Guest Post: Charles Yallowitz on Sequel Writing

Tips on Writing a Sequel

First, a big thank you to Michelle Proulx for letting me write a guest blog in honor of the July 31st debut of my second book, Legends of Windemere: Prodigy of Rainbow Tower.  I think that covers the shameless self-promotion part of the program.  Wait.  Feel free to buy and read Legends of Windemere: Beginning of a Hero, so you’re ready for the sequel.  There.  That should do it.

So, you want to write a sequel.  It’s a common malady for fiction authors.  You love your characters and you have subplots that need more time to run their course.  You have a new villain that you want to use. That infomercial at 3AM gave you the best idea for another story with the same characters.  There’s also the chance that you had a series planned all along and this is the natural progression of your career.  In the end, the sequel is there and you’re ready to write it.

My story is that my books are based on a college Dungeons & Dragons game.  I knew from the beginning that a series would have to happen.  Each semester had a different quest as the heroes moved through the dice rolls.  Then I realized I had to put some work in and altered a lot before I sat down to write.  The big difference is that characters don’t evolve too much over the course of a single adventure in a game.  In fact, many players have their characters stay the same in terms of mentality and emotions.  I had to shake things up and put growth into the story, which is why I take sequels very seriously.  You need all of your main characters to change in every book even if it’s minor.  For example, one character might go through a life-changing event while another learns a new skill.  Both are growth, but one is definitely heavier than the other.

I would say one of the most difficult parts of writing a sequel (and I’m writing the 5th book of the series here) is balance of characters.  Specifically, your old characters versus your new characters. You have your original heroes that you need to keep some focus on and retain what they had in the first book.  You must also put them in situations that test their strength and develop them beyond their original forms.  This takes a lot of work because you don’t want to go too far or spend all of your time on it.  Yes, these are the characters you started with and they have seniority, but they also have fans and reputations that your new characters are setting out the gain.

The balance with new characters is that you need to highlight them without overshadowing your old characters.  They need to merge into the preexisting group, but not so flawlessly that it’s unbelievable.  Think about how you make new friends and try to work off that.  You might even want to go with a new character that the old ones have trouble getting along with.  I introduce a very powerful spellcaster named Nyx in my new book.  She is temperamental, rude, and difficult to get along with at first.  It makes for an interesting story because she butts heads with the main hero of the first book, Luke Callindor.  This gave me the opportunity to delve into the tolerance and friendship making ability of these two characters.  In the end, I create a very tight and clear dynamic between them.

Here are some simple tips about writing a sequel:

  1. Change is good and necessary in terms of characters.  Yet, you must always stay true to the character.  If one of them goes evil then it has to make sense that they do it.  The noble Paladin going evil on a whim won’t win you any sales.
  2. Reference past books, but don’t harp on it.  You need to find a way for the new characters to learn about past events.  I write in present tense, so this is done through dialogue.  I also use the occasional ‘told off-camera’ trick when it can be used.
  3. Never be afraid to check back to your first book to make sure you have your facts straight.  If you mention that a city has a specific symbol in the first book then double check when the characters actually go there.
  4. Give the villains a reason to hate or fear the new characters.  You need your villains to acknowledge your new character instead of holding onto the old grudge.  Otherwise, your new hero becomes a secondary character.
  5. Spell the series name correctly.  You think I’m joking here?  Well, I am, but better safe than sorry.
  6. Don’t be afraid to shake up the foundation.  The fun of a second book is that you can change things in the overall world.  A city can be wiped out or a secondary character from the first book can be killed.  The fun of a sequel, which can lead to a series, is that you now have the reach and time to do world-changing events.
  7. Most important!!!  Have fun.  Don’t look at writing the sequel as a stressful situation where you need to outdo the first.  Have fun with the writing and exploring your beloved characters.  You’ve given them more than a spotlight, but a life path that can go on for a few books if you wish it to.

Those are the big points about writing a sequel.  If this inspired you to write a sequel or plan a series then I’ve done my job.  Again, have fun and enjoy yourself!

Book 2 Final Flat

 

 

 

 

 

You can check out Charles Yallowitz’s debut novel, Beginning of a Hero, by clicking here.

 

And you can check out the sequel (release date: July 31, 2013), Prodigy of Rainbow Tower, by clicking here.

 

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29 thoughts on “Guest Post: Charles Yallowitz on Sequel Writing

  1. Reblogged this on Legends of Windemere and commented:
    My guest blog on ‘Tips to Sequel Writing’ on Michelle Proulx’s blog. Check it out and take a look around her blog while you’re there.

  2. Great tips! I rarely see anything on how to write a good sequel, and these are awesome.

  3. jesse2007

    I think you’re spot on. A lot of authors tend not to change as much in the 2nd book. But change is a key factor, you either end up loving the characters more and see them in a new light.

    Also agree in moving past the first book, acknowledge it happened but don’t always throw it in there. 🙂 I’ll have to download your book as well friend.

    • See, my worry with sequels is that the author will change stuff TOO much. And then the characters start doing insane things and everything goes to heck in a handbasket and you’re left sitting there scratching your head going “What just happened???” Hence why I love Charles’s #1 point — you gotta do the Goldilocks method of change — not too much, not too little, just right 😀

      • jesse2007

        It’s just like a movie. You can move beautifully as Nolan did with Batman, or you can Bay and just do the same thing over and over again lol 😀

      • Goldilocks approach is genius. I need to remember that one.

    • Thanks. Hope you enjoy the series.

      I think change is one of the key factors of a book. If a character goes through an epic event then he/she can’t stay the same. If it’s a series of epic events then they really need to change. I’m already thinking of points in my series where various heroes reach their limit and snap. A character having a breaking point over the course of a series can be essential to holding onto readers.

  4. tjtherien

    A big thanks to Michelle and Charles for this post. It will help when I bridge Epochs in my ever evolving story here on word press (An Epoch will be the Equivalent of a novel in a series I guess as in length Epochs will range in size between a Novella and a full blown Novel) while I have no ambition to publish this story other than on the blog I set up for it this post addresses issues I will be faced with. Again thank you to the both of you…

    • Hey, I just hosted Charles, he’s the true genius behind these tips 😀 And they’re quite excellent tips, aren’t they? What I wouldn’t give to take a sneak peek inside his brain … 😀

    • You’re welcome. I like the idea of calling the Epochs. Very original.

  5. I am already thinking about how I can turn my murder mystery into a series. Thanks for the thoughts!

  6. Very good information. Great post.

  7. Great post, Charles and Michelle! It comes at a good time for me as I have two novels of a series and am working on the third. (The first two are still in draft stage.) Balancing old and new characters is a real challenge, and I do find myself running back to the first novel to make sure I have certain things correct. One thing I’m finding interesting about the process is that, not only do my characters change, but so is the setting for the novels. By this third one that I’m currently writing, I feel I have a much clearer idea of where these characters live than I did with the first two. To the reader, it may not seem like the setting has changed; what has changed for me, is that now I can put the setting on a map, literally point to where the town exists, if it existed at all.

    • Yes! That’s exactly what I’ve found as I’ve been writing my own sequel. As I expand the world they live in and explore the characters, I discover all sorts of new things, and then when I look back at the first book, I’m like, “Ohhhh! So THAT’S why they do that!” Which makes me wonder if I knew all this in some secret part of my brain waaaaay back when I was writing the first book, or if I’m just really good at making connections after-the-fact 😀

      • I’m thinking it might be the latter. I have a similar experience as a reader when reading a series. Either that or we all psychic 😉

    • The setting certainly changes as you continue through a series. I’ve begun looking at my world as another character that is going to span over all of my fantasy series. You go through similar evolution with a world in regards to depth, scope, and growth.

  8. jesse2007

    It’s just like a movie. You can move beautifully as Nolan did with Batman, or you can Bay and just do the same thing over and over again lol 😀

  9. Great tips. People often don’t seem to blog about the sequel. I’m writing one at the moment so good timing 🙂

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