Everyone loves a sequel…, or a prequel…, or a spin-off.
Readers like them because they hope that they will give them the answers to questions that the original story threw up. Or that the new adventures of their heroes (pardon my gender type) will continue in the same vein.
Writers are quite partial to sequels, prequels and spin-offs because a lot of the heavy lifting has been done, characters have been established and those that survive into another book are known to the readers. Little is required in the way of setting development either; the world exists and is familiar. Sure, the characters may visit different locations but in general, there’s a lot less work to make it all credible. And as a writer, I can often see other possibilities as I write, outside of the scope of the story that I’m actually telling. Ideas for even more adventures.
But, and this is a biggie, there’s quite a lot more to it than that for me at the moment. There’s a pachyderm in the building, one that has me, and I’m sure a host of others screaming. I’m referring to CONTINUITY.
I don’t mean changing your hero’s hair colour, which is no more than mildly annoying to the reader. All that’s required to overcome that sort of error is to read the first book again before you start, just to make sure you have everyone as you remember them.
The problem that I’m currently stuck with is a bit more problematic than that. It revolves around what was actually said and done in the previous book. Its continuity on a grand scale and it’s messing up my sequel!
You may think that’s a strange comment, after all, what happened in the previous book was the basis of that story. Bear with me a minute here and I’ll explain.
When I wrote the original story, I had no idea that a sequel was ever going to be written. Any more than I could tell you now what my next project will be.
Even if I had thought of a sequel, I wouldn’t have had a clue about what would happen, more than in the most general terms.
So what happened in the first book should have been fine. The sequel would just start where the other left off, use the facts and away we go.
My problem is that now I’ve decided to write a sequel, I’ve decided that I want a certain thing to happen.
It came to me as quite a crucial part of the tale. I had this great idea and spent a while sorting it out, getting it into shape. Then I thought that I’d better read the first book again, a formality to make sure it all lined up.
Before I had that great idea I had no intention of writing a sequel. So it didn’t matter how I had resolved a particular situation last time. It worked, it was logical. Job done!
Now that I am, it does! My storytelling has constrained my ability to let my sequel’s narrative develop. Not purposefully, as if that matters. Because, after all, this was a story that I was never going to write!
I really should learn that I must never say never.
I can’t get my characters to do what I want, I can’t use this wonderful piece that I’ve written and refined. And all because of what occurred in the last book. One of the characters is not present in the first book when I want someone in the sequel to remember him doing things. He had wandered off and I had forgotten.
If I had picked one of the other ways the plot could have developed, it would be fine. Although I suppose that it’s always possible that in fifty pages or so the same thing might have happened again, in a different situation.
It’s a bit like life; you’re actions and room to manoeuvre are sometimes constrained in a certain way by what’s gone before.
Incidentally, that book was a prequel that I had to write to explain a remark that a character made in the original novel. So to be technically correct, the sequel is actually the second story but the third part.
I suppose I could always try the ‘Dallas Shower’ manoeuvre (showing my age) or the ‘I don’t remember, surely you’ve got that wrong’ trick that crops up from time to time. But it feels false.
So, and this is really radical, I will have to think of something better for my cast to do. The one thing that I did manage to do was to set up several possible things in the story. Plot lines and possibilities that could be made relevant to the developing sequel. I can always explore one or more of them and see where it goes.
And as for that killer passage, I will make it into a short story, or use it somewhere else; it’s far too good to waste.
In case you’re wondering, the sequel in question is provisionally called Promise Me. It’s the sequel to Myra, which in turn was the prequel to Freefall. I hope that’s not too confusing!
Not to give too much away, in Freefall certain promises were made by Dave Travise. And there are things that still remain unanswered from Myra.
As the teaser says,
“Dave Travise has promises to keep, a Galaxy to search and no time to lose. On his journey, he’s going to be surprised at what his efforts to make things right will turn up. And just what he has to promise, and to whom. As he will find out, there’s more than one way to keep a promise.”
I can’t promise (?) when this story will see the light of day, but you can keep up to date on progress via my newsletters and on this website.
To join my occasional newsletter, click HERE, or on the book. As a reward, you’ll receive a copy of Flash Fiction, a collection of short stories.
And there will be other giveaways coming soon, including one that may surprise you!
What do you think about sequels, prequels and spin-offs? please leave a comment below.
Instead of a post about my writing or some other insight, I’m reporting on my attendance at Credfest last Saturday.
As a mamber of the Exeter Authors Association, I had a table, a workshop and readings to do. Here are a few pictures from the event.
I also made some cupcakes for the visitors.
I’m a big fan of Carrot cake, so that was what I produced and they seemed to be popular.
There was a good turnout for the event and as this was the first one that I’ve attended I wasn’t really sure what to expect. But it was great.
I chatted to customers; my workshop went down well, with good feedback. I was actually told that my suggestions for world building made great sense, someone else admitted that hadn’t been sure what to expect but had been fascinated. There were some excellent readings by the other authors, great poetry and a short extract from Witch!
I think I’ve found some new books to add to my virtual pile!
My readings were also well received, I read a short extract from Andorra Pett and the Oort Cloud Café and another from The Rocks of Aserol.
It’s true that I didn’t sell many books, but I did give away lots of short stories and samples, which may well sow seeds for future sales. And as a new(ish) author it’s about getting the brand out and being recognised. Events like this are great for doing just that. And one lucky person won a copy of Andorra Pett, who knows where that will lead?
The audience got the humour in Andorra Pett and the Oort Cloud Café and laughed in most of the right places, which was a relief, after all, it’s my sense of humour and you never really know if others will find it funny.
The extract that I read is at the end of this post; it’s from a little later in the book than the sample chapter that you may have read HERE.
Now, I have to prepare for Tiverton Literary Festival on Friday. I’m one of the authors you can meet in the Library. We start at 10 am so if you’re local to Tiverton, please pop in and say hello.
Writing wise, I have just about finished Andorra Pett on Mars, the follow-up to Andorra Pett and the Oort Cloud Café, and I have an idea for book three in the series, Andorra Pett takes a break.
My Steampunk sequel A new life in Ventis is with beta readers. Dependant on their reaction, I’m working towards publication before Christmas. I also have a couple of other projects in the pipeline. There will be more news on them in the very near future.
Are you interested in how I build words? Would you like a transcript of my workshop with suggestions? Why not let me know, together with your ideas, in the reply box below the post. I’d love to hear from you!
So here’s the extract that I read, Andorra Pett is settling into her new life, running a café. She’s already discovered a secret, and now it seems like someone is after her…….
I’d set my alarm for 4 a.m. again, we had sold nearly all the things I had made yesterday and although Clarissa had provided some pies we still needed fresh bread and more cakes. Cy, for all his enthusiasm, wouldn’t be up till later so it was down to me.
The alarm went off, without bothering with the lights I reached out and turned my hair straighteners on; then I headed for the bathroom. When I came back I watched in horror as the bedroom door started to open, a line of dim light grew slowly as it was pushed from outside. Someone was creeping in. There wasn’t time to put my boiler suit on; at least I was wearing a vest and some shorts to cover my modesty.
I needed a weapon, and quickly. In the dark I climbed across the bed as quietly as I could, aiming for the red light on the bedside table. I pulled the straighteners out of their stand and crept to the wall behind the door. I knew that a burn from them would make you stop what you were doing and think again. A hand appeared and I struck, jabbing the straighteners down on the wrist, catching it between the hot ceramic plates. I squeezed. Hard.
There was a piercing scream and a sizzle as the fibres of the garment covered arm melted and stuck to the skin underneath. There was the smell of bacon frying. The hand disappeared, pulling the straighteners from my grip, they clattered onto the floor. I heard footsteps and someone shouting and sobbing in pain as I pulled the door open and ran into the corridor. It was empty.
I headed into the space behind the counter, the café’s front door was open, the shutters were up; hadn’t we lowered them when we closed up last night? Nothing moved, my maimed burglar can’t have had time to get across the floor and through the door, they must be hiding. How the hell had someone opened the locks? Of course, I hadn’t changed the codes. I must do that.
The room was in part light from Saturn but there were deep shadows. I flipped the light switches and ran to close and lock the door, hopefully whoever was inside would be trapped, surely Cy would have heard the shouting and was even now coming to help me. I had dropped the straighteners and had no weapons, just my anger. How dare someone try and come into MY place?
As I crossed the floor I heard footsteps to one side. I swung my head. I had a brief glimpse of a black-headed figure approaching, the lack of features making it look sinister, and then I was shoulder-charged. The force of the impact shoved me straight into a table. I bounced off and as I flailed around I grabbed at the figure, ripping off whatever was covering its head. They wriggled clear, pushed me into another table and sprinted for the door. I got up and followed them, puffing with the exertion, I needed to get to the gym, if there was one.
As I peered through the door I caught sight of a figure rounding the corner into the main alleyway. I’d never catch them now and my hip was throbbing where I had bounced off the corner of a table.
“What’s going on, Andi?” Cy had appeared, and he hadn’t bothered dressing for the occasion either.
“They got away,” I puffed. “I gave them something to think about.” I showed him the mask I had grabbed, black and woollen; it was like a balaclava helmet without the face-hole. “Look,” he said, there were short blonde hairs stuck in the wool.
“That’s a clue.”
Suddenly, it was all too much for me and I started shaking, Cy held me tight and smoothed my hair. “It’s OK, Andi,” he whispered. “They’ve gone now, that was some scream they gave, what did you do, come out of the bathroom and give them a thrill?”
That wasn’t funny, but it did make me laugh and that helped me calm down a bit.
“I got them with my straighteners.” He winced. “I got their wrist between the plates. Their sleeve melted into the flesh. It smelt like bacon.”
“Well done you, that’ll be sore then! All we need to do is find someone with a crispy fried wrist.”
We suddenly found that funny and just stood there, holding each other, laughing like a couple of crazy fools.
Any excuse for a bit of nostalgia,
You might be surprised to find that I don’t write one book at a time. In fact, I keep several stories on the go. Some of them are very well advanced, others are little more than basic ideas. I also have a list of projects that I think might develop. It helps me to switch around when the thoughts for one are slow in coming, moving away often gives me a fresh burst after I have left a story for a while. And as I said recently, I believe that the story won’t come out until it’s ready to be told, which can be frustrating. As an independently published author, I’m fortunate in some ways. I don’t have an editor breathing down my neck, or a deadline looming. And my method keeps me away from the dreaded writer’s block, at least so far.
I’ve noticed that I always seem to come to a grinding halt at around the 60,000-word mark, in just about every story that I’ve written. I guess that it’s like the ‘wall’ that runners talk about, without the physical discomfort, fortunately! I have to leave it for a few weeks and come back to it, which is where the other projects come in.
I have to leave it for a few weeks and come back to it, which is where the other projects come in, I can keep writing on one of them.
The voices in my head that dictate to me, (other writers will know what I mean here) decide what they want to tell me, in what order, and when one lot gets fed up with telling their tale, then there are others ready to have a go. At least, that’s how I explain it.
Initially, I intended to spend some time focusing on short stories, I have several that need a little work to get them finished, with the imminent publication of my second collection, I wanted to have some spares in case my editor and beta readers thought that any of the ones I had selected were not good enough.
But, as usual, things have not quite worked out quite as I planned. I had a big idea for Survive, and just had to get it down, now I have spent most of the month on that, and written over 30,000 words. Not a single one has been added to any of my short stories.
In consequence, I’m right back where I started from, I still have six, half completed short stories, and now I have another novel that’s 30,000 words further on but I’m still stuck. Although my idea for Survive was a good one, I still haven’t got to the point where the story is finished.
And it’s not just about the word count; I’m not too bothered about that. I would like my stories to come in at around the 75-80,000 word total, but if they don’t, it’s not the end of the world. And that’s purely because a lot of the books that I read while I was at sea or in my formative years were around that size and they seemed a good length to tell a story well.
I don’t think that I’m ever (?) going to write Tolkien or Martin-Esque 200,000 word epics. One of my favourite books, Fahrenheit 451 was only 47,000 words or so, proving that you don’t need quantity to tell a good story. And often, the extra wordage consists of extraneous description or what could be called “padding.”
I guess that what this has all been telling me is that you have to write what’s there in your head. That might not be what you had wanted to write, or even what you thought you needed to do. It turned out to be the novel, so I did that.
As a bonus, the passages I’ve added to Survive have given me a few ideas for another project that I can put on my list.
And from another source entirely, I have a prequel to Ribbonworld, I already thought of a third story in the Balcom series, have written about 3,000 words and have even given it a title, The Lost Princess. In working out what I could do with it, I wondered if I couldn’t also do a ‘zeroth’ story in the series (Fans of Asimov will get the reference), and go back to the events that are referenced in Ribbonworld, the real start of the story if you like.
And that’s all on top of everything else that’s going on, I’ve re-organised this website, there were a lot of things that needed changing and I’d put them off. My first short story collection is now available FREE, just click here to get your copy, and the new collection will be available, also FREE very soon.
I will be at Credfest on June 17th, which I’m looking forward to, reading from both Andorra Pett and The Rocks of Aserol. Not only that, I have agreed to host a workshop on World Building, which should be a lot of fun. Hopefully, the event will be recorded for posterity, I can then put the video/audio up on here for you to see and add it to my YouTube channel, which you can find HERE
As ever, your comments would be appreciated. Let me know what you think below.
Step into the worlds of Richard Dee.
Imagine the magazine of the future, or how to fake your own demise. Maybe it’s time you were tested to prove your adulthood? Or perhaps you’re a sleeping space traveller?
All these ideas and more are explored in this collection of short stories. They’re complemented by excerpts from my first three novels and two teasers of work in progress.