For years I’ve assumed I had a problem writing sequels. Part of the reason to drive my poor publisher insane by redoing a book at the last possible moment, which I’m doing with Darkship Renegades comes from this. I feel Darkship Renegades is inferior to Darkship Thieves, and I’m trying to fix that. I felt the same way about Gentleman Takes a Chance towards Draw One In The Dark, and having read both recently, I think this is true, for various reasons (partly because I was SO depressed while writing GTAC, but that’s something else.)
It’s not a marked difference, mind, I just thought the sequel didn’t quite hit the right note. This might be subjective and predicated partly on the fact that I THOUGHT I wasn’t good at sequels.
Why am I saying “thought” as though this were somehow illusory?
Because I realized, when Iw as discussing this with someone today that in fact I can write sequels just fine for some of my books – to wit the mysteries. I never wrung my hands and went “I don’t know how I can write a sequel to Death of A Musketeer.” It was baked in before I wrote the first book: these are mysteries, each focusing on one of the characters. Same with the Refinishing mysteries.
I think the difference is that my fantasies and science fiction start from the character, while the mysteries are “plot books.” They start from the plot inward. This is not to say that Darkship Thieves is not plot driven – of course it is, also – or that the musketeer mysteries don’t focus on character – of course they do, to an extent.
But it’s where the primary force is, and how the book presents itself to me. Athena came to me, in Darkship Thieves, as this seriously messed up chick, by the end of the book she’s almost functional, and though I planned on a sequel, it’s weird to be in the head of a “calmer” Athena. With the first shifter books, Draw One In The Dark, Tom was SO severely messed up that when I got him settled at the end, it seemed almost nasty to disturb him for a second book.
And yet, you know and I know, if you love a book you need to go back. You want to go back, as a reader.
So… how to reconcile that?
Well, first, I rid myself of the idea I can’t write sequels. I think part of the reason for this feeling is that my first series, the sequel got so severely messed around with by agent that I got convinced I couldn’t do it.
Once rid of that idea, I think I need to give myself permission for writing the sequel different from the first book. Because there’s a built in it should be “the same.”
And then, at least with Darkship Renegade, I need not to be depressed <Grin> – I say this because it’s so much easier to see where I “stuttered” in narration due to depression. I mean, I’m dragging around the creeping crud, and I’m still able to see this much clearer now I’m not depressed.
AND when possible (if the Earth Revolution series comes to pass, for instance, but also for other books/series) I need to set up the sequels so they have different characters – at least when the book is intensely character driven. This is often used in Romance, for that reason.
For instance, in Noah’s Boy the Shifter series starts pivoting slowly away from Kyrie and Tom. Oh, they’re still there. The George is still the center of the action. And the next two books, Bowl of Red and POSSIBLY Balloon Juice center around their relationship as much as the other plot, but the other plot starts pivoting away from them and towards the other people: Rafiel first, then Conan and THEIR relationships, so that Kyrie and Tom become only one of the legs of the series, as it were, still there, still important but not the fulcrum.
Again, this is done a lot in Romance, because of the “compelling character problem” that drives the plot, and it will – I think – work well for other series too.
What do you think? Do the readers always want the same plot/book with different names? Or do you want characters who grow in different ways? And how would those of you who are not primarily romance readers feel about the “moving among a group of characters” thing?