able to write it. Thank you for giving your advice and helping to guide us down the path to conquering our fears. You are so wonderful! Everyone, keep your eye out for her books!
As always, a huge thank you to everyone who was, is, or will be a part of this feature. Your guidance, advice, and stories are invaluable to all writers as we continue to embark on a treacherous journey we call life.
Have a wonderful weekend!