Monday, September 12, 2011

Writing the Second Book, Guest Alex J. Cavanaugh speaks

First, I'd like to thank those who tuned in to show your love for me Saturday during my live chat with YA Book Babes! If you missed it, it's not too late!

Listen to internet radio with yabookbabes on Blog Talk Radio

Okay, now for what you've been waiting for!

Today the super ninja blogger, Alex J. Cavanaugh,  honors my blog with his presence.  Like Alex, I had only planned on one book, but I feel that since we are in the age of sequels, it would only make sense to go on!

I've been delving in the ventures of sequel writing and have found it daunting on so many levels, so I turned to Alex and asked him for his professional Alex advice:

Elizabeth asked if I could provide some tips on writing the second book in a series.

Now, I’ve seen a ton of advice online and some really great posts on the subject. So, rather than offer tips, I’ll just describe how I came up with the sequel to CassaStar. Maybe I’ll give you some ideas to pursue. Or at least give you hope!

Writing CassaStar was easy. Well, maybe not easy. My original concept sucked and I had to rewrite the story from scratch. I still knew where I wanted to go with it though, and the characters were very clear in my head. The story just flowed. I polished it, the manuscript was accepted, and book released. I was done!

And then a scary thing happened - readers began to ask about a sequel. When I began this journey, I only envisioned one book. That’s all I thought I had in me. I believe my exact thoughts were “Oh, crap!”

All right, where do I begin?

The first book ended with Byron about to embark on a new career and journey. I decided to continue with that idea only jump ahead twenty years. Byron would’ve grown and changed during that time. This gave me a fresh start with the character.

I recently read a post on themes and realized that influenced my direction as well. The first book’s theme was friendship and trust. The next one needed to echo that theme.

Finally, I thought about the question posed by almost every fan - why were there no women in the book? I did have a reason, so not only was an explanation in order, but the second book needed a female character. I then created a strong female lead opposite Byron.

From there, the story idea for CassaFire sparked. (Oh hey, bad pun!) The outline went through many changes before I started writing, but once I was several pages into the story, it flowed. Just like the first book!

So, if this were an actual post offering tips:
- Who do you want your characters to be when the story begins?
- What theme do you want to follow?
- What do you readers want?

Does that spark any ideas? And if so, please share, because now I have to come up with a third book!

Thank you Alex, it is refreshing to hear how other authors go about in their writerly adventures. And I find those 3 questions so thought-provoking; it's a fantastic start to get me going. You're one fabulous friend!

So, how do you go about writing sequels? What are your pitfalls? Any advise for those who have the sequel blues?


  1. Great point about keeping with the theme, Alex, and I love the questions you've suggested we ponder. Thanks for sharing your experience with us.

  2. I love the idea of echoing the theme of the first book while doing some new and refreshing.

  3. Great points to consider, Alex - especially if you've had feedback from readers. Carrying on a theme is excellent advice for continuity.

  4. Great tips! Am working on book one of my WIP, but already have ideas for books two and three. This is great food for thought. Thanks, Elizabeth and Alex!

  5. Sequels and subsequent books are hard because you want them to be their own story and stand on their own two feet but at the same time, nothing is worse than bashing the reader over the head with backstory every other page. It takes a lot of thought and careful consideration to achieve. I'm sure you'll do great Alex! Great post!

  6. Hello there gorgeous Elizabeth and Capn Alex!! As I'm not even done with my first ms, I have no idea about seconds, let alone thirds! But I think Cap'n Alex's tips are very helpful!!Yay! Take care

  7. Great suggestions for sequels! A book without women? Intriguing. I must read it. :)

  8. Thanks, everyone!

    Liz, really - no women in the first book!

  9. You have your whole life to write your first book, a year if you're lucky to write your second.

  10. I've already written the sequel to one of my books. The plot and characters flowed and I didn't want to lose any of the ideas from my Muse. The books are designed to be a series so I already had the overall arc planned.

    I like the idea of jumping ahead several years. I'll have to do that with one of my books down the road, if I can get the first one published (fingers crossed) as it will center around a child once grown.

    CassaStar is on my TBR pile, but must get to it soon. No women...hmmm. Very interesting :).

  11. I'm actually writing (well, have started one and one more WIP's in the planning stages) 2 sequels to my two pub'd novels, so this is great stuff to hear from another respected author. Thanks, man. :)

  12. My series had a theme, although I had no problems coming up with ideas. I just had to know when to stop.

  13. I've done a trilogy, but that was planned to continue from the beginning, so it's a different animal. I am just now polishing a second in a series, and there are huge challenges, but I think of a different sort than what you mention. You see... in a mystery series, readers won't necessarily read the books in order--the main plot isn't dependent on the last one... but at the same time, you want growth and progress in some overall trajectories so people who ARE continuing get a little extra umph. The hardest thing for me is balancing what to RESHARE and what to leave out--my standalone mysteries are 3 months apart... so balancing between those 'have and haven't read the first... tough stuff. I'm getting there, though.

  14. Hi, Alex! Whoa, you start your day off early! You're welcome. I'm happy to show you off here, we all need to hear how other writers do sticky stuff! :)

    Karen, that's great! You're welcome, I'm glad you could walk away with something today.

    Query Girl, oh, tell me about it! Writing sequels should be artfully done.

    Jennifer, aw, shucks! Thank you! :D I wish you the best whenever you decide to write sequels!

    Liz, tell me about it...

    Charles, oooh! I <3 your comment. I hope you don't mind if I quote you on Facebook--you're brilliant!

    Isis, great for you! When I wrote my first book, I didn't have any sequels in mind. But I know better now... (Yikes! But I have written 8 stand-alone books over the years before this sequel craze!)

    Diane, good for you! It must be nice. <3

  15. Hart, I can see the challenge in that. It sounds like you're skilled and creative enough to work through this--I'm rooting for you!

  16. Charles, exactly!

    Isis, hope you enjoy it! And really, no women.

    Thanks, Marvin. Respected - that made me chuckle.

    Hart, I know you can do it!

  17. That's pretty good, Alex ... I was too scared (lazy) to follow your tips and my books are not related in any way.

  18. Fantastic post, Alex! I've never written a sequel, so it was interesting to see your thought process.

  19. It's awesome that your fans played such a big role in getting you not only to write your sequel, but also some say in how you shaped it.

    Here's how I deal with the sequel issue---people ask me if there will be one, and I say no. Haha.

  20. I try to think of an arc ahead of time, if planning a series. That doesn't always work. I'm working on a sequel now and sort of floundering about with it. Usually, I just start writing. Eventually, the ideas start flowing.

  21. Christopher, that's funny!

    Nicki, my fans didn't give me much choice.

    Mary, I might need to flounder a bit for the third book.

  22. Great post! I've got ideas for further books in a project, but have only planned them. I think the main thing is making sure it moves the story on. Even in published sequels I read, I always want to see the characters evolve from what they discovered in the first book.

  23. I almost always start a book with sequels in mind so I don't have trouble starting them. I have more trouble with where to end so the reader is satisfied but still can't wait to read the next one.

  24. Christopher, I'm curious to how you accomplished the feat of sequel writing feeling intimidated and overwhelmed? I know I did.

    Nicki--LOL! My book isn't out yet, but I've had my first official reader who feels jipped if it's just stand alone! I started writing one several weeks ago before she asked. ;)

    Mary, that's great! I feel as if I forcefed the sequel, but we've go to make it work one way or another!

    Lindsay, I believe readers want sequels and it's great for us writers to provide them!

    Susan, that's fantastic! :D

  25. Alex's process is interesting and inspiring. A sequel? Trilogy? I'm just in awe.

  26. I'm so excited to meet this new female lead!

  27. I think writing a second part is more difficult than writing the first, especially if the first was very good. Readers create their own expectations from the perspective of the first and they may feel very disappointed or just the opposite. In Spain there is a proverb that says sequels were never good. But that's not true, as we have many examples in literature and film, where the second, third, ... consequences are overcome and enlarging the work.

  28. keeping the theme in mind is definitely important to me.

  29. Linday, exactly!

    Susan, I just never planned a sequel. Really didn't plan for two sequels...

    Thanks, Robyn and Ciara!

    Leovi, in other words, no pressure!

  30. Rawk, tell me about it! I think it's masterful to be able to reach beyond the first!

    Leovi, I believe it creates lots of pressure as apposed to what Alex said there! Lol... Ugh...

    Hi, Alex! I should have you over more often. I quite like it. :D

  31. Enjoyed your take on the second book in a sequel, Alex. Thanks, Elizabeth, for asking Alex for his expert advice.


  32. Mary, I really needed his advice because I've been stuck in a rut in the land of sequels. *sigh* Thank you for dropping by and leaving a comment! :)

  33. Hi, Elizabeth,

    It's so nice to visit you after such a long time. As you can understand time slips away so quickly before we realize how much we've missed from our blogger friends' lives and adventures.

    This is a wonderful subject especially since so many authors are writing sequels. My first novel was intended to be the first in a series. I started the second book, and then went off into another book screaming at me to be written and soon I will have to write to sequel.

    Alex's advice is fantastic. I would have to agree. Once I get started the book seems to flow with litter effort. I did do more planning for the sequel. There must be an easy flow from the first to the second so the author should have backstory from the first novel laced throughout the sequel.

    If you can write it as a stand alone novel. Keep it strong and focused. Even if by chance the reader should pick up the second before the first, it should be a complete and strong story. Then the reader could always jump back to the first.

    I believe that is the key. Look how Rowling weaved backstory from the previous books with each new edition. Yet, you still can read any book and enjoy it as a stand alone.

    I hope this helps your readers.

    I'm glad you still have the green type... it's so soothing.

  34. A very good process Alex. I'm sure it will be a success, especially with the addition of a strong female.

    Thanks for hosting this Elizabeth :)


  35. I love this story of your journey to the sequel, Alex. I can only imagine your trepidation at the thought of fans wanting more. Soooo looking forward to CassaFire.

  36. Michael, you'd make a fantastic writing coach! I appreciate your TLC you showed my readers. Everything you said is so true. Thank you!

    Donna, you're welcome! Alex did great. :D

    Lynda--oh, yes; the weight of fans' expectations and mine isn't even out yet!

  37. Michael, hopefully I've made the sequel stand well on its own.

    Lynda, it did surprise me!

    Thanks again, Elizabeth.

  38. Great tips Alex and thank you for sharing! :)

  39. Wow. I didn't realize the plot jumped ahead 20 years! That's a lot, but it's also pretty awesome. I bet that really opened up some new avenues for characterization.

  40. Hello Elizabeth, nice to meet you, you have a wonderful blog. And Alex is awesome. I am not an author but Alex reminded me about knowing what your readers want. That is tough but still it must be a consideration. (I am thinking about my blogposts). Thank you.

  41. Hi Elizabeth, thanks for having Alex as a guest blogger today.

    Hi Alex, yes... that does spark some ideas, but I'm still not ready to write that sequel to Sleeping with Skeletons. I've got to finish Cliff House first... then I've got three other manuscripts just waiting in the wings, and my characters are starting to throw things at me.

  42. Hi Elizabeth, enjoyed the interview with Alex. I found him a fascinating writer. CassaFire sound interesting, just like the first book Cassa Star.

  43. Matthew, it did! Which is why I'm considering jumping ahead another twenty years for the final book.

    Oceangirl, it works for blogging as well.

    Doralynn, have them throw ideas at me!

    Rachna, thank you!

  44. thx alex and elizabeth!

    my problem deals with adapting my screenplay, 200+ pages, into novel form.

    a few who read the screenplay asked if i'd adapted it from my novel?

    i said 'no'.

    this was years ago, but the reverse idea has now perked forward, from the distant past, hence my challenge....

  45. guess this belongs more in alex's 'insecure writers' group, since it's not a sequel to anything... at least for now! lol

  46. A day late as always. But this is a fantastic post. As an author who is penning a direct sequel right now, I know what you mean about themes and how a character changes. Right now my MC has been balking at the changes going on her life as a result of the first story. It's one thing to be allowed an HEA, it's quite another to maintain it.

  47. Going ahead 20 years is an intriguing device. That works better in the sci-fi world than in contemporary fiction. Family sagas have always been interesting reads, I think, because they begin in an earlier time and follow a family through to the present. They can be broken up into several books, or new books can be written about different members of the family. My new book, Jungle Jeopardy, is a sequel to Secrets by the Sea. Now I'm thinking about writing the story of Dana's sister who played an important role in both those books. The possibilities are endless.
    Maybe you have a side character who is worthy of a book, Alex. Nora Roberts has written numerous books that focus on brothers from her previous books.

    Love the cover of your new book!

    Thanks, Elizabeth, for having Alex as your guest!


  48. Mathew, I can imagine how much juice time can collect!

    Oceangirl, thank you! Yes, writers have to think what interests the readers. It's a fine balancing act of many elements. :)

    Doralynn, I've had that happen--my characers throwing things at me. I actually pushed them aside with all my might and guess what? They vanished! :( I have to set up a search part now! ;)

    Rachna, thank you! <3

    Wolf, how talented! I can't wait to see it published. :) Post about it for Alex's group come October!

    Melissa, lol! I'm going through the exact same thing! My heroine has changed as well and is fighting for her "innocence" as I type here in this box. I've had to put her away for a while to let it stew some more. Actually, I'm chicken to write more because I need more faith in myself to write sequels!

  49. Monti, oh, I love how you've set up your story arc! I'm planning on writing a trilogy for Darkspell, and companion books for every coven member in my novel along with a graphic novel. This will keep me very busy for a long time...

  50. LaughingWolf, you have your post for next month now!

    Melissa, twenty years made a big difference for Byron. Still don't know what a HEA is though!

    Monti, I do introduce a new main character and I'm toying with another one for the third and final book.

  51. Elizabeth, I think we're going through something very similar.:) I had been letting my MC and her sequel stew for bit because I ran out of patience and confidence. But, I've brought her back out and it's been so far so good.

    I know you'll get there, too. Sometimes letting things simmer on the back burner is a good thing for the creative juices. :)

  52. I see Alex's Amazon Kindle sales ranking indicates lots of sales. Good job.

    When you have a passion for your characters, a sequel is easy.

  53. Hey, I love [bad] puns!

    I'm writing a sequel right now, too. Like you, Alex, I had no idea there would be one when I started the first. MC had other ideas.

  54. Thanks for these wonderful tips Alex... great stuff to keep in mind. I hope to start the sequel for my novel soon.. I'm aching to start, but I need to finish the first one! :)

  55. Melissa, thank you! That's comforting to know. It's funny to think that I'm broken and it won't come back, but realize it's temporary...

    Walter, that's so true! I'll have to remember that...

    Nut, don't you hate when that happens?

  56. I love that you were so responsive to readers and took their thoughts into account for the second book! Thanks for these tips for sequels.

  57. Melissa, I hope that works for third books as well!

    Walter, really? I never look!

    Tara, let's hear it for bad puns!

    Nut, one at a time...

    Elizabeth, in reality, I had no idea what to write, so I needed their input!

    Elizabeth, thank you again so very much. This has been awesome!

  58. Alex, I'm scared right now and I can't quite pin it down to what but to my writing. I'm thinking it's just worries and the many things I have going on in my list as an author--my stomach is turning. :P

    oh, and you're very welcome! :)

  59. Thanks for sharing with us, Elizabeth. Alex, good luck for the future.

  60. Hi Alex, some of the thoughts I can use for the second book in the A to Z stories series :)

    Elizabeth, thanks for hosting Alex, and sorry I'm a bit late to the party. Both of you rock, for taking the time to share your wisdom and your space :D


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