Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Of Sequels and Series

I am hard at work on my next book, Theodosia and the Staff of Osiris, and I’m struck by the unique challenges sequels or series books present.

They have to capture the same tone and feel of the first book, the very stuff that made readers fall in love with it in the first place, but they also need to continue to excite and surprise the reader. Ideally, it should be just a little bit bigger, deeper, more exciting than the first, or if not more, then at the very least AS exciting. I think there can be a serious risk of diluting the essence of the first book, which of course I’m working frantically not to do.

I’ve already had to stop and make a number of major plot adjustments as I’ve realized that some of the stakes weren’t high enough, didn’t match the drama of the first book. However, if one keeps trying to top oneself, there is also the risk of becoming way over the top. Very fine line, that.

The second element, which I think is perhaps even more important, is the main character’s arc. The character’s own personal stakes have to be as urgent as they were in previous books. And yes, I’ve had to wrestle with a couple of major adjustments to achieve this, as well, but I’m getting there.

I know some people think once you’ve written a book--or five--that it should become easier. That once you’ve done it, the subsequent books shouldn’t be as difficult. But really, that’s like saying once you’ve had one child, you know everything there is to know about child rearing, and anyone who’s been around children can tell you that even siblings—or maybe, especially siblings—are entirely different people who often require an entirely different approach to child rearing.

Well, books are a lot like that. At leat for me. I’ve found that each book I’ve written has required it’s own unique set of approaches in order to coax it into existence. And really, that’s half the fun. Well, if you define fun as twisted, perverse, and challenging-yet-rewarding. Which apparently, I do.


dee said...

You will never know just how much I appreciate what you have to say.
I've been going over this very thing in my head for a few months now, and it never even occurred to me to liken it to raising kids. I'm working on three different WIPs, a little at a time. Each of them is very different. Each of them seems to take different things out of me. I couldn't understand why I was having such a difficult time switching between them.
After reading your post, I am reminded of my children. All six of them. All six of them with VERY different personalities. All six of them with VERy different personalities, that I have to deal with in VERY distinct ways.
It makes sense now. Those books are very different, but I've been trying to go at them from the same direction. No wonder I feel like I'm banging my head against a wall sometimes. It's like trying to treat the almost 15yo the same as the almost 6 yo. Totally different beasts, those two. Just like my books.