So you’ve finished your novel. It’s done! Complete! The end!…or is it? Do you lie awake at night with a deep nagging feeling? Do your characters run off to new adventures in your head? Susan Juby, author of The Woefield Poultry Collective, has written a much anticipate sequel, Republic of Dirt! Woefield Farm is back with Prudence and her motley crew of farm hands and continues their story with multiple unforgettable moments and lovable characters. But she warns authors, some stories are best left alone. Here to offer some insight into the world of sequel writing,
Susan Juby shares her 7 tips for writing sequels and follow ups:
1. The only reason to write a sequel is because you feel that you have unfinished business with the characters and their world.
2. That said, it’s cheating to leave main story lines unfinished in the first book in order to write sequels.*
4. Writers should not cram sequels full of exposition and backstory. If people want to know everything that happened in Book 1, they should read it. I cannot emphasize this enough, especially as my sequel to The Woefield Poultry Collection has just been released. Good sequel writers sprinkle in just enough detail to orient the readers to the world and introduce the characters.***
5. Is the first book beloved/popular/notorious? These things are indicators that you either should or should not write a sequel.
6. Ask yourself the hard questions: did anyone other than your mom suggest you ought to write another one? I didn’t tackle Republic of Dirt: Return to Woefield Farm until a) I heard from a lot of readers and b) my editor said she would be interested in publishing another book about the denizens of Woefield Farm. Well, that’s not strictly true. I started making notes about the further adventures of Prudence, Seth, Earl and Sara as soon as I finished the first book.
7. If you have not just a sequel but an entire series planned, some writers hide that information from prospective publishers, who may be scared off by the commitment a series entails. If the publisher asks about sequels in an acquisitive sort of way, you will be ready with the good news. “Why yes! It just so happens that I have eight books plotted out about Joe Tornado and the Windstorms and two more written. Each is 700 pages long!”
*Major exceptions are some science fiction and fantasy series, which are basically one book chopped into sections in order to spare readers’ backs. Some series writers are not afraid to leave dangling plot lines. Yes, I’m looking at you, Mr. George R. R. Martin (Spoiler Warning)!
**There are many exceptions to this rule. It was reckless of me to include it.
***P. G. Wodehouse was a genius at this. He gave us just enough about his characters, most famously Bertie and Jeeves, to bring the new reader into any of the books at any point in the series. I wish Wodehouse he were still alive so he and George R. R. Martin could be on a panel together. Something tells me that would be the best conversation ever.
Susan Juby is the author of REPUBLIC OF DIRT, a follow-up to The Woefield Poultry Collective, and the Alice MacLeod trilogy. She is guilty of sequels, even though she knows they may lead to series, prequels, companion pieces and other serious conditions.