Ron talks about writing sequels below, and I mentioned in the comments how hard writing one was for me. I blithely sold a trilogy and then sat down to write the second book in it and realized I had no idea what I was doing. It’s so scary—you want the story to be worthy of a trilogy, you don’t want to repeat yourself, you want to make dramatic and complete what is essentially a bridge between two other books—and, maybe most pressingly, you don’t want it to be significantly worse than the first.
It was agonizing at first. I had overwhelming urges to lie in fetal position in the corner of my office and stay there for about three years. I finished a draft and it burned my eyes to look at it. I would wake up in the middle of the night in panic, and it wasn’t until one of these 4am panic attacks that I finally figured out the story the book needed to tell. I pressed select all on 200 pages and deleted them. Blank slate.
I learned how to write a trilogy by writing one—maybe not the most efficient way to do things, but that’s being a writer for you. Ignorance is a good fuel for ambition. And, for better or for worse, I won’t be as blithe about it next time. I read so many disappointing sequels. Sometimes they’re just rushed—you imagine the publishers hiring some guy to stand behind the author and beat a nightstick in his hands every time she stops to consider her word choice. And then some great ones. The authors follow varying strategies. I am breathlessly waiting for the nice UPS man to bring the sequel to Skin Hunger, which continues the action after a cliffhanger ending. JK Rowling keeps the same basic structure for her sequels, but grows the threat (just about) every time, along with growing her characters a year. Garth Nix takes the world he built in Sabriel and moves the action up a generation. In The Bartimaeus Trilogy the author expands his ambition in the second book and gives the trilogy its emotional resonance. Phillip Pullman in The Subtle Knife cuts a hole in the world he built in the first book and climbs through into a new one.
So, Hamline students and alums and fellow citizens of Inkpot-land, what sequels have you liked? What makes a good one?