Writing the sequel

One of the toughest thing to do when writing is to write a sequel to a first book, then a third, fourth or tenth. I know people who plan an entire series from the beginning–Devon Monk, for instance, planned all of her Allie Beckstrom novels before she began. Having that plan established means that a writer has a clear sense of what each book should contain before it begins and can jump into the drafting relatively smoothly. Now the problem is, just as with battle plans, plot plans don’t often stand up to actual engagement with the enemy. So to speak.

As a book develops and more creativity sparks, the next thing you know is that you’ve changed something significant and it dominoes into all the next books and you have to replot. And then you do it again. And again. It can be incredibly frustrating. Do you know what’s more frustrating? Not being able to plot at all. Plot failure. I have a very difficult time with plotting even a single book, much less a series. Especially a series that I don’t know how long will be. Diamond City Magic is one such series.

This means that I’m doing a lot of exploration. On the other hand, the deeper I get, the more complex it gets, and the more stuff I need to do, and that means that plotting on one level becomes easier, because certain bridges have to be crossed. I have a developed a nebulous idea of landmarks that need to be achieved. So if you imagine it like a journey, I know there’s a mountain there, a valley there, a river there, and so on, all of which need to be traversed and each comes with their own special troubles.

Right now, I haven’t completed the revisions for book 3 and I’m beginning book 4, which means I don’t entirely know how big all the changes I will have done by the end of the revision, and so I may be building this next book on air. All the same, I have to start. Of course, I might be tossing most of it all away in the end, but if I worried about that, I’d end up never writing. Plus the fact that I have trouble plotting means that in fact, I have to write to find out what’s going to happen–to fill in the details between getting to plot events. Since those are all actually character revelations, I have to build the characters and events to get there, and hope that I don’t rearrange the terrain entirely as I go. I swear, it’s like writing in a living Dali painting.

So now I’m writing what I think is going to happen in this next book. I’m not starting where I normally start, which is the beginning, since I’m not entirely sure where the beginning will be. I just know that these scenes need to be written. At least under the current plan, and I need to be writing, because of deadline.


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