Friday 5 – How to write a rockin’ sequel.

This week we’ve look at HEX HALL by Rachel Hawkins. And if these posts, here and here, didn’t convince you to read this book. Then just you wait. Read on.

1. The sequel should be fatter.

Seriously. I don’t want to buy a sequel to find the book is smaller and thinner than the first. For some reason, I feel wronged. If a reader liked your book enough to buy the second that means they like you! And your writing. So make it fatter – with substance of course.

DEMON GLASS, the sequel to Hex Hall, was definitely fatter. Yay!

2. Introduce a new setting or change up the setting.

I might love your first book, but that doesn’t mean I want to read it again in the sequel. (Unless it’s awesome like Hogwarts. But let’s not pretend we’re J.K. Rowling.) Follow the writing advice to surprise your reader with the unexpected. But a word of warning: the setting has to be just as awesome or more awesome than the setting in the first.

In DEMON GLASS, Sophie moves to London. Can you say awesome? A private boarding school for wayward paranormals was pretty cool. But London? Way cooler.

3. Introduce new characters.

Okay, I do want some familiar characters, like a best friend or a love interest. But, yeah, I mostly want a new and more interesting cast that outshines the first. Characters I loved from the first book will become a little old and boring in the sequel.

In DEMON GLASS, Sophie’s best friend goes to London too. And of course, Archer, the love interest is there. But we get to meet her dad! Who was an incredible character with lots of mystery. And we meet two new peers who leave us wondering if they are good or bad.

4. A new villain/antagonist is a must! And a new story conflict.

I’m sorry, but if the villain from your first book makes a comeback in the second novel, or was never really vanquished in the first – that’s just kinda lame. I don’t mean to be harsh. But you want your sequel to propel you onto the bestseller list, not leave your readers doubting you. (Please no pointing out Voldemort. J.K. had a more prominent and different antagonist in every book.)

And DEMON GLASS succeeds in this area too. That’s all I’m going to say.

5. Go bigger. Bigger stakes. Bigger external and internal conflict.

Just like stakes rise in a novel, so stakes must rise in a trilogy. Each book should have a bigger impact than the first. Seeds of backstory, plot threads, and any foreshadowing from the first book should blossom in the sequel.

What can I say about this sequel? The last third of the book was incredible. Everything went bigger. External plot. Internal character arc. The stakes. The love story. The father-daughter relationship. Sacrifices made. You’ve got to read it. Here’s an example from the book, of Sophie’s thoughts on Archer: ‘…everyone I knew wanted to kill him, and everyone he knew wanted to kill me.’

So, if you want to know how to write a sequel that rocks and will draw more fans and possibly send you to the bestseller list? Well, than you can guess my advice. (Read DEMON GLASS)

Have you read any good sequels? Share. What else is a must for you in a sequel? Or do you totally disagree with me?

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37 Responses to Friday 5 – How to write a rockin’ sequel.

  1. Kelly Hashway June 10, 2011 at 11:36 am #

    I just read Crescendo, the sequel to Hush, Hush, and I loved it. I liked Hush, Hush, but Crescendo I had trouble putting down. I liked seeing more of characters I barely saw in book one.

  2. Anna Staniszewski June 10, 2011 at 11:36 am #

    Great advice! I know exactly what you mean about a sequel being fatter. For some reason, it feels even more satisfying to know you’ll be in the world of the story longer the second time around. 🙂

  3. Heather Sunseri June 10, 2011 at 11:44 am #

    I agree, the sequel needs to have an entirely different plot. Nothing makes me crazier than feeling like the author changed up some characters and settings, but for the most part rewrote the same book.

  4. Stina Lindenblatt June 10, 2011 at 12:00 pm #

    Sold. I’m going to read the sequel. 😀

    Great points, and something to think about if I ever get to write a sequel. I love characters who are familiar from the first book (because chances are great they’re the reason I loved the first book), but I do want to see new characters too.

    • Laura June 10, 2011 at 12:09 pm #

      What makes me sad is reading a sequel, where I loved the first. And the author uses the same villain, same setting, same characters and it’s truly not that much different. This all happened with a trilogy I thought I’d love. Guess what? The sequel didn’t make the best seller list. And that trilogy lost a fan. I won’t be buying the third. 🙁 So when I read Demon Glass I understood why I was disappointed with the one sequel.

  5. Heather Kelly June 10, 2011 at 12:49 pm #

    Laura–I’ve been skimming these Hex Hall posts, since it (Hex Hall) is on my to-be-read pile. I don’t want to know too much before I pick up the book(s)!!

  6. Sheri Larsen June 10, 2011 at 12:54 pm #

    I agree with you. I love the idea of tweaking the setting or completely rerouting it in a sequel. But for me, new characters are a must. Up that ante, big time. 🙂

  7. Adventures in Children's Publishing June 10, 2011 at 12:58 pm #

    Great post with a unique perspective. These are crucial elements that I’ve rarely seen discussed. In theory, the sequel should be better. We should know the charaters and have a bigger stake in their happiness and survival. With less setup required, we should be able to get drop-kicked into deeper conflict. I’m always disappointed when that doesn’t happen, and delighted when it works. Since you’ve been doing the Hex Hall breakdown, I have to say that Demon Glass is an example of changing up the setting, upping the stakes, and introducing twists while maintaining the integrity of the characters and the initial world-building.

    Thanks so much for this post!


  8. Creepy Query Girl June 10, 2011 at 1:05 pm #

    nope, I agree with all of those points. And I really liked the sequel to hex hall- even better than the first book actually.

  9. Louise June 10, 2011 at 1:08 pm #

    I especially like your point regarding the new villain. What worked so well with HP, I think, was that for the most part, Voldemort was a shadowy figure pulling strings behind the scenes, so that we knew he was always the real Big Bad, but we still got to see different main villains in each book, each with their own degree of evilness. Then, when Voldemort finally came out into the open, it was even more frightening, because we had already seen how bad all of the lesser villains were, and he was WORSE.

    New characters are good, too, but I’m a sucker for, if not absolute inclusion of old characters, at least mention made of them. And if, by the final book, you can bring all the old character from the previous books back together, well, that is just plain awesome.

  10. Laura Marcella June 10, 2011 at 1:14 pm #

    Those are all good things for a rockin’ sequel! Like you I love it when a sequel is fatter than the first! Or at least the same size. I was disappointed when HP book 6 wasn’t as big or bigger than the 5th, LoL. Still good though!

  11. Lydia K June 10, 2011 at 1:36 pm #

    I totally agree with your sequel thoughts. I roughly outlines a sequel to my recent WIP and hit all your points. Yay!

  12. Ansha Kotyk June 10, 2011 at 2:01 pm #

    Obviously I need to read Hex Hall huh? Great reviews Laura. 🙂

  13. Hilary Wagner June 10, 2011 at 3:03 pm #

    Wow, this is a timely post for me! I’m just reviewing the final galley for The White Assassin, Book II of Nightshade City! I think I meet all your requirements, except my book is about the same length! 🙂

    My editor was so hard on this book. She made the point that it’s the 2nd book and it’s going to be judged hard, so it has to be awesome!

    I’m a big fan of sequels. I loved Book II of the Fablehaven series. I thought Brandon Mull did a great job. He kept it somewhat that same, but added new characters and some great new twists.

    Great post, Laura!

    xoxo — Hilary

    • Laura June 10, 2011 at 3:19 pm #

      I love great sequels. I love finding them b/c then I can’t wait to read the third book. That’s a scary thing when you think about it. That second books are judged harder. But I think that’s true of life in general. It’s all about expectations. Books with great buzz I judge harder – not on purpose, I just do. Big bloggers with huge followers, I judge a little harder. I promise, I don’t mean to. I just do. I can’t help it. Or if an agent writes a book? It better be good. Even though I know that agenting is a completely different skill than writing. Same with blogging. I’ll work on it, kay? So does anyone else have this problem?

      Actually, I think the 3rd book in a trilogy has to be even better than the first two. Talk about pressure. No wonder writing is so hard. 🙂

  14. Patti Nielson June 10, 2011 at 3:35 pm #

    I just finished reading a three book series and it was basically the same story with the same characters, same setting and same enemy. All it did was change the circumstances and this is a popular series. I have to say I was pretty disappointed.

    I totally agree with you on all your points, especially the make it larger.

  15. Lisa Green June 10, 2011 at 3:56 pm #

    Well, I agree with ALMOST everything. See, I’m okay with the same villain IF the stakes are raised, or the situations changed in some way that presents more danger. 😀 Great post!! But what else is new? Uh oh – what if blog posts are the same??? What if we have to get better and more exciting with each one?? Your next one better be epic. No pressure though. He he he.

  16. Aron White June 10, 2011 at 4:31 pm #

    I just finished Stephen King’s, “The Gunslinger” which reads like a prologue to his Dark Tower series. The next book, “The Drawing of the Three” is almost twice as long and they get even bigger from there.

    Now I have to go back and re-raise the bar for the sequel to my first novel, “Shrouded Path.” I’m still working on the storyline and it definitely will need a bit of puffing up.

    Great post and advice 🙂

  17. Pam Torres June 10, 2011 at 4:52 pm #

    Timely, post Laura. I’m just finishing up edits of my first in a trilogy and making sure that I have all the necessary foreshadowing. Now I know what I need to accomplish with my next book. Thanks! You’re blog is always full of awesomeness.

  18. Donna K. Weaver June 10, 2011 at 5:06 pm #

    There must be nothing more satisfying than to have someone say of your series: you’ve got to read this.

  19. Sherrie Petersen June 10, 2011 at 5:08 pm #

    So true. Demonglass even made me appreciate Hex Hall more. It was SO good! It’s one of my favorite sequels on a short list of two 🙂

  20. Elle Strauss June 10, 2011 at 9:49 pm #

    Really great post, Laura! I’m working on a new wip right now, and find myself thinking, if there were a book 2 or 3 what would I do? It’s scary! Writing IS hard. Good points here to keep in mind if I ever do get to that stage.

    and yes, I do judge some books harder than others for the very reasons you mentioned.

  21. Lynda R Young June 10, 2011 at 10:47 pm #

    Yep, totally agree. If anyone thinks writing a sequel is easy, they are wrong. Just because the world is already set up doesn’t mean all the work is done. Great post.

  22. Alex J Cavanaugh June 10, 2011 at 11:32 pm #

    As I’m revising the sequel to my first book right now, and I’m good on four of those points. But fatter? It will be about the same, unless I dump useless stuff in there just to increase the word count.

  23. dirtywhitecandy June 10, 2011 at 11:42 pm #

    I haven’t read Hex Hall but these are all great points about sequels in general. readers don’t want a rehash of the same conflicts, they want to move on – while at the same time seeming familiar. Otherwise it might as well be the same book again.

    • Laura June 11, 2011 at 12:34 am #

      Okay it doesn’t have to be fatter, but at least just as thick. And if it’s thinner then it better make up for it in content! 🙂

  24. Angela Felsted June 11, 2011 at 1:21 am #

    Loved Demonglass. You hit the nail on the head with this one!

  25. christine danek June 11, 2011 at 3:18 am #

    I totally agree with your take on sequels. They have to be bigger and must blow me away.
    I really have to read this book next. I’ve had it on my shelf for a while. I need more hours in the day.
    A couple of sequels I love. Well, they are trilogies, but the last book is not out yet. I’m sure you know that. 🙂
    Hush, hush and Crescendo by Becca Fitzpatrick
    Shade and Shift (my new favorite)by Jeri Smith-Ready
    Have a great weekend.

  26. Traci Kenworth June 11, 2011 at 9:58 am #

    Sage advice!! I try and make each of my novels a stand-alone but really their sequels to the world my characters live in. I hear you on fatter. lol.

  27. Marcia June 11, 2011 at 3:02 pm #

    These points are right on. I do like repeat characters; otherwise to me it’s not really a sequel, but there definitely must be new ones. The point that surprised me, but that I immediately recognized as true, is #1. Were I making a list of sequel traits, I probably wouldn’t have thought of it. But it’s so true! It has to be at least as thick. No thinner.

  28. Julie Musil June 12, 2011 at 6:34 pm #

    I’m one of the last people on earth to read CATCHING FIRE and Collins nails each of your points. And then some. I’m as hooked as I was with HUNGER GAMES. Wow.

  29. becca puglisi June 16, 2011 at 7:32 pm #

    Excellent post. I’m going to have to plot a sequel when I finish revisions on my WIP, so this is all good to know.

    Becca @ The Bookshelf Muse

  30. Anne Michaud June 17, 2011 at 2:13 pm #

    By far the best examples that comes to my mind are the Gone Series by Michael Grant and the Chaos Walking trilogy by Patrick Ness. (I know, none are romantic YA, but they are soooo good!)

    Bigger character development, huge conflicts and intrigues, the villains get even meaner and the plot thickens as the story arc clearly goes on well after the book finishes.

    Don’t they say to read good books is to understand how to write them? Clearly those series are on the top of my shelf.

    Great post, by the way:)

  31. Horserider June 17, 2011 at 5:30 pm #

    Best sequel ever? Catching Fire, sequel to Hunger Games. Usually in a series the first and last books are my favorites for some reason. Hunger Games was the exact opposite. The middle book was, in my opinion, the greatest.

  32. Leslie Rose June 23, 2011 at 10:12 pm #

    I’m coming late to the party of this post – it’s terrific. I’m mulling a possible sequel in my head for the future if my MS gets slurped up and this is an awesome checklist. I love the fatter sequel point. I know if I’m invested in an ongoing story, I want as much of it as I can get.


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