Writing a Sequel

Everyone talks about writing “the book.” No one talks about the sequel. (Tweet this)

No one talks about the new pressure of readers demanding resolution, or of the publisher’s deadlines you thought you could handle, or of how you’re suddenly asking yourself, “Why in the world did I create that character?” or how now you spend half your time marketing with about 1/8 of the amount of time left for building new writing habits.

Well, here I am, to talk about it. Because I did it…and lived within an inch of my life!

Writing A Time to Speak was hard, people! About every other week I was certain it was the worst book I’d ever written in my life. My support team of authors and editors pep-talked me out of my little mope-corner. Now it releases in a week and a half! *panics* *dies* Yay!

So, because I’ve survived the one and only time I had to write a sequel I’m an expert on writing sequels, 😉 here are some difficulties I encountered and some advice I have on how to survive them. 😉 And it’s a little glimpse into my process.

Writing the Sequel

1. Wanting to change your first book.

Book one is published — or on its way to being published — and you suddenly realize that Prince Villainfire should actually be a good guy, but it’s too late, because he killed your protagonist’s puppies in book one. That will make turning him into a good guy in book two very hard (unless he only pretended to kill the puppies and has now been raising them in secret in his home as his personal buddies.)

This happened a lot with A Time to Speak. (No, not Prince Villainfire-and-his-puppies.) I invented characters I had no idea what to do with. I alluded to secret plot threads that I had never actually concluded in my mind.

What to do about it:

Suck it up. If book one is set in stone, there’s not much you can do about it. Spend days, weeks even, thinking through the problems you’ve created for yourself and find solutions. You have to. Make a list of all the possible solutions or options to solve that one problem. Then choose the best one. I found that, as long as I was praying over my work…somehow they worked themselves out. 🙂

2. Being under sudden deadlines. (Tweet this)

There’s no easy way to go about it. You have to buckle down and just write…more often. It’s easy for people to say, “Just cut non-essentials from your schedule!” (Um…have they seen my schedule? Full-time job here, people!) or “Just get up earlier!” (Sleep is essential! Can’t. Write. Without. Sleep.) or “Cut your Faebook time.” (But…This is the time for marketing and social media!)

What to do about it:
Writing the SequelI don’t have a clear-cut answer. What did I do?

I rearranged my work schedule. Thankfully, I have that luxury because I work at home so I can set my own schedule. Sometimes I had to turn Saturdays into work days. I learned how to write more. No, it wasn’t as good quality, but at least I got the skeleton of the story out.

Also…have a support team!

I have several writing friends, a couple of young readers, and some editors on my team. They not only pep-talk me through my phases of “This-novel-is-nothing-but-sludge!” but they also do these magical things called word wars with me. A word war can be done on chat – FB chat, Google plus chat. Even text! Here’s what it looks like:

  • Katie Grace: Shall we write from :00 to :15?
  • Me: YES!
  • Katie Grace: GO!
  • [15 minutes later]
  • Katie Grace: STOP! I got 332 words. [shares her awesome last line]
  • Me: I got…25. [Shares last line.]

We do this…all day if it’s a serious writing day. And you’ll be amazed at how quickly those 25 words add up. 😉 Not to mention, it’s fun sharing your last line. There is also a Facebook group that does something like this. I never would have finished the draft of my third book without word wars.

3. Getting sick of your book.

It’s like senioritis when you’re in school. You’re ready to be a senior. And when you’re a senior, you’re ready to graduate. Sometimes we just hate our books. It’s part of the process. And that’s okay. (Tweet this) The hard part is when we let ourselves just ditch it. (Especially when publishers are waiting for it.)

What to do about it:

If you have the time, then take time away! Go read books. Do the things that inspire you — binge-watch the Star Wars movies (originals, of course), get your favorite chai/tea/cofee/hot cocoa. Listen to your playlist. Read your favorite books. It’s okay to rely on other people’s creativity to stimulate your own.

4. Feeling like you can’t write. Ever. Again.

I feel this way 90% of the time when writing books. And I’m not alone. I have a feeling this will never change. It’s even scarier when people really like your first book, because now you know they have expectations for you. And if you’re a people-pleaser, the word “expectations” is like a guillotine sentence.

What to do about it:

Go back and read your first book. Seriously. You’ll be surprised at how well you write. [grin] Read your positive reviews. Re-read encouraging e-mails from friends, readers, etc. Call your pep-talk team!

It’s not easy to write a book, friend. It’s even harder to write a second one because you’ve learned so much since when you started your first! This is a calling and it’s your duty to persevere until God tells you to stop. The best possible course of action you can take when encountering these writing struggles is to pray. Commit it to God and He’ll give you the story you need to write.


What are some struggles you’ve seen in your writing?

What sequels have you read that were done well?


A-Time-to-Speak-Nadine-BrandesRemember, friends, A Time to Speak releases on October 16th! You can still sign up for your free swag, or enter the giant blog hop giveaway, or attend the Facebook party!



About Nadine Brandes

Nadine Brandes is an adventurer, fusing authentic faith with bold imagination. She never received her Hogwarts letter, but rest assured she’s no Muggle (and would have been in Ravenclaw House, thank you very much.) This Harry Potter super-nerd has been known to eat an entire package of Oreos (family size) by herself, and watches Fiddler on the Roof at least once a year. She writes about brave living, finding purpose, and other worlds soaked in imagination. Her dystopian trilogy (The Out of Time Series) challenged her to pursue shalom, which is now her favorite word (followed closely by bumbershoot.) When Nadine’s not taste-testing a new chai or editing fantasy novels, she and her knight-in-shining armor (nickname: “hubby”) are out pursuing adventures.
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  1. Well, whatever you did worked because A Time to Speak is even better than the first. Truly.

    I’ve done word wars before but never the last sentence sharing. Love the idea.

    Reading/listening to The Raven Cycle currently. I’m on book three and I love this series and this author. Maggie Stiefvater. Her writing is rich chocolate. It’s secular and the story deals with psychics and has language (which works with her characters), but it’s still soooooo good.

    • Aww, thank you Lisa! At least with A Time to Speak I knew everything that needed to happen. Book 3 — A Time to Be Sneaky — isn’t quite the same story. 😉 We’ll see how THAT goes.

      Yes! Maggie Stiefvater has quite the way with words! Haven’t read The Raven Cycle, though.

  2. A Time to Speak is possibly even better than A Time to Die. If you still think that the book is terrible, put those thoughts behind you. IT. IS. AWESOME.

    Word wars! Those help me a ton as well. I have loved warring with you. 🙂

    I definitely have senioritis for my book. I am going on a year and a half of working on it and I still have more editing. *Sigh* I just want it to be done. Not to mention it is terrible.

    Good luck editing Book 3! It is going to be amazing! Both books have inspired me to become closer to God, bring shalom to the world, and be a better writer! Thank you so much for that!

    Keep inspiring readers!

    • You’re so sweet, Alea. 🙂 Always an encouragement.
      Now that A Time to Speak is finished, I see God’s hand in prepping it and I’m so pleased with how it turned out. I know He’ll use it the way He needs to!

      Now, I get to point my finger at you. I read a sample of your writing, you know, and I don’t think anything you’ve written will be terrible. Stay passionate. Stay encouraged. And take a break when you need it. 😉

      Keep being a bringer of shalom, you awesome warrior, you! 😀

  3. I’m going through all of this, and I had the drafts of books 2 and 3 written BEFORE I even started the process of publishing book 1. While it was nice to be able to add into book 1 all the things that I changed by the time I got to book 3, I also changed things while editing book 1 that now have to be added to the drafts of 2 and 3. It’s like a crazy cycle that doesn’t exactly have an end point.

    Glad you stuck with writing A Time to Speak. I’ll admit, I like it even better than A Time to Die, and it sounds like I’m not alone in that!

    • Ugh! The Circle of Writing! 😛 It’s deadly, confusing, and I don’t think there’s any way to win! LOL.

      I’m SO glad you liked ATtS more than ATtD. That is what I endlessly prayed for. 🙂

  4. This comes at the perfect time Nadine. Thanks for writing this. I needed it as I am currently writing my sequel. It’s fun, but yes, somehow it does seem even more daunting then the first.

    • Keep at it, Deanna! No matter what, keep remembering what God has called you to, and entrust the writing (and doubts and fears and I-want-to-throw-this-manuscript-out-the-window urges) to Him.

  5. I think I will feel more like that with book three. Partly because I had already rewritten the sequel five years before Secrets Kept was released. And now having to make sure I’ve tied up all the loose ends, plot threads, etc into a nice satisfying ending. I do have a very rough draft of book three, but I have yet to rewrite it like I did with the first two books.

    I am contemplating on writing all three books of the next trilogy before thinking about publishing. Maybe.

    For the most part, I think the majority of sequels were better than the first. I’m a big fan of Anne Elisabeth Stengl’s Tales of Goldstone Wood, and each book keeps getting better!

    There are so many others I’d love to share here, but time is escaping me.

    • Yeah, I’m finding that the last book in a series is hard. Harder than hard. You and I can pep-talk each other! 😛
      And your sequel came out FANTASTICALLY! I’m one of the lucky few who’s gotten to read it early. Mwahaha. And I love it even more than the fantastic first one!

      I’ve heard that about Anne’s books.

  6. A Time to Speak was lovely! I liked it even better than A Time to Die, and that is saying a lot. My sister can testify to the fact that I’m always talking about it. 😛

    It sounds like it was really hard to write ATtS. Was it about the same with the third book, or easier? Or… harder?

    • Aww, thanks Faith!! 😀 That /is/ saying a lot, since I know how much you loved ATtD.

      The third book is proving the hardest of the series. Trying to tie up knots and make sure that everything builds to the right message. Whenever I get discouraged, though, I just pray…a lot. I’m pretty sure God’s sick of my voice. LOL

  7. Thank you for sharing this advice. For me, I definitely struggle with not writing as fast as I’d like and letting perfectionism take over, but I guess in the future if I were to be on a deadline, I’m going to need to learn not to line edit! Right now I’m outlining a series, and YES, you really have to think about the second one before you can completely finish the first book. I have so many possible variation ideas for it, and it’s hard finding the version that is going to further the arcs and plot line the best!

    • Yeah, I had to ditch the perfectionist mindset when I got on deadlines. Rather, I had to put it in a closet until editing time. I had to re-train myself to write skeletal first drafts in record time and then become the perfectioninst while EDITING. Still not sure I like it, but at least I meet my deadlines! (Well….give or take — mostly take — a couple months.) [grin]

      I pray that God gives you wisdom and guidance as you write your sequel plot arc!

  8. Oh goodness, YES. It’s so true. Granted, I don’t have the problem of the first being published yet, but it’s still so hard. Because you have to balance how much you “remind” the reader of, you have to keep track of details from the first book, you have to follow through on things you foreshadowed in the first book, etc…

    Actually, right now I’ve got the first draft of my book and sequel done, and my problem was…suddenly the first book was what looked terrible. (And it was. Truly. I learned so much since writing it, and even my voice had changed so much.) So I’m working on rewriting the first one. My main trouble so far has been worldbuilding. It doesn’t come naturally to me, so I had a lot to work on. 🙂

    Thanks for sharing!

    • Ugh, yes! The “reminding reader” struggle! Can’t we just go back to how J. K. Rowling did it and slip a couple paragraphs of info dump in there? 😉

      I am praying for you as you tackle worldbuilding! At least you can recognize what your weakness is. That will really help you tackle it that much more. Have you read Jill Williamson’s book: “Storyworld First”? I haven’t yet, but she’s brilliant so I have a feeling it’d be a fantastic add to your library if you struggle with worldbuilding.

      • Yep, I have read it, and it was good! It gave me helpful questions and techniques to start with. I should go back through my notes from that, actually. Thanks for the reminder. 🙂

  9. I love this post. And I want to have a word war now! Thank you for sharing!

  10. SO needed this. Literally just starting Chapter One of book two in my YA/MG trilogy. Appreciate your insight and advice for those who just started book 2 or are writing a series. And I’m so excited to read your books soon. 🙂

I love hearing from you!