Tips for Writing a Sequel Readers Will Love

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Tips for Writing a Sequel Readers Will Love

Writing a sequel can be both exciting and daunting. You've already captured your readers' hearts with your first book, and now they're eagerly waiting for more. How do you ensure your sequel lives up to their expectations and keeps them hooked? Here are our tips to help you write a sequel that your readers will love.

What is a sequel?

A sequel is a continuation of a story from a previous work, following the same characters and events that were introduced in the original book. It picks up where the first book left off, advancing the plot and further developing the characters and world in one overarching story. This makes it distinct from a prequel, which is set before the events of the original story, or a spin-off, which focuses on different characters or events within the same fictional universe.

Tips for writing a sequel that's as good as the first book

Maintain consistency in the second book

One of the most critical aspects of writing a series is maintaining consistency with concepts from the first book. This includes character development, world-building, and plot continuity.

Character development

Ensure that your characters' personalities, motivations, and relationships remain consistent. Readers form connections with characters based on how they were portrayed in the first novel, so drastic changes can be jarring. If you establish that your hero has a pathological fear of spiders in Book 1, it wouldn't make sense to start the first chapter of Book 2 with them fearlessly picking up a tarantula! However, your characters should still grow and evolve. How will your protagonist face or overcome this fear throughout the entire series? Strike a balance between consistency and development of their character arcs.

World-Building

Keep the rules of your fictional world consistent. If magic worked a certain way in your first book, it should follow the same principles in the sequel. For example, in Brandon Sanderson's Mistborn series, the magic system based on metals remains consistent throughout. Sanderson introduces new metals and their uses in each book, but they always adhere to the established rules, maintaining the world's internal logic.

Inconsistencies in your world's rules can create plot holes, pulling readers out of the story and diminishing their enjoyment. To avoid this, consider using a story bible to organize and track your world-building details.

Plot continuity

Make sure the sequel logically follows the events of the first book. Address any loose ends and build upon the foundation that has already been established. This will make the transition from the first book to the sequel seamless for your readers. In Suzanne Collins's Catching Fire, the sequel to The Hunger Games, the story logically continues Katniss Everdeen's journey after winning the 74th Hunger Games as she deals with the repercussions of her actions in the first book and the broader implications for Panem.

Write a sequel that raises the stakes

A good sequel should raise the stakes and intensify the conflict. This keeps readers invested in the story and eager to find out what happens next. Think about what obstacles your hero faced in the first book and how you can up the ante in the sequel. What new conflicts can you introduce that will push your hero to their limits?

Consider the emotional journey and character arc of your hero as well. How have they changed since the events of the previous book, and what new challenges will they face in the next book in your series? Allow your hero to grapple with internal conflicts and moral dilemmas that force them to confront their own flaws and weaknesses.

Increase tension

Introduce new challenges and obstacles that push your characters to their limits. Higher stakes create more tension and make the story more gripping. Ensure these challenges are believable and arise naturally from the plot. In George R.R. Martin's A Clash of Kings, Book Two in his A Song Of Ice and Fire series, the political stakes are raised with multiple factions vying for the Iron Throne, increasing tension and conflict across Westeros.

Deepen conflicts

Deepen existing conflicts and introduce new ones. This can involve external conflicts, such as new antagonists or threats, and internal conflicts, such as character dilemmas and emotional struggles. Complex conflicts add layers to your story and make it more compelling. In Leigh Bardugo's Siege and Storm, the sequel to Shadow and Bone, the protagonist, Alina, faces new enemies and deeper internal conflicts regarding her powers and her role in the ongoing war.

Introduce new elements

While maintaining consistency is important, introducing new elements is equally crucial. Readers want fresh content and surprises that keep the story engaging.

New characters

While readers may have grown attached to the beloved characters from the first book, introducing fresh faces can breathe new life into your story and offer new perspectives for both your characters and your readers. These characters can create new dynamics and conflicts that enrich the plot. Be careful not to overshadow your original characters, though! The new additions should complement and enhance the story, not take it over.

Think about how they can complement and contrast with the existing cast. What role do they play in the hero’s journey, and how do they contribute to the overall narrative arc? Consider their motivations, backgrounds, and relationships with other characters, ensuring that each new addition serves a purpose in advancing the plot and enriching the story world.

Expand the world

Take your readers to new locations within your fictional world. This not only keeps the setting fresh but also provides new opportunities for plot development. New environments can introduce unique challenges and adventures for your characters.

In Patrick Rothfuss's The Wise Man's Fear, the sequel to The Name of the Wind and the second book in The Kingkiller Chronicle series, Kvothe travels to new lands, such as Vintas and Ademre, expanding the world and deepening the narrative. Through Kvothe's adventures, readers gain deeper insights into the intricacies of the world Rothfuss has created, including the politics, magic, and mythology that shape it. Rothfuss also expands on the magical elements introduced in the first book, delving into the origins and implications of different forms of magic and introducing new concepts and abilities. By broadening the scope of the story's world, Rothfuss adds richness and depth to the narrative, keeping readers engrossed in the series while leaving them eager to explore more of the world he has crafted.

By expanding the world of your story, you can infuse your sequel with fresh energy and excitement while deepening the connections between your characters and their environment. Embrace the opportunity to explore new horizons and push the boundaries of your storytelling, inviting readers on an unforgettable journey that will leave them eagerly anticipating the next installment.

Evolve the Plot

Build on the existing plot by introducing new subplots and twists. This keeps the story from becoming predictable and maintains readers' interest. Ensure these new plot elements are well-integrated and contribute to the overall narrative arc.

In V.E. Schwab's A Gathering of Shadows, the sequel to A Darker Shade of Magic, the plot evolves by introducing the Element Games, a magical tournament that adds excitement and new dimensions to the story. Schwab set up the sequel for success by leaving lingering questions and unresolved problems while concluding with a grappling cliffhanger that leaves the readers eager for the next book, in which Schwab strikes the perfect balance between action and emotion, deepening relationships.

Bonus Tip: Outline your series

While you can always develop a sequel idea after writing a standalone book, if you're a plotter, planning your entire series before you begin writing the first book can make the rest of the series easier to write. It ensures a cohesive and compelling narrative across multiple books and lets you sprinkle in foreshadowing or information that may be important much later.

By having a clear roadmap, you can create a more structured and satisfying story for your readers. Consider the overarching storyline of your series. What is the end goal for your hero, and what major events will occur along the way? Having a clear vision of the series' big picture helps you maintain direction and purpose— in the first book in a series and beyond!

Identify key plot points for each book in the series. This includes the beginning, major turning points, climax, and resolution. Knowing these milestones helps you structure each book effectively while ensuring they contribute to the overall series arc.

Ready to write a successful sequel?

Writing a sequel that readers will love involves a careful balance of consistency and innovation. Remember, a successful sequel builds on the foundation of the first book while offering fresh and exciting content that deepens the overall story.  By maintaining character and plot continuity, introducing new elements, providing seamless recaps, raising the stakes, and staying true to your voice, you can craft a sequel that captivates your audience and keeps them coming back for more.


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