Writing, as I’ve said, is the hardest easy thing I’ve ever done. And if you can wrap your gray matter around that conundrum, then you’re already well on your way to becoming addicted to the craft.
That recently proved true as I was approaching the second book in my new urban fantasy series, Nine Shot Sonata. I know, that was a very clumsy plug, but I’m serving as my own PR department over here. I promise I shall get wittier post additional cups of coffee. But there’s a point to be made here, honest.
See, here’s a universal truth for all of you out there to deal with: Sequels are difficult, and can easily suck. That’s most prevalent in cinema, sure, but it can just as readily afflict the best laid plans of mice and writers. Or mice that write. Again, I need more coffee. Moving on.
In any case, I had locked down the general outline for book two, basing it off the larger story arc I’ve set down for the series as a whole. It was good enough for my needs. Great, right? Time to get to hashing out the specifics, etc. Wrong.
Going with that supposition is a good way to have a follow-up novel fall flat on its face. And that has everything to do with the fact that I did not satisfy my personal goals for what makes a satisfying sequel.
A good sequel should do the following: 1. Build on the established world. 2. Recognize what worked in the previous entry, and utilize it without resorting to pure eye-rolling callback. 3. Introduce new things that fall in lockstep with the predecessor, but stand on their own merits. And 4. Be satisfying and conclusive in its own right while leaving the door open for the next.
By my admittedly biased estimation, what I had written outline-wise for book 2 hit all the marks but one. The last one. Oops.
So, some of you might have noticed the other day when I tweeted …
“Xero’s Rule of Writing #8: Be it scene, chapter, or entire outline, the nuclear option is ALWAYS on the table.”
And I stand by that ethos, particularly in this case.
So I slammed a fist on that big red button. Bright light, mushroom cloud, blast wave. I have become Death, destroyer of worlds, yadda yadda yadda.
What remained were the key plot points that I needed for the story. What was disintegrated was all the connective tissue that linked up points A to B to C and so forth. Call it a scouring of the foundation. It seems brutal, and almost coldly destructive, but I can tell you from experience that nuking it from orbit now will save me a prolonged ground war in the months to come.
Because in the end what I had crafted originally was a decent enough book in potential. But a good sequel it surely wasn’t. A writer owes themselves first and foremost when it comes to breaking story, and a good habit to get into early is being your own worst debt collector.
So today finds me picking back through my notes, ideas, and one-off scribblings from my notebook while I reformulate the best way to get the established plot points to play nicely with each other. And, believe it or not, I’m already happier for it.
So the moral of the story here? Be willing to let go, even if you only have the slightest of suspicions that something isn’t meshing as well as it could. Your instincts will always be in refinement, but that doesn’t mean you should ignore them out of hand.
Until next time, Horns Up.
“When the Man Comes Around” book one of the Nine Shot Sonata Series – available now!