Some Thoughts on Writing Sequels

(Note: I will do my utmost not to spoil anything from A Greater Duty, book 1 in the series, for anyone who has yet to read it, but it is possible that due to the fact that I am talking about the sequel, there may be some minor spoilers.)

It’s important, for a writer, to regularly try new things, to push one’s comfort zone a bit. One such “new thing” that most every writer does at one point or another is writing a sequel.

So, seeing as my upcoming release, A Looming Shadow, is the first sequel I’ve ever written, I figured I’d share some thoughts on how I approached the writing of A Looming Shadow, and how I will be approaching future books in the Galaxy Ascendant series.

Sequels present an interesting challenge for a writer, as you both need to continue the series and maintain the feel and tone of it, as well as satisfactorily continue the story, without making book 2 into book 1 again, with some slight changes–the latter being a problem with many sequels.

There is also the issue of rising stakes, especially with a lengthy series, along with the issue of characters that span the series. And lastly, there is the important requirement to retain continuity in the series, and to include enough information that one who read the first book some time ago will be able to quickly get back into the series with book 2.

With A Looming Shadow, I had the advantages of the space opera genre, which allows for a wide variety of story types, along with a very clear idea of where I wanted the story to go. In addition to continuing to follow the aftermath of the war that took place in A Greater Duty, I had a thread left hanging from a subplot that I was able to use to both kick off the book and drive the larger storyline forward.

Additionally, by nature of this plot, the pursuit of several dangerous people still loyal to the villain of the previous book, this allowed me to elevate the character of Dalcon, who was a secondary viewpoint in A Greater Duty, to the status of a main character in A Looming Shadow. The early chapters of the book were also tailored to catch the readers up on what has happened and what is going on, but without overdoing it, and while also setting the stage for future conflicts.

As to the question of how the sequel compared to the first book, I very much wanted to avoid the trap of making book 2 “book 1 again, with a new coating.” Thus, where A Greater Duty depicted a fairly large-scale war, with numerous large-scale battle scenes, A Looming Shadow takes on a more adventure-type plot, and there is only one major space battle in the book. Also different, all three of the book’s primary viewpoints are (more or less) in the same place for much of the book, on the same quest. This presented some challenges, but it also allowed for plenty of different interactions, and gave me the space to elevate a pair of side characters to secondary viewpoints, managing other affairs while the main cast is otherwise occupied.

Now, however, we must address the issue of the level of stakes in the story. After all, A Greater Duty had very high stakes, with the aforementioned war as well as an existential threat to all life in the Galactic Alliance. The temptation is always there to try and just up the ante, make an even bigger threat, but to do so is overly simple and will lead either to burning out or running into the problem of another superweapon, or another powerful, malevolent force. But something different was called for here, more the threat of another danger, which is related to the main quest of several of the characters, and also serves to expand the larger galactic setting–and will directly lead into the main thrust of the plot of book 3.

I won’t go into too much more detail, as to do so would require spoilers if I were to make the necessary points, but I will touch on one more issue that must be considered with sequels–and series as a whole. Namely, the main characters. Obviously, you don’t want your central characters to remain completely static. However, trying for force characters to drastically change in every book will result in inconsistent characterization throughout a lengthy series. What can be done it to present that characters with new challenges to face that will test them, their capabilities, and their convictions. By the nature of this, they develop, and with some characters you can also have more gradual, long arcs that span multiple books.

I hope this has been interesting, and I am sure that you will enjoy A Looming Shadow at least as much as A Greater Duty. It was a lot of fun to write, and while, do to life obligations, book 3 will take some time, I very much looking forward to further exploring the Galaxy Ascendant with all of you.

A Looming Shadow releases next week. A Greater Duty is available on Amazon, and is currently on sale. Check it out, if you haven’t yet!

Also, signing up for my mailing list will net you a free novelette, as well as free short stories set in the Galaxy Ascendant. Much more to come over the next week!

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