Thursday, December 17, 2009

To sequel or not to sequel

In prepping my SFR Ghost Planet for submission, I ended up teasing a sequel at the end without actually intending to do it. So that got me thinking, do I want to write a sequel? How do I feel about sequels in general?

I have mixed feelings about them, to be honest. As a reader, I love the opportunity to revisit favorite characters. But when I read a big, fat, satisfying ending, and I know a sequel is coming, I can’t help thinking about how those poor characters are going to get dragged through hell AGAIN. And are the sequels ever as good as the original?

I think it *can* work. If the story is big enough, you can set up a series of happy endings that culminate in the characters coming together forever, so you don’t feel you’re covering the same ground over and over. But that can be tricky – in a romance, you expect to see those characters come together solidly (so to speak) by the end of Book 1.

You can follow different characters in the same world. If readers connected with your original MCs (which is probably why they're reading the sequel), how do they feel when they discover this book is not about them?

I'd love to hear everyone's thoughts about this! Do you like sequels? Why or why not? Which SFR sequels have really worked for you?


  1. Sometimes I sequel and sometimes I don't. I plan no sequel for Outer Planets, it's a complete story in itself and although I leave the characters pondering a big decision at the close, I feel the story is self-contained and doesn't need to be carried into the future.

    But P2PC has a sequel (P2PC2 heh heh) where, yes, I drag those poor characters through hell all over again and bring in some new characters to share the agony. I'm an evil author.

    Draxis always was meant to be a trilogy so sequels are part of the equation. Though I have considered boiling it down to just two books. Is that called a Duelogy?

    At the same time, although these novels are very different stories, they all take place in the same universe. Things that happen in Outer Planets are referred to in Draxis and influence things that happen 1500 years later in P2PC.

  2. I'm not sure I like sequels (or prequels) per se, but I'm a big fan of "companion" novels, that is, books set in the same universe, exploring the different stories of related characters. Nalini Singh, J.R.Ward, Christine Feehan (several times) and SFR series by Alexis Morgan, Deidre Knight, Angela Knight and a host of others have all used this device to excellent advantage. My INTERSTELLAR RESCUE series is planned this way and the wonderful thing is that new characters keep suggesting their own stories along the way. If I could only convince someone to buy the first dang thing, I could go on forever!

  3. I adore sequels. I adore long, long novels and series books too.

    I think it springs from wanting to spend as much time as possible with characters I fall in love with and worlds I have fun in.

    So, for me, in fiction, more is better. LOL.

  4. @AnnaM - Have to admit I love big fat novels. (They aren't much out there anymore, are they?) I will even gobble up long passages where not much is happening if I love the characters enough (Outlander).

  5. My inclination is to say that I'm not fond of books that rely on knowledge of previous books before I start reading - or books that info dump at the start to make sure they cover what happened in the previous book - no matter how skillfully it's done. I prefer stand alones with new characters. But when I thought about it, I can see its not true. I do read a lot of series books!

    I like JR Ward's world where she uses the same people. I like Keri Arthur's series and I've written a 'sort of' series with my supernatural novels- though only the family name - Trueblood- and vamp world swings between the stories. AND I wrote a sequel to a contemporary story - so I don't even write what I preach - ha ha.

    The more I thought about this - the more I realised that I have actually read a lot of series and still pick them up. Especially regency romances. I haven't yet read enough sci fi romance to comment on series of those.

    I think the temptation to move into series is much higher in Sci fi and Fantasy because after creating complex worlds - you're already a long way down the path to another story.

    So - to sequel or not sequel?
    Once I'm hooked on a story or world - I'm in for the duration!

  6. That's so true on the world-building, Flick. I think some writers fall in love with the worlds that create as much as with the characters they bring to life, so wanting to return to that place is only natural.

    @AnnaM I've had several books that I never wanted to end for exactly the reasons you state. I think "I never wanted the story to end" is one of the greatest compliments a writer can get.

    @Sharon That's a good point on page count. How often do we see novels over 500 pages anymore? Around 400 or so seems to be the trend. Like everything else that is impacted by the economy it takes a bigger investment to produce a book exceeding 125,000 words, so it's become much harder to market heftier manuscripts.

  7. @Barbara - I can totally identify. The idea of a series often bugs me, but if I loved the original I will usually read at least one of the others.

    But when I think back to the series books I read as a child (such as the sequels to A Wrinkle in Time), they didn't make nearly the impression on me the original did.

    What I'm finding with Ghost Planet is I have wrenched that story out of the depths of my soul and feel I've given all I have to give. Though with some time off from it I may find myself longing to revisit that world.

    @Laurie - Yeah, exactly. I don't know that an unpubbed author could sell something longer than 400 pages today. There are always exceptions, but I think even Stephenie Meyer's first was about 115K (after editing!).

    @Donna - I think you've hit on what's critical in a series. The author has to continue to feel passionate and inspired by the world and the characters.


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