How To Write a Book Sequel That is Superior to The First

How To Write a Book Sequel That is Superior to The First

Your new book is a bestseller; congratulations! You wish to continue the story with new characters and higher stakes and finish unresolved conflicts from the first book. Writing a sequel is tricky. There are big shoes to fill in and readers to satisfy. Here’s how to avoid the dull sequel or middle-book syndrome tag.

Why Consider a Sequel?

This should be the first question you should ask yourself before you begin working on the said sequel. You need to consider whether you can outdo yourself. If you can’t even surpass your first work, should you really be working on a second one? 

However, it should be stressed that outdoing doesn’t necessarily mean rehashing your first novel on a bigger scale just because it worked the first time. You will need to bring something new to the plate to make your work more delectable to the audience. You want to live up to the expectations of your current fan base while also bringing in new readers.

Know your story

The flow of your story should dictate the length of your book. Some stories can be told in one book, whereas others require several. Before your pen down your sequel, you need to know the answer to these critical questions:

  • Is there anything new that the sequel can offer regarding the storyline?
  • Does the first book have any loose ends?
  • Is there room for character growth? What about their relationships?

If the answer to these questions is yes, then it would be worth laboring on a sequel. Remember that a happy ending for your characters doesn’t necessarily rule out a sequel. There are always new adventures awaiting.

Perfect The First Chapter

The first chapter acts as a hook that pulls in the reader. It can effectively be the deciding factor that determines whether readers will stay with your book. 

The best way is to build the main cast as you delve into the plot and through flashbacks and narratives of supporting characters. Since you are working on the sequel, some of these have already been accomplished.

Plan ahead

If you plan to write a sequel before starting your book, then it is essential to plan ahead. Even if you are one of those who prefer winging things along the way, a writer should, at the very least, have major plotlines outlined before proceeding with the writing process. 

This is especially important if you are a self-published writer and don’t have big names to aid you in all the hard work and behind-the-scenes that go into writing. A self-publishing guide is sure to be handy in these situations.

Treat The Sequel As A Fresh Start

Remember that what made your first novel a bestseller may not work a second time. Too often, second books fall into the ‘filler’ or ‘middle book syndrome’ category, and with good reason.

You can have characters from your first book or continue the same storyline, perhaps with higher stakes. However, you need not start your sequel where the first one left off.

It is logical to think that a summary of the first book will jog memories and remind readers of key events. But, you don’t necessarily have to do this by info dumping or resolving cliffhangers.  Use flashbacks and reminders to help the readers, “show, don’t tell” is the perfect technique to utilize here. After all, you are writing a new book, not a summary of the old one. 

Beware Of Plot Holes

These days, readers are more intelligent than they are given credit for. No matter how complex the storyline or the number of characters, they will be sure to spot any discrepancies which ruin immersion in the story. 

This is where planning ahead and a book editor come in handy. Not only will you be aware of individual character arcs but you will keep track of intermingling storylines, so you don’t miss out on important details and avoid errors. 

Use The First Book to Your Advantage

You can’t just rehash the plot from the first book and expect a bestseller. Identify the key factors that made your first book a fan favorite. This way, you can direct your storyline and arcs more smoothly.

It is also wise to plant easter eggs in the first book which readers will only understand upon reading the sequel. This creates buzz and excitement from the readers and leaves them wanting for more. 

Work With What You Got

Even though the sequel should have a fresh start, you cannot suddenly abandon concepts from the first book. You should tie up the loose ends of the subplot that you began in book one or that one character mentioned in passing. The readers will notice.  

Try to improve the character motives and subplots, giving them a more significant role if they don’t seem intriguing enough. Or, if you truly wish to omit it entirely, do so with reason and logic. For instance, a character is missing because they are away at a faraway land or have passed away from events in the first book.

Flip Shit On Its Head But Not Unreasonably

This makes the stakes higher and keeps the readers on their toes. A shocking reveal that a good character was the villain all along. Alternatively, you can bring a character presumed dead back to life through an ingenious escape plan. However, be sure to plant hints throughout the book to make any twists seem believable. This is where planning ahead is necessary. Readers will not believe the story’s sudden changes in character or unrealistic routes.  

Determine Your Character’s Arc

No matter how good the storyline of your second book is, your characters will be the key to make or break your book. To determine your character’s actions, you will need to plan their traits, ambitions, and motives relevant to the story. Plan their change arc and what challenges you wish to pit them against.

Include At Least One Great New Character

Bookstagram, Booktoks have made beloved characters from popular books viral who have quickly become fan-favorites through fanarts, fanfiction, and other forms of media.  

Thus introducing new faces with interesting dynamics with the protagonist. It is even better if you can tease the appearance of the new characters in the first book. 

Continue Developing Characters

One of the crucial aspects that draw readers to the story is the plot but the thing that makes them keep coming back to your books is the characters. The way that the characters make them feel is something that will always stay with the readers. 

A sequel allows you to flesh out your characters further and work on expanding the storyline in favor of the characters.

Your characters have been through the events in the first book, which should reflect their personality in the second book. Your first book may start with the story of a naive hero oblivious to war’s harsh realities. The second book should showcase the hardened warrior who is hungry for vengeance and so forth.

Conclusion

The news of a sequel to your book is sure to delight your readers. You have the opportunity to introduce new characters, meet old ones, pit higher stakes and expand on your world. However, the expectations from a sequel to match the first book are a burden all authors must bear. 

Nevertheless, sequels are an exciting business, both to write and read. As an author, it is a responsibility that you deliver your readers the gift of a good sequel and not just another book to read. Hopefully, these tips will guide you into doing so.

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