I've heard this advice countless times over the last two years, and one agent summed it up quite well: sequels are addicting. If you keep world-building and book writing without selling the first novel, it's easy to waste your time and creative talent instead of working on a story that sells.
Natalie Whipple (I love her blog posts, especially when she organizes her subjects in a list format, I wish more non-fiction writing was like that) lists a series of questions to ask yourself before embarking on a sequel.
Natalie is spot on.
With that said, I've read over and over and over (and over) how sequels are hard. How the second book was more difficult than the first, how the pressure to write a book already sold clashed with the creative energy needed to produce the novel.
I have also read many published sequels that did not measure up to the original book. Indeed, I can think of only the exceptions, like David Weber (The Honor of the Queen was arguably better than its predecessor).
Practical advice was telling me one thing, my over-stuffed bookshelves were telling me something else.
One day, I discounted the advice not to write a sequel to an unsold book, and wrote one.
It was difficult and a huge eye-opener. It took me twice as long to self-edit the second novel than it did the first. I found continuity errors that required much thought to fix and constantly waged war with my self-imposed word count limit.
It took me four months to complete the novel, and I would not trade that experience for anything. I learned so much about writing and my creative process that it changed the way I write novels for the better.
Was that worth four months of my writing time, even if the first book never sells?
For me, yes.
I can easily see how genre world-builders can get sucked into a idea that will not sell. I learn by doing, however, and for me writing a sequel was a vast educational opportunity. If you can separate the fact that writing a sequel and selling a sequel are two different things, a genre novelist could benefit from the opportunity to learn.
|Still gives me nightmares (Stephen King may be working on a sequel)|