Hi Fuse Fans!
I hope you’re voting today, if you’re an American citizen. This is a critical moment in world politics and I hope that you will join me in voting for Secretary Clinton, the most qualified and accomplished candidate for president in our nation’s history. While we’re contemplating electing a new president, it’s tempting to already start thinking about her potential reelection and the hurdles she’ll have to face next time around. But that’d be dangerous — one thing at a time! Which leads me to today’s blog.
Today I want to talk about sequels.
The deadliest and most frequent mistake I hear when offering suggestions on revising a manuscript is, “I’m saving that for Book Two.”
It seems weird that there’s no major comeuppance for the bad guy. “Book Two.”
I really think this romance arc should move more quickly. “Book Two.”
The stakes are pretty high in theory, but it feels like nobody’s been in real danger. “Book Two.”
- Here is the bottom line: you do not get a Book Two unless readers are sufficiently gripped by Book One.
If your book is meant to begin a series, it’s certainly a good idea to map out your general idea of the whole series. Planned sequels don’t give you an excuse, however, to frontload your “first” book with set-up and not get to the good stuff until the end.
- Every novel must stand on its own. You cannot make the reader wait for a sequel to feel narrative satisfaction.
In the Kushiel’s Dart example from the earlier section on reversals, you can see that antagonist Melisande escapes to continue her machinations in a sequel—but the plot of Dart is self-contained, and Melisande’s specific scheme with the Skaldi leader Selig is brought to a climax and resolved.
- As a general rule, anything you instinctively think should be “saved” for Book Two should actually probably happen before the end of Book One:
- The nefarious villain? Confront her and foil her current plot against the realm. Let her come up with another plan in the sequel.
- The scintillating romance? Take your protagonist and her love interest down to bone town. Nobody has time to wait for the next volume to see things get steamy.
- The kindly mentor whose death changes everything? Kill that sucker as a big reversal twist. Obi-Wan Kenobi, exit stage left.
The only plot threads that should be left hanging overhead at the end of your book are threads that are existential elements of the whole series—the lurking ice zombies up north in Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire, for example, who are a hook for the future rather than characters central to the plot of the first book.
That series also provides a good example of compartmentalized plotting, at least in its first three volumes: the big War of Five Kings takes place over several books, but each novel has its own discrete war arc with a big, satisfying climax: the sentencing of Ned Stark in A Game of Thrones, the Battle of the Blackwater in A Clash of Kings, and the Red Wedding in A Storm of Swords.
- Make sure every book in your series has its own story to tell.
For more tips on narrative structure and plotting (primarily in SciFi/Fantasy, which is my specialty), you can see my 99 cent ebook THE SHORT FUSE GUIDE TO PLOTTING YOUR NOVEL, a 37-page guide to some of these concepts.