I’ve written about this before, but it’s what’s at the top of my mind again today.
As a reader, I love a good series. I already know I enjoy the author’s work, the setting, the characters. As a writer, it’s something I really want to do. So far, I’ve only got one (very short) series: BLOOD WILL TELL and its sequel BLOOD IS THICKER.
I actually have three other stories that should be series.
MAGIC AND POWER will probably end up being the series title and there’ll be at least one more book following GREEN MAGIC (which is the current title for what used to be MAGIC AND POWER). That one will explore the same world through a different set of characters.
I have ideas for at least three more stories following MAGE STORM (or STORM OF MAGIC). Middle grade is a particular problem, though, that could be the subject of another post.
DUAL MAGICS starts with THE SHAMAN’S CURSE (TSC) and should be four books when complete. (Look for TSC later this year.) I’m currently working, part of my time, on the rewrite of the second book, THE IGNORED PROPHECY (TIP).
And that’s where the trouble with sequels comes in. It’s hard to start a sequel. You, as the author, already know these characters, the world you’ve created for them, the magic system. But, here’s the deal: you can’t assume your readers do.
When a book is launched out into the world, the author loses a measure of control. One of the things you can’t control is whether a reader starts where you want them to. TSC is the beginning. But somebody just might ignore that and pick up TIP for whatever reason. Maybe they just like the cover better. Maybe Amazon suggests that one. Whatever. You can do everything in your power to encourage the reader to start at the beginning and it still might not work.
Or, you know, some time might elapse between reading the first and second volumes in a series and readers may have forgotten a lot about the characters and the world.
So, you have to do the very best you can to make each book as easy to start as possible. Ease readers into this world and the characters. And there’s the problem. I ended TSC with the main characters in a part of the world that probably needs the most description. It’s not even remotely a typical medieval fantasy setting. As I start TIP, I need to find a way to introduce that without boring readers who already know all of this because they just read TSC.
And then there are the characters. There are about a dozen important named characters present at the point where TSC ends. I don’t want to dump all of them into the first couple of chapters. That just becomes confusing, especially since some of them have complicated family relationships to each other. Ideally, I’d like to introduce them a few at a time.
I’ve chosen to start with the two main characters taking some private time when a situation develops. That’s fine. I was able to refer to a couple of other characters and bring two more in to help deal with the situation. Good so far.
Now, I’m confronted with the need to break off and go to another setting and another group of characters for a chapter. I know how they relate to the first group. It’s not going to be so easy to figure out how to make that clear to the reader.
This is just one of the things that makes sequels so hard to get right.