Wednesday, January 8, 2014

I Hate Writing Sequels

I really hate writing sequels.

There, I said it.

When I first started writing novels, I'd have rather written a 400k-word tome than to split it up into separate novels, no matter how much more cost-efficient that would have been for me. I'd been told by several people before "You should write a series!" and I was so adamantly against it. No way, no how.


For one thing, it's difficult trying to find an appropriate cutoff point that would contain just enough of a climax that would leave both the writer and reader satisfied, but not too much because you want them to read the next book and learn where the story and characters are going next. And in that case I'm not so much writing a sequel, but a continuation to a really long novel, which was the problem I faced when writing just a singular really long novel - it's just a lot of pages to print, and a lot to read, and ain't nobody got time for that.

Plus, I don't know about you, but holding big books tend to hurt my wrists.

Secondly, how much paraphrasing is necessary without sounding like I'm just awkwardly summing up events from the previous novel? Should I just figure that people have read it and carry on with business as usual, or do I assume that they assume that each book is a standalone? Should I offer a brief description of the previous novel somewhere in the prose, and where? At the beginning? Of course not the beginning, because your readers don't want to read pages upon pages of information before cutting to the action - that's just too much, and there's not a faster guarantee that they'll put the book down than info-dumping them into your world. Then should the information be littered throughout the book instead? How do you do that without confusing new readers?

Now that I think about it - an author that I greatly admire, Tad Williams, had written up a rather lengthy synopsis for each of his installments in his Otherland tetralogy (if you haven't read those books, I totally recommend it to any science fiction/fantasy fan). But I don't think I've honestly seen another writer do something like this before.

Bottom line is that because of this, I have never finished writing a sequel before. I've started writing sequels, but there was always that point where I would stop for whatever reason. It's kind of nonsensical, really, because in the whole noveling process I have always loved rewriting. Don't ask me why, I just love that feeling of seeing "old friends" again, so rewriting is more of a treat to me than a chore. And you'd think that writing sequels would be the same thing, right? But as we speak, I am already rewriting most of the 90k words I had written for the sequel to Seraphim Ascent last year, simply because of the length of the duology-turned-trilogy (and who knows? Maybe I'll be hit by a line drive to the face and there will be even more books than that).

So, not-moral of the story: Have I found a dead set solution to my Sequel Dilemma yet? No. Mostly because, like I said, I have never finished a "sequel" before. I've only started sequels that I never finished. But while I am currently in the process of doing one right now (which is ironic, considering I haven't even published my first novel yet), I am finding myself faced with tracking down that balance of standalone and info-dump, both which I think are bound to happen when writing a continuation one way or another.

Maybe it's time for me to break open some sequels and learn from other people.

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