There are perks to writing a sequel, and downfalls, too. When I wrote my first novel, the historical romance Wish for the Moon, I knew I wanted to write a sequel. I’d created paranormal elements and rules, a setting (historical Wales), and characters I would like to revisit. With the story being a time travel, I also knew I wanted to use a different time period for any sequels. WFTM was set in the 13th century. I wanted a new couple in the second book, Moonlight Madness, with a hero from the Renaissance.
I researched the new time period and Wales again, and plugged everything into a tidy plot that I sent off to my editor. Shortly after, I received a contract, and I immediately began to write. But soon I wondered what the hell I’d stepped into!
The rules for my time travel device were simple: two soulmates triggered the magic in the right place at the right time. I had a villain, characters with goals and conflicts, and subplots to keep everything moving. But my muse left me when I reached the black moment, a.k.a. the time when all seems lost at the end of the story.
Was my couple doomed?
They were soulmates, so why couldn’t I get this thing wrapped up? I put the book on the shelf and waited and waited. Days, weeks, months, a year passed. Then I reread both books with fresh eyes. By the time I reached the black moment, I wanted the h/h to defeat their obstacles and have their HEA. I was emotionally invested again!
So what went wrong the first time?
I think it was loss of suspense in the plotting process. Usually, I’m a pantser. I plot by the seat of my pants and only have a general idea of what’s going to happen. Having written a detailed synopsis for my editor, I had no sense of discovery as I was writing. It felt ho-hum when I wanted to yearn WITH the characters. I wanted to wonder what was going to happen next. Taking that break helped me forget everything and re-discover the couple all over again.
If you choose to write a sequel, here are a few things you should consider:
- Insert enough backstory to help the reader but not too much. Know that some readers haven’t read the first book, and you don’t want to spoil it for them.
- The first book set the bar. The sequel must exceed all expectations. Make it hotter, darker, sweeter, and more mysterious than the first.
- Show character growth if you’re revisiting a couple from the first book. If the couple had their HEA, do their lives meet reader expectations? Are their personalities the same or altered in a way that matches the character arcs of book one?
- Leave the reader with a satisfying ending. Even if you plan another book in the series, your reader deserves an ending of some sort that doesn’t make the sequel seem unfinished. Answer story questions and let the characters reach the end of their arcs.
I tried to do all these things when I wrote my sequel. Hopefully I succeeded. I had fun writing Moonlight Madness, and I’d love to write another sequel!
Here’s the blurb from Wish for the Moon, Book 1 of the Circle of Destiny
Matthias, a heroic knight, is accused of a horrible crime he doesn’t remember. Believing his guilt, he flees his home in shame, but in the flight he stumbles across an ancient portal taking him far away to the future. In modern day Wales & far from his troubles, Matthias guards the mystery on his ancestral property as closely as he guards his own heart—until Carrie Greer, a modern-day herbalist, accidentally discovers his secret and drags him back to the hell he’d left behind in the 13th century. Thrust into close confines with Carrie, Matthias forms a tenuous bond with her that soon ignites a burning passion. Carrie’s faith becomes his inspiration as he fights inner demons that could shatter the bond of trust growing between them. Together they face enemies of the flesh and time as Matthias attempts to win Carrie’s love before his dark secret chases her away.