*I wrote this post late at night without any proofreading whatsoever.
You guys needed to know that. In case of, you know. Grammatical wretchedness.
That was all. Continue.
So today a friend and I were walking, discussing whether we liked the idea of the new Finding Dory film that Pixar announced. She has positive feelings about it. I said I was very, very hesitant because I was afraid they might ruin it. And then we got talking about how hard sequels are, how even when the film industry is trying really really hard to make an excellent sequel, there’s still a chance it won’t work. And then we got talking about book sequels and how those are sometimes almost even worse.
Especially when you liked the first book.
Especially when you LOVED the first book!
Laini Taylor did this post (semi-)recently about how lots of people wait until a series is finished before they start reading, and how she couldn’t understand it, and I felt a little bad, because I am Definitely One Of Those People.
I wait to read series as a rule. And I don’t think this is as bad as it sounds. It doesn’t mean I’m giving up on the author or not supporting them. What does suck is that my waiting three months, or until the end of the entire series, can injure that series while it’s in progress.
That is tough.
I try to be an optimist, guys I really do. But as someone who reads a ton of YA and as someone who also writes novels, I have extremely high standards when it comes to my books. So it takes a lot for me to love a book. Like really love it. And if I’m only “meh” about it, I know right away I probably won’t enjoy the sequel. That’s just how it is.
But if I LOVED the book, or if I quite enjoy it, then I have hopes for the sequel(s). I sort of cross my fingers and shut my eyes and maybe peek at the author with a mix of hope and trepidation.
Then I wait for their book to come out.
Then I wait for the reviews.
Then I read the reviews.
From the reviews and the collective census of other readers, I can tell with a huge level of accuracy whether I will like the sequel or not. (I know this because I used to read reviews and then read the book. And nope. It was pretty accurate.)
There have been times, like with Daughter of Smoke & Bone for example, or with the Shiver trilogy, that I trusted the author enough to read their sequels right away. But most of the time I wait. Because sequels are hard to write, and awkward in terms of where they land in the story arc of a series, and just, UGH. Most of the time I don’t want to know. I don’t want the maybe-okay or oh-dear-why? sequel to ruin the series for me. I would prefer to wait.
Did I mention that sequels are hard?
Thing is, I have a huge amount of respect for writers working on a series. The first book is such a different beast. It’s a shiny new idea. It can go anywhere you want. No only do sequels land straight in the middle of sophomore slump–the time when authors suddenly have pressures and struggles they never faced before, when they were unpublished and relatively free–sequels also have about a zillion requirements. There is PRESSURE. There is this intense clash of wants and needs–pleasing the fans, pleasing the publishers, pleasing yourself, making it enough like book 1 so everyone enjoys their favorite bits, making it different enough so it’s not a rehash, making it unique enough so it’s not all filler, developing all these characters whom everyone cares about and suddenly you have twelve people you have to fiddle with instead of three, figuring out how to make this romance interesting after happily-ever-after, figuring out how to stay true to these characters and the story and yourself and yet figure out ways to make their lives fall apart so you have actual PLOT and where is this all going? What will happen in book 3? How does this all tie together? There have to be implications and hint-dropping and surprises and in the end it has to be a story, a unique, crazy awesome story, and all that has to be as good or better than book one.
You guys. This is hard. Hard. HARD. I have never written a sequel, although I daydreamed enough about a MIRRORPASS sequel that I know mostly what I would write if a got the chance. Which actually is how I knew it was hard. Almost halfway through MP I started thinking of the sequel. (This is how we writer’s work. It’s insane. Plots just explode and spiral out into eternity.) And as I finished MP, I got a bit worried, to be honest, because my sequel ideas sucked.
There were all these freakin requirements.
- I knew, to be a good sequel, characters needed to spend time on both the worlds.
- I had to avoid conspiracy theory/dystopian government/government cover ups.
- I should probably solve the Big Unsolved Mystery I’d hinted at all through MP, which would send everyone out in deepspace.
- I needed to explore the relationship between my MC, Aria, and her brother whom she rescued by the end of MP.
- I needed to show Aria developing as a character and all the fallout from her physical and emotional injuries in MP.
- But I didn’t want a post-traumatic-stress-disorder kind of story. It needed to be positive, and she needed to be even more proactive than ever.
- It couldn’t be messy. All had to make sense.
So essentially, I needed to get Aria to leave her home world that she just got back to, and go to Earth again for some reason that had nothing to do with government conspiracies, and also somehow go into deepspace at the same time and solve the Big Unsolved Mystery that had to somehow relate to why she was on Earth, aaaaaall while in rehab for her physical injuries and while diving deep into the relationship with this brother she barely knows.
Oh. I also maybe wanted romance in there. Because yeah. It’s what I wanted.
Do you know how long it took me to come up with a sequel idea that worked, and that I also liked, and that I actually felt like writing?
Published authors writing on contract do not have three years to think about their sequel. They have maybe six months. Probably less than that.
And I think this, more than any other reason besides the general pressure of fans/publishers/expectations, is why so many sequels struggle so hard.
Writers have to dig to find the story. You take all this input, including your own doubts and such, and you have to worry and kvetch over it and sort through until you find the important bits worth considering. And then you have to throw the rest out and just write. Write what you want regardless of what you ought to do. Write with the door closed, as Stephen King (it was him, right?) said.
Write write write write write.
Then you can take a deep breath, show it to the important people, and ask them to help you turn the thing you had to write into something that will meet the most important of the important requirements.
And this. Takes. Time.
Which is why, when I see a sequel or third has been pushed back another year–or two–I don’t react with wailing. I actually breathe this sigh of relief. I’m like oh, thank goodness, they’re taking some time with this one. I fervently hope it will do them and the story good.
Because even though I can be very critical, it’s not because I doubt the author or the book; it’s because I want so desperately for it to turn out well. The friend at the beginning of this story told me once that every critic is secretly a romantic. Meaning that critics become critics because they were people who hoped the hardest, and therefore disappointed the worst, but who are still in that deep secret place hoping anyway.
I love it when a sequel turns out good. I love it when authors take their time (so long as they don’t abandon it altogether. In which case, AHEM. Trust = shattered.)
This is why I can wait patiently for The Host sequel (she is writing it. SHE SAID SO RECENTLY. THERE IS AN OUTLINE AND THINGS.) And the Robin McKinley Pegasus sequels. (Pegasus, cliff ending and all, is one of my favorite books ever. I would wait eternity for this sequel.) (If I’m being honest, I wrote this entire post because I was thinking about the Pegaus sequel. Le sigh.) And why, when I saw just today that the Daughter of Smoke & Bone #3 just got bumped back to Spring 2014, I was totally okay.
I want these books to turn out good. I am excited and hopeful. I want to authors to do what they need to make it happen to make themselves happy, because if they are happy, odds are I will be too.
I AM ROOTING FOR YOU GUYS. I support sequels. And trilogies. And series.
Even if it means waiting a while first.
Truly and always,
P.S. I’m too busy to be blogging and yet I keep right on blogging! This is what happens when I can’t write the current work in progress. STUFF JUST COMES OUT. Gah.