Today we welcome GP Ching, author of The Soulkeepers Series, as part of her blog tour for her newest release Return to Eden! Since Return to Eden is the third book in a series, and we talk about writing on this blog sometimes, I asked her about to chat a little about writing sequels.
Thanks for hosting me today on The Southern Scrawl for today's Return to Eden blog tour stop and, Kate, for your question about writing sequels. I think many authors struggle with sequels. It sounds like a great idea. You build a world in book one and then the rest is downhill, right? Wrong! Writing book two and beyond is in many ways more difficult than book one
There are three areas I think authors struggle with the most:
1. How much backstory to include
2. Maintaining consistency
3. Where to break the story arc
If you are an indie author and writing your series close together (publishing a new book ever 2-4 month for example) it's less important to include all of the backstory because your readers likely will remember the first books. However, even then, you will want to review plot strings or important character details that are important to the current work. Those publishing 6-12 months after the last release will want to pay particular attention to bringing the reader along who may have forgotten important information from book one.
Including a glossary at the front of the book that defines key words is a great way to start, as is working information into scenes and dialogue where characters reflect on what happened in the past as it relates to what is happening now. What writer's will want to avoid is pages and pages of flashbacks, blocks of prose, or telling that pulls the reader out of the narrative. Critique partners who have read the previous books will be valuable tools in finding the right balance.
Take notes and write a synopsis even if you hate them. I keep a notebook with details on character eye and hair color, traits, history, family, etc. My only caveat is that characters can and do change. In The Soulkeepers series, Malini changes significantly in book 2. I had to make sure that change followed her into book 3 and became even more pronounced because of her increased experience level.
As far as plot goes, it truly does help to sketch out the series before you start book one. However, even Rowling had some plot holes and inconsistencies sneak through into the HP books, so don't be too hard on yourself if you have to bend the rules of your world. Again, critique partners are invaluable for spotting inconsistencies that matter.
Where to break the story arc
You have it all in your head. Seven books, 60,000 words each. You know how the story goes. You know your characters. But you find yourself 80,000 words into book three. Are really writing part of book four?
Each book in your series must have a beginning, middle, and end. i.e. its own story arc. It is okay to have a cliffhanger but something about that man hanging off of that cliff must provide a satisfying ending for your readers.
A very high-level story arc of Weaving Destiny would look like this (beginning-middle-end):
Malini questions who she is and if her relationship with Jacob is fated. Malini finds her power and breaks up with Jacob when he kisses another girl because she takes it as a sign that they are not destined to be together. Malini and Jacob get back together not because of fate but because of choice.
However, Weaving Destiny has a cliffhanger. Dane is taken by Lucifer. Mara is taken by Death. While questions are left unanswered, those questions are not part of the primary story arc of Weaving Destiny. I think where authors alienate their readers is by ending a story in the middle of a primary story arc.
I hope this helps all of you contemplating your first series. Thank you for having me today and don't forget to enter to win this week!