Monday, January 11, 2016

He was poisoned, stabbed, shot, hung, stretched,
disemboweled, drawn AND quartered!
Sequels, second installments, book two.  There are a lot of things to be said about a follow-up—most of them tend to be negative.  The second book is often like the sequel to a popular film—it tries to capitalize on the success of the first, maintain the same qualities and, most importantly, pave the way for the crescendo of the finale.  Unless you’re George R.R. Martin and then screw you!  Don’t believe me?  Check out Ghostbusters II.

As a reader, I’m always willing to forgive the sophomore slumps that can accompany a successful book or movie—especially if the third (or more) in the series delivers and reinvigorates.  There are some rare cases where the second book or movie is so much more and better than the first—Patrick Rothfuss’ The Wise Man’s Fear—but in general they pay too much fan service, trying to cash in on the original success.

That’s not always the case, of course.  In some instances, money isn’t the millstone hanging around a second installment’s neck.  If a third book or movie is planned, the second might simply act as a bridge that moves the characters from one side of the stage to the other.  No one is interested overly much in what happens between, but we know they have to get to the other side.

See how slumped they all look?
How do you avoid the dreaded “sophomore slump”.  Here’s a few tips.

For Everything—Turn, Turn, Turn
Obviously, the first best way is to avoid self-mimicry.  There will, of course, be readers who will clamor for more of the same, but remember that you’re both growing, as readers and writers (and if you’re not a reader,you should be).  This is even truer for your characters.  They should grow as the world is growing just as you and I are growing.

Free Your Mind
Mindset is one of the most important things for a writer.  You should have a time, a place, and a method for your writing.  Even if that time is “all the time” and that place is “everywhere” so long as that’s your writing style, writer that way.  For the rest of us, a quiet
Sequel like the first book? To the Bog of Eternal Stench!
place, with the warm, steady hum of an internal processor, internet access, the mythic tones of David Bowie and a nice bottle of Scotch are musts.  Get in the mindset that your job is to write, and to write well.  Not every day at your job is going to be stellar, but you still have to do your job.

Six Ps
Proper planning and preparation prevent poor performance.  It’s not enough to have mapped out your books (although that’s a really good place to start).  It’s also important to map out time for yourself as the artist to let ideas and inspiration come naturally.  Don’t feel like your second book must be completed within a certain time frame to be successful.  False deadlines will force you into a panic that might have worked in college while writing a paper due the next day for your Organizational Comm class (sorry Dr. Ashmore!), but that won’t create the art that your readers, and more importantly you, are searching for.

It’s not always easy being the talent, but remember that you have that first book out already.  You have people who enjoyed that book, and who are interested in more.  Get behind the controls of a big machine.  Go big, or go home.

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