Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Sequel Conundrum

Like Claire, I'm finding myself backing away from my original NaNo goal this year. I very optimistically said I wanted to complete a rough draft of WALKING IN SHADOW. Did I really expect to have a completed manuscript at the end of it all? No. What I hoped for was a bare bones story where I at least had the main events hammered out, with some fillers needed here and there, etc...

Yeah, I'm not sure that's going to happen.

I'm not altogether ready to say I'm not going to meet the 50K goal--even though I'm at about 1K total so far (talk about optimism!), but I am willing to finally admit that if I don't hit 50K it will not be the end of my world. And it doesn't mean the month will not be productive in other ways. For now, I'm going to keep striving to get words on the page, realizing and giving great credit to the fact that I have A LOT on my plate. No beating myself up, in other words. I have two jobs. I work hard. And I'm trying to do as much promotion as I can for BY THE PALE MOONLIGHT. Add to that the fact that I'm friggin' tired from getting BTPM out there on the market to begin with. From September until now, I've been working non-stop with revisions, etc... Yeah, I'm pretty much worn to the nub at the moment. If I take a day off--or two or three--to help recharge the proverbial batteries, no big.

At any rate, on to the topic of this post. SEQUELS.

I'm wrestling around with a couple of things right now as I dive into WIS full force. One being backstory.

Ah, backstory. I tell you what, if you think backstory is a pain in the arse in a first book...it's even worse with the second in a series. Where do you put it in? How much do you put in? Are you going to annoy the hell out of the people who read the first book if you put too much in? Will you confuse the hell out of new readers who have no clue what happened in the first if you don't provide enough information for them in the second? It's a fine line to walk and I'm finding that the more I ponder the beginning of this book (Nope, haven't written it yet), I'm undecided on how much to throw in.

I have been told by a well-known agent *cough* that my opening to FAKING IT was completely without backstory... that it was the complete opposite of what most authors do in their beginnings. Rather than err on the side of too much, I went the extreme opposite. I think you could say I may have done the same thing with BTPM, though I don't believe it was to the same degree. At any rate, I hate backstory. I don't like to include it -- probably because when I first started writing I threw in every last bit of backstory I possibly could (yes, including the kitchen sink). I was chastised, and dang it, I paid attention. Well. (g)

I have to admit I sort of enjoy books where the author gives "credit" to readers who have followed along with the series up to that point, and use backstory VERY sparingly. And I have to admit that I get a little tired of constant backstory rehashing in long-running series. My goal with WIS will be to walk a very fine line between just enough/no backstory at all. It's what I prefer. Perhaps I'm crazy?

One of my friends suggested I start off book 2 with the ending scene of book 1. *blink* Isn't that cheating?! That's how it feels to me. (g)

What are your preferences with series?

At any rate, I am giving great thought to the opening for WIS. I hope, if I can get something on the page, to share it over in exercises at Compuserve. Here's hoping I can wrangle this nasty backstory stuff. :)


  1. I started my sequel for NaNo last year. While I got the 50k I never completed the ms because I went back to rewriting the first story (which I'm almost done with, yay!) I have almost no backstory from book one in it. I understand why some authors do, and a certain amount may be necessary, but I'm with you. If I've read the series I don't want to be hit on the head with things I already know. And some authors can't even keep the info straight. Yeesh.

  2. As a reader, I have to say I get really irritated when I get smacked over the head with backstory from previous novels in every subsequent story. Of course those events influence those of the current novel -- wouldn't be a series if they didn't -- but it's best done in a naturalistic way, I think. If a character doesn't think about it in the present time, it's probably not relevant to their life at that moment. Besides, it's a good way to make people go back and read the previous stories, ha.

    ...but maybe I'm just bitter. When I was a tiny child I read most of the back catalogue of "The Baby-Sitters Club" and every book had at least one chapter I could have ripped out and thrown away because all it did was describe the characters verbatim. Every. Damn. Book. To this day I can't reread one of those books even for the nostalgia value because it still annoys me...

  3. Yeah, I'm with Claire on the backstory in serial novels. I read a lot of series when I was younger - one such that comes to mind is Nancy Drew. Ugh, reading about her perfect "titian colored hair" and the set-up of her family and friends, in the exact same phrasing...I started to skip the first chapter.

    I don't need a recap of the backstory in every novel. I prefer when the next installment just picks up the story and takes off.

  4. I agree with you and Claire on this: "I have to admit I sort of enjoy books where the author gives "credit" to readers who have followed along with the series up to that point, and use backstory VERY sparingly."
    Remember the pages and pages of rehash in every Babysitter's Club book?
    But sequels are hard. I'm struggling now on my second story because it's not really a sequel at all, it just takes place when and where the first romance ended, but with two secondary characters. But the reason they are where they are is because of all that happened in the first book. Gah!!!
    Writing a new opening now for the November X...

  5. Could you start the sequel with the end of Book 1 but from a different POV? (I say this not having read Book 1 YET.)

    And I agree about not rehashing backstory. It makes sense to bring up little bits and pieces as they fit, but not whole chunks and chapters.

  6. I like it worked it in as subtly as possible, a line here, a line there. Just reminders, not recaps. If it's too complex to do that, then include a synopsis of the previous volume in the front of the book.