But first a note from me...
I don't blog. I don't tweet. I barely check Facebook. But I decided to start a regular column on my Website, featuring blogs by other fantasy authors. I'm hoping to prod myself into doing these monthly. Or at least more than once a year! We'll see.
For my inaugural blog, I invited fellow DAW author Joshua Palmatier (AKA Benjamin Tate) to be my guest. As J.P., he wrote the well-received Throne of Amenkor trilogy: The Skewed Throne, The Cracked Throne, and The Vacant Throne. (He was also one of the editors on the anthologies you'll find under Short Fiction.) Alter ego Benjamin Tate has written Well of Sorrows and the recently released Leaves of Flame.
Since I'm in the throes of final edits for Spellcrossed, I asked Josh to share his insights about the challenges of writing a sequel.
Here's what he has to say:
Thanks, Barbara, for having me guest blog today. May both of our sequels find gigantic audiences. *grin*
The second novel in a series is always the toughest because it has to be a bridge between what's happened in the first book and what comes next. It should have its own internal plot, but in the end, it's still a set-up for book three. The typical problem with the second book is that you have to get across what's already happened in book one as a refresher to the reader, especially if the sequel is coming out a good year or more later. You don't want it to sound like an info-dump, and you certainly don't want to do a "synopsis" kind of reminder at the beginning of the book.
In Leaves of Flame I have something more significant to cover. There's a time-jump between Well of Sorrows and the sequel -- a time jump of over a hundred years. The world is going to change significantly in that amount of time. So not only do I need to remind readers of what happened in the first book, I also need to explain how the world has changed. And again, I don't want to do an info-dump disguised as a history lesson.
Basically, I treat the sequel as a book of its own. Sure, I need to get across some of the past events, but I don't try to do that until some key piece of information necessary for the plot comes up. That might happen on page 1, or it might not happen until page 100. The key is not to deal with it until you need to. And then, you work the necessary information into the scene as dialogue or as part of one of the character's thoughts.
The same goes for information about the time jump and the world. The characters aren't generally going to think about how things have changed, because they've lived through those changes. So bring up the changes indirectly. Have the characters living their lives, doing whatever they would normally be doing, and bring up the differences as part of their activities.
For example, if you have a character entering a city that he lived in once before, but not for many years, then of course you can have him pause at the top of a hill, see the city from afar, and think, "Wow, things have changed. That cathedral tower wasn't there before. And what happened to the grist mill where I killed Biff?"
But when characters are still living in the same city, they aren't going to think those kinds of thoughts. You have to work the details into their everyday lives. Take something like, "Seann entered the market place in the shadow of the new cathedral, the tower shading nearly half of the stalls." Seann isn't going to pay any additional attention to the cathedral and its tower than that. But readers should pick up on the clues, and if they've read the previous book, they'll remember the scene where Seann watched someone get hung at the gallows and there wasn't a massive cathedral in the square back then.
So you DON'T have to beat the reader over the head with the details from the past book or the details about how the world has changed over the course of a time jump. Just let the characters live their lives and throw in those details as necessary.
Interested in hearing from another guest author?