The Fear of the Sequel


The first draft felt pretty good. The second draft was something I survived. The beta comments told me I had a long way to go in revising the sequel to The Six Train to Wisconsin.

As I struggle through my third draft, I realize what’s been plaguing this book. The fear of the sequel. It wrapped around my fingers and directed them across the keyboard.

I now have readers and they have expectations. I can’t help fretting that they will hate this character arc or that plot direction. That I will ruin the characters in their eyes. I’ve worried that I will do something wrong and it’s stopped by from doing things right.

It makes me doubt myself. It makes me question every choice I make. And every time I realize a premise was wrong, I see the ripple effect. Entire scenes are gone. New chapters are being written. A scene at the end is now happening on page 100.

I’m 5 weeks in and it feels like a clusterf***k.

Every day, I’m wrestling with my inner demons. I had a few days of blessed clarity. I made some major changes last week.

Now, as I am at page 400, I think I know what the problem is in the first 250 pages. Yes, the first 250 pages. The first half of the novel. Too many show don’t tell scenes. That gem is courtesy of a discussion with my crit partner. I need more exposition. I need more summary to move things along.

Even as I change things, I constantly ask myself is this truly better? Is this as good as the first novel? Will it ever get there? There’s so much pressure to top the first and so much fear that I can’t. That I will fail my characters and my readers. It’s a different kind of fear. The fear of the sequel. It alternately propels me forward and paralyzes me.

Anyone else write series? How do you deal with the fear of the sequel?

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30 Responses to The Fear of the Sequel

  1. Ally Bean says:

    While it’s a much smaller thing, writing blog post after blog post is doing sequels. I always wonder, after I’ve edited and edited, if anyone will show up and read what I wrote. Don’t know that is advice, per se, but it is sympathy for your situation. I’m sure that you’re doing great.

  2. That’ll freeze you. Writing is not always like riding a bike: the second, third, fourth try is not always easier. You must keep peddling to maintain that balance and move forward. Less “you” and more letting the characters live again without you straight jacketing them with your stress. Maybe have one or all of them each write you a note (even if it’s all “verbal” inside your head while gazing at woods or water with dogs as anchor). Let each one tell you of their hope and dreams – what the/she wants to come true in your new book. Then look at all their dreams and make them come true – or they will be please with what happens, happens. They just want to live and breath and run off all on their own – with you as “mom” smiling as they go knowing you’ve done right by them.
    Go Kourtney. You can do this.

  3. jmmcdowell says:

    Well, first off, ditto what Mouse said! 🙂

    Second, speaking as a fan of the first book and someone who reads series, I try to keep an open mind as to those “next” books. I try to avoid projecting my own view of where the characters might be when I read what the author has done. It’s not always easy for readers to do that, I know. But I think the weakest sequels I’ve read are those where the author has tried to please too many different people in the audience rather than sticking with her/his vision of the story (and that of the characters, too). For me, this is most noticeable when a character seems to be acting “out of character” from previous books.

    Am I remembering rightly that you originally intended this to be a stand alone, one-off story? If so, I can imagine how difficult it would be to shift that thinking and come up with a new story line because readers wanted to see more of the characters.

    And I really want to stress that I never want to see an author rush out a story because of pressure from readers/agents/editors/publishers wanting more-more-more now-now-now. Too many sequels fall short of the mark when that happens. I would much rather wait to read the story that the author and characters loved!

    • 🙂

      I think I was waffling too much and my beta readers pointed that out. I was a bit afraid of making people hate Kai or Oliver. I saw it as a 3-4 book limited series for Oliver and Kai. I think my mistake was in not writing the outline or a rough draft right after the first book. Even if it changed a ton, it would have been easier to stay in the flow. This year I’ve hopped between 3 books and 2 series and it’s hard to get that deep emotional connection going.

      I still have editorial revisions with my editor this winter so the book has time to get there. Of course if it isn’t there, I reserve the right to pull it so I don’t disappoint fans but I think the fall 2016 release is doable. 🙂

  4. Maxine says:

    Just want you to write and not worry about what the folks you have met might think. You are the author, so go with your instincts. You wrote a fantastic intriguing novel, before you really got to know us, so keep on going with your version of the saga.

    • Thanks Maxine. I made some changes from first to second draft that were out of fear. I’m trying to fix that now. Aw thank you. I love that first book so much, I want to make sure the second one is even better. Or at least does justice to the characters we’ve come to know and love.

  5. Lori says:

    I don’t write series, but I can relate to self-doubt that digs down deep and clings like super glue. I read Six Train, and you’re a good writer, K. I know you’ll get it figured out eventually. Good luck.

  6. Carrie Rubin says:

    So sorry to hear you’re struggling with this. I imagine you are not alone. With my current WIP, I’m considering making it a series–or three books at least–but I don’t think of them so much as sequels as a new story with the same main character. Maybe that takes some of the pressure off, but I guess I won’t know until I get there. I hope things smooth out for you.

    On a positive note, I finished The Girl Who Ignored Ghosts last night. Love your crisp writing style. I’ll leave reviews when I get a chance. Thanks for the entertainment!

    • Thanks. It’s rough because people love Oliver and Kai and this is the aftermath of book 1. It feels like a continuation of their journey.

      Aw yay! Thank you so much. My editor had a huge hand in that. She reined in my flowery stuff and made me tell a tight story. Thank you! I really appreciate it. I preordered your book today on Kindle. I’ll be reading that in November! 🙂

      • Carrie Rubin says:

        Thank you. That’s very nice of you! I appreciate your support. But no worries about getting to it quickly. I know how long to-read lists can be. It took me a while to get to The Girl Who Ignored Ghosts. So many books, so little time… (That’s why I didn’t seek you out to read an ARC. I know how busy you are. You’ve got two sequels you’re working on if I’m not mistaken!)

        • Happy to support you and you write great stories. 🙂 September and October are my crazy months, so November should be a good time to read it! OFC, you leapt to the top of my tbr pile with your new release. I hear you. I’m still working on a fantastic read that I started in July and another that I started last winter. 😉 I appreciate it, I’ve been struggling to stay on top of things. But if you give me a 2-3 month window, I am happy to read an ARC on your next book. 🙂 Yes. And that pesky trilogy I’m still trying to sell to traditional publishing.

  7. I don’t write series but I feel your doubt and frustration. It can be so hard to stay true to your vision for you book–especially when you aren’t certain exactly what that vision is! I like the idea of getting back to your characters, getting deeper into them, and trusting them to tell you where to take the story.

    As for worrying about what readers will think: DON’T! I enjoy series because 1) I want to spend more time with the characters and 2) I enjoy the writer’s style. I don’t expect anything in particular.

    • That’s exactly it. Suddenly I doubt every choice I’m making. I’m trying to push through to the end. I’ve got 80 more pages of beta comments to implement. Then I go to Nashville. Get some space and hopefully come back with a clear idea of what to do in November. 🙂

      That really helps. I think as long as I stay true to the characters readers will go with me. And if they don’t like it, hopefully they will trust that the next book will take a different journey.

  8. EllaDee says:

    From a reader perspective I think both Six Train and The Girl Who Ignored Ghosts need sequels, there’s so much more to the characters and stories 🙂
    I understand the pressure to deliver the next in the series would be increased by you’ve done it once you can do it again, but I imagine regardless it’s a process of putting down more words much the same.

    • I completely agree. I guess my fear is where I see the relationships going in Six Train’s sequel. Some people want Kai and Oliver to break up and some want them to be together. I don’t think The Girl is as polarizing. It’s like Team Oliver vs. Team Alex. Gulp.

      With The Girl, it’s so plot driven and action oriented. It’s a lot easier to write. Six Train is so character driven–I have to experience every emotion before I can get it on the page. I always struggle with revision but with Six Train’s sequel it feels like there is more on the line with each decision if that makes any sense.

  9. I am sure you will conquer your fear Kourtney.. Just allow it to flow and it will… I think sometimes when we try too hard we cause our own blocks.. Love to you.. Look after YOU! <3

    • Thanks Sue. Doubts are tough to deal with. I feel like I’m not even sure what story should be told at times. I know I need to quiet my mind and hear what I need. I’m definitely planning a social media break soon.

      • Sometimes I think we need that get-away break from it all so we can collect our thoughts Kourtney.. Love and Hugs and You know you have the story within you.. That peace will help extract it.. xx <3

        • Sue I definitely need to disconnect more. I am thinking a blog hiatus/social media hiatus may be needed. Hugs!

          • You need to do what is good for you.. and I said it in my last comment on your other post.. We who are your friends will be here.. Look after YOU please…. xxx

          • Thanks so much Sue. WP family is great. I love how you take breaks–definitely a role model there. Hugs. xoxox

          • I take breaks to ensure I wind down.. I mainly do that with my gardening.. But your occupation is writing.. so you need a break from that, so something has to give and WP friends understand that.. You have to concentrate what is bringing in your income.. So get creating 🙂 and worry less about commenting here.. And if you feel like keeping your readers informed with a quick update.. Do so, but turn off the comments and explain why.. I did that this weekend. 🙂 Big hugs.. Sue xx

          • Great advice. I don’t garden, but just being offline feels relaxing. 🙂 Thanks so much. Hugs,

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