Your Sequel’s First Chapter

This is the first of hopefully many blog posts. Everyone says authors need blogs. And I like using blogging as a writing exercise and brainstorming pad. If you have any topics you’d like me to blabber on about, hit me up in the comments. I plan on doing “side writing” stuff here. Character studies, research, et cetera. But I also want to talk about the process, and the way I approach writing. 

You’ve written a book. (When I say this, I mean, “I’ve written a book.” Because maybe you have written a book, and maybe you haven’t. But if you haven’t, can you at least pretend you have for the purpose of this blog post? Call it a “thought exercise.”)

It’s exciting, right? You’re emailing around to book bloggers, begging for reviews, and otherwise trying to put a dollar value on your blood, sweat, and tears. (I’m not actually making it sound exciting, am I?) But really, the thing you want to be doing is writing. You already have ideas for where you could take the next story. You have things you want to be doing with the characters, things you didn’t think to do in the current book, or different angles you want to explore.

In fact, you’ve probably spent days, weeks, or even months thinking about how you want the next book to start.

So you write. You toss down a beautiful introduction. You hammer it out in a matter of hours. It’s clean. It’s tight. It’s fun. It’s exactly what you expected it’d be.

But it’s not the first chapter of your sequel. It may be a chapter of your sequel. But it’s probably not the first.

The fact is, you’re writing this new chapter fresh off the high of your previous book. You’re so intimately familiar with your characters and your world that daily and nightly, it flows like a proverbial harpoon. So take the advice given. Stop for a moment. Collaborate. Find someone who hasn’t read your work before, and have them read that chapter. Listen. They’ll more than likely tell you that there’s something in that bit which doesn’t really make sense. This chapter, this little bit of love spew, it’s for someone already in love with what you’re doing. And while you likely have some alpha fans who digest every little word of every little thing you do, not every reader falls into that camp. A lot of people read sequels without ever having read the original work. A lot of readers return to a series after years of being away.

So, when doing this, consider kicking it back a bit. You’ve written that thing, it’s a love letter to your world and the characters within. But it’s not a solid introduction. It requires a certain amount of familiarity and intimacy to have the desired impact.

Specifically in this case, I wrote a solid chapter. It was a dream sequence, which introduces its own complications. But it assumed the readers already knew the dynamic between Blood Flow protagonists Dylan and Claire. It also requires understanding of one major plot element in that book. With that awareness, it works well. It says a lot. It brings some new concepts to the table. But without that awareness, it feels rushed. The reader has to try to understand and piece together very specific plot elements in an attempt to contextualize these events. So what feels like a fast-paced scene driving the reader into a new plot actually ends up being a confused scramble. But now, it’s chapter three. The two chapters I’ve added before it are some of the best, and really deliver on the characters and themes I want to emphasize in San Jenaro.

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