Tip 1: See your series as one whole story
As I searched for information on how to write the second book in a series, my main discovery was that there isn’t much out there on this topic. As far as helpful information goes, I’ve found this guest blog post from Bradley Beaulieu. As I’ve stumbled my way through this process, I thought I’d share some of my struggles as well as what I’ve learned. One thing I’ve found useful is to see the series as one large story divided into smaller parts rather than a series of stories created individually and connected by characters and situations after the fact. Viewing the series as one larger story helps to create cohesion and connectedness between the pieces.
This one is easier said than done, I know. Sometimes writers don’t know when they begin that they’re writing a series. I knew that the story of Her Dear & Loving Husband would be too much for one novel, that is, unless I wanted to write a 900-page tome that would send readers screaming for mercy. In order to break it into manageable parts, it became a trilogy. Because I already knew the whole story, even while I was knee-deep in the trenches of writing and revising Her Dear & Loving Husband I was able to daydream through the next books. I knew how the characters changed and grew, where book two would end and book three would pick up. Most importantly, I knew the ending of the final book. For myself, I need to know the ending of the story I’m writing before anything else. Other writers I know like to let the ending happen, but I need to know the conclusion so I can map out how to get there.
For my own series, I want each book to stand on its own, and yet I want each one to flow from one to the other into the larger story. The fact that I knew what was going to happen in the second book while I was still writing the first saved me a lot of heartache because I didn’t feel like I needed to reach for a story. I already knew it, was comfortable with it, and understood it as part of the larger vision. My main concern was I didn’t want the second plot to feel forced, as if I manufactured it simply as a vehicle to write about the same characters again.
Out of curiosity, I glanced at reviews of various series on Amazon, and I found that it’s usually the second book that gets the lowest reviews, as if readers feel the middle books are simply arbitrary links between the beginning and the end. I didn’t want that to happen in my second book. Since I saw the trilogy as one whole story divided into smaller parts, and since I knew what was going to happen in books two and three, I was able to mold the first novel knowing what was next around the corner. What comes in book two shouldn’t be a complete surprise for readers of book one. It shouldn’t be obvious (otherwise there’s no reason to read), but the plot flows from book one to book two to book three so that each part is necessary to understand the whole. Plus, since I knew what was coming up while I wrote book one, I was able to do the requisite foreshadowing. Foreshadowing is such an important tool in storytelling–it gives an interconnectedness that makes it seem as if there was no other way to tell that tale.
If you know you’re writing a series, try plotting each novel before you begin writing book one. This way you know where you’re headed and you can keep things on track as you progress toward the end. For myself, knowing where I’m going before I get there makes the journey easier, and more enjoyable.