Friday, January 29, 2010

The Challenges of Writing Sequels

I’m working on Book 3 of my Muskoka Novels series, and am once again struggling with a few issues. With the Dickensian cast of characters having over 1100 pages of experiences behind them, how much do I reiterate so that those who have not read the first two books will know what’s going on, while those who have just finished them won’t be bored? It’s a fine line to tread.

Continuity also has its challenges. Each character is for me a real person, so no problem recalling how they look or “who” they are. I do have profiles for them, which include their favourite expressions, what other characters think or say about them, whether someone gave them a gold locket or a silver cigarette case, and other minutiae, which may become relevant at some time.

I’ve spent weeks combing through the first two books to compile a list of continuity facts, which also include descriptions of places and events. For instance, Grandmother Wyndham had her portrait painted by John Singer Sargent, so of course it has to hang somewhere. Hothouse flowers were shipped regularly from the Wyndhams’ city estate to their summer cottage on the lake. A lucent necklace of gas lamps encircled the entire point of their island. I have over 40 pages of these types of notes.

So now it’s time to immerse myself in another world again!


  1. Isn't this the perfect time of year to dream, reflect and write in My Muskoka ?!

  2. It is indeed, Jenn. And a perfect time to indulge in dreams about summer in Muskoka as well.

  3. Greetings. I already commented but I think it failed to send. Either way, I enjoyed reading this post. As for me, when I write a series I don't worry about people who haven't read it from the beginning. In fact, I write the entire series as one continuous novel and then split it into as many volumes as is appropriate for a story of its length.

    This is more or less what Tolkien did with The Lord of the Rings. He wrote it as a single, unbroken novel and it was only published in three volumes because ink was expensive after WWII. When I started reading The Two Towers, the experience wasn't like reading another book in a series; rather, I was just reading the next part of the novel.

    I find that a series written as a novel in three parts tends to have better continuity than a series of instalments. For instance, when I read Harry Potter it felt like each book was somewhat detached from the previous one. The tone also seemed to change dramatically and abruptly every two books or so.

    I can't speak for everyone, but I like the continuity of reading a single novel in multiple volumes better than I do the detached feeling of a traditional series. My approach to bringing newcomers up to speed is to write my series as a novel. If my readers are confused, then they should start the series from the beginning.

    1. Thanks for your comment, Hamish. I certainly wrote the first two as one novel, leaving a cliff-hanger at the end of the first book. I'm actually working on book 4 now, but as it's a few years on, it can be a stand-alone book as well.



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