A friend of mine recently noticed that I’d been describing my upcoming book as “the first in a planned trilogy,” so she asked me, “How does one plan a trilogy?” Funny question…
First off, I will admit that I wrote A BREATH OF EYRE as “a stand-alone novel with series potential.” That basically means that while the first book leaves some plot threads unresolved, the story is self-contained with no cliffhangers. However, when I finished writing the book and began thinking about what my next project would be, I realized I hadn’t let go of those characters yet. They were still knocking around in my head, begging for their story to be continued. After all, my protagonist, Emma, is only 16 at the end of the first book, in which she “travels” into her favorite novel, Jane Eyre. I started wondering how Emma’s love of escaping into books might both cause her problems and continue her growth as a character over the next two years of high school.
And thus, “series potential” was born! I quickly wrote up a brief synopsis for two more books that would continue Emma’s literary adventures, choosing The Scarlet Letter and The Phantom of the Opera as the books Emma would travel into in the sequels. My agent sent the first book out on submission to publishers with synopses of the sequels attached, and the trilogy sold to Kensington/KTeen last November!
Since I hadn’t written a word of the sequel back then, I always referred to A BREATH OF EYRE as the first in a “planned trilogy,” as planning was all I had done to that point. Now, I am about twenty thousand words into the sequel, and I’m beginning to realize sequels are particularly nasty beasts. Here are a few reasons why:
1. A sequel should have the same “feel” as the first book, but it should be significantly different to offer readers a new reading experience.
2. New characters should be introduced, but you must also continue to focus on the characters from the first book.
3. Resolve most story threads from book one, but introduce a boatload of new conflicts to drive the third book.
4. Your protagonist must continue the character growth initiated in the first book, but leave some room for growth in the final installment.
5. Try not to let your sequel fall into “sagging middle book” syndrome. Keep the energy and action high!
Phew! I don’t know how J.K. Rowling did all this over SEVEN books! (Possibly because she’s a genius?)
While I am definitely in the writing stages of the sequel now, I find I am still planning as I go, taking a look back at events from the first book, analyzing character motivations, anticipating major plot points that will happen in the third book, and trying to incorporate all of this into my outline for the second book, tentatively called A TOUCH OF SCARLET. For anyone who had to endure reading The Scarlet Letter in high school, you’ll probably remember that underneath Hawthorne’s laborious prose is a pretty gripping story about sex and sin and shame, but also about pride. I hope it promises to be a fun adventure for both my characters and for me!