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Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Science of a Sequel…

Please welcome guest blogger Leanna Renee Hieber

In May, the sequel to The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker, my debut novel (2010 Prism Finalist and optioned for a Broadway musical) released from Dorchester, first in a series of 4 “Strangely Beautiful” novels and a novella. The Darkly Luminous Fight for Persephone Parker picks up exactly where the first book leaves off.

We F, F and P authors are no strangers to sequels and series books. It’s the core of what most of us do. If readers really like your book, chances are they’ll be excited about a sequel, to tie up all those loose ends you left hanging in the first one. Still, it can be daunting to write a sequel, especially if it’s your second book, you’re still getting the hang of writing books, selling them, marketing them, organizing your life as a new author, and suddenly you’ve got reader expectations on you and the series. And especially, if you’re like me; a certifiable non-linear mess of a haphazard process and a “pantser” through and through, you need to check yourself. There seem to be a few core tenets that when observed, generally keep an author in the clear.

- Give them something new: So your characters may not be new, but their situations will be. The beautiful thing about a series is that you can layer in more and more world-building as you go, revealing it layer by layer like the opening petals of a flower. Both your world-building and your characters should experience this type of enrichment and a slew of ‘new goodies’ offered to the reader. This doesn’t mean re-inventing your own wheel, often it means just staying true to this following tenet:

- No, really, tie up your loose ends: If there’s something that was alluded to or foreshadowed, make good on it. Think about this on an emotional level with your characters in addition to all aspects of your world-building. A lot of times loose ends may involve your secondary characters, try not to leave them hanging. (For example, people were freaking out to me about my secondary characters Headmistress Thompson and Vicar Carroll. I fully intended to address them in the second book and did, and Dorchester has given me the opportunity to present their own novella in A Midwinter Fantasy, releasing October.) Even if its something small, honour all the many seeds you have planted, water them and make them grow. Re-read your own work as many times (and take notes) as you have to in order to make sure you’re following through on your promises. It’s the small loose ends that often get forgotten in favour of the larger loose ends but as a reader yourself, you likely don’t like any kind of loose ends either.

- Stay true to your characters. Make sure your characters read like the same people, only different for having gone through their respective journeys. Character development is one of the most important parts of our work, because in the end, if someone doesn’t like our world-building, they’ll often forgive it if they care about the characters. Characters are the vehicle in which we experience the book. Staying true to your characters may mean making a hard choice. I took a risk in making my hero at times very difficult to deal with in the sequel, and some people let me know they loved it, some that they didn’t, but I maintain that choice is true to his character, and we’ll see that change too as the series progresses. Stay true to your creations, and let them grow and change in the ways that’s right and justified for them to do so.

- Don’t break your conventions. This is a cardinal rule. Conventions are a covenant you have with the reader. If your magic works a certain way, if a character’s powers have certain strengths and weaknesses, make sure you stay true to the properties as they have been established. Sometimes in a sequel you’ll be revisiting something you’re a little “rusty” on, so just make sure it remains clear and consistent and if it needs to change, that’s fine, but offer a satisfactory reason why it changes if it does so.

- Clever revisiting. You’ll need to remind the reader where they are in the series and possibly introduce new readers mid-way through your series. Find fresh ways to re-introduce your world-building. Whether this is through a new character’s point of view, or addressing a change to the ‘status quo’ of your world, shy away from info-dumping but do offer readers a touchstone to your characters, their past and the world in which they operate.

- Have fun. Because it makes your writing better. If you’re not having fun, no one is.

I’m thinking about these basic things an awful lot as I’m working on Strangely Beautiful #3, The Perilous Prophecy of Guard and Goddess. It’s a prequel. I can assure you all of these things are even more true and even more important if you’re writing one of those!

Strangely Beautiful Blessings!

Leanna Renee Hieber



Facebook: http://tinyurl.com/sbsfan

Raised in rural Ohio inventing ghost stories, Leanna graduated with a BFA in Theatre, a focus in the Victorian Era and a scholarship to study in London. While a professional actress she adapted works of 19th Century literature for the stage and her one-act plays garnered national attention and continue to be produced around the country. Her Fantasy Romance novella Dark Nest won the 2009 Prism Award for excellence in the genre. Her debut novel, The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker, first in the Strangely Beautiful series of Gothic Victorian Fantasy novels (Dorchester) hit Barnes & Noble's Bestseller List, was named a favourite of 2009 by 14 genre book review blogs including Smart Bitches/Dear Author’s book tournament and Beyond Her Book Publishers Weekly, has been nominated for the 2010 Prism Award, multiple regional RWA awards and has been optioned for a Broadway musical. She has been named the 2010 RWA NYC Chapter Author of the Year. A member of the Romance Writers of America (RWA), Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA), Horror Writers Association (HWA) and the International Thriller Writers (ITW), Leanna is proud to be a co-founder of Lady Jane's Salon Reading Series in New York. A proud member of Actors Equity Association (AEA), the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA) and the Screen Actors Guild (SAG), Leanna works often in film and television. 

When not writing or on set, she loves a good Goth club and adventuring about New York City, where she resides with her real-life hero and her beloved rescued lab rabbit Persebunny, Queen of the Undereverything.

The Darkly Luminous Fight for Persephone Parker
With radiant, snow white skin and hair, Percy Parker was a beacon for Fate. True love had found her, in the tempestuous form of Professor Alexi Rychman. But her mythic destiny was not complete. Accompanying the ghosts with which she alone could converse, new and terrifying omens loomed. A war was coming, a desperate ploy of a spectral host. Victorian London would be overrun.  Yet, Percy kept faith. Within the mighty bastion of Athens Academy, alongside The Guard whose magic shielded mortals from the agents of the Underworld, she counted herself among friends. Wreathed in hallowed fire, they would stand together, no matter what dreams or nightmares—may come.


Suzanne Lazear said...

What a great post, Leanna! See you at nationals.

Dawn said...

You rock! :)

Jeffe Kennedy said...

Great post, Leanna - good things to remember. Thanks!

Marie Andreas said...

This is a GREAT post Leanna! I really appreciated this info and will keep it handy as I work through my WIPS (since I can't seem to write a single book in ANYTHING....SIGH).

Thanks so much for posting!

Lisa Kessler said...

Great post Leanna!!!

I can imagine wirting a prequel would be even tougher than writing a sequel... Yow!

Have fun at nationals!!

Lisa :)

Leanna Renee Hieber said...

@Suzanne - thanks! Can't wait to see you at The Gathering

@Dawn *blush*

@Jeffe - Thanks! Now hopefully I can just keep taking my own advice as I work on the prequel. It's harder.

@Marie - thanks! And LOL, oh do I hear you about being unable to write a stand-alone book. It's impossible for me!

@Lisa - thanks my dear! Yes, it is harder, and I'm learning a lot as I go.


Marsha A. Moore said...

Thanks for these reminders -- just what I need now as I outline a trilogy.


Anonymous said...

Nicely said. Great article.

Kelsey Card said...

Great post, Leanna. Some good suggestions that I’ll definitely keep in mind as I work on my sequels.


Kathy said...

Oh I read the first book and loved it. I will see about grabbing the second one or putting on my wish list for Christmas. You did such a wonderful job with your world building and characters in the book they were very real.

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