The first and most important thing to understand about your sequel is that it is not a series. A sequel follows different rules, and your audience – whether they know it or not – will approach the story with different expectations. In some ways, a sequel is like writing a fresh novel, just with less world building and a pre-made back story. We have some tips to help you navigate sequel-crafting, and we’ll help you figure out what to keep and what to leave behind as you move forward from te first novel.
Don’t Play the Revisionist
Your readers loved your first novel. Don’t change up everything they know in order to make another story. Suddenly revealing that their favorite heroes were villains all along, that the rules of magic, science, and society aren’t really as they were presented before will frustrate your readers. Note, these rules aren’t exactly the same for a series or a single story that stretches over several books. A sequel is a very different beast. Take inspiration from the first book, but don’t play the revisionist in order to troll your old work for new ideas.
Build Something New
There is a difference between revising and expanding. Add something new to your world. If your first novel takes place in a single kingdom, country, or community, try expanding your map. Feel free to change important things like genre or tone as well. You’ll be surprised how much more your characters can do when you’re willing to experiment and take risks.
Old Characters, New Characters
Again, you must remember a sequel is different than a series. Most great sequels do not start off immediately where the first book ends. Even old characters have something new to offer readers. They’ve grown and evolved. Maybe their goals have changed. Maybe they have families, face new threats, or lost their motivation during the interim between books.
A new story also needs new characters. Don’t shackle yourself to old favorites. Bring in some fresh blood and see how they interact with your primary character. New villains, new friends, and third parties who may or may not support your hero help you build a better sequel. Bilbo isn’t the primary protagonist in The Lord of the Rings, even though he was the main character in The Hobbit.
Figure Out What Made the First Book Great
Ultimately, these tips are just that – tips. They can’t write a great sequel for you. The good news is, you already have the most important elements of your sequel. A great sequel requires a very good start, and if you have the audience for a second book, then you have something those readers want more of in your first novel. Identify what makes your first story special before you begin a sequel and you’ll always start off on the right foot. Look through reader feedback and reviews. Talk to beta readers and editors who saw your story evolve. Find the heart of your work and make sure it stays beating in the sequel.
Ultimately, a sequel is a whole new story, and that story may be even better than your first. Launch yourself into this new project with the confidence. After all, you already have an established readership. Embrace what makes your story unique and use that foundation to craft a new tale.