Overcoming the Sequel Struggle

Hey guys!

I hope that if you celebrate Easter, it was a special day for you…and that it served to wake you up. The winter months can be long and dreary, even dismal. The shorter cold days will do that to you, I suppose. But with the arrival of spring and all the brightness and color that come along with it, it’s easy to feel more awake, even joyful. And that’s where I am now…after feeling like my writing slept through most of the winter, I now feel awake and so ready for the sunshine and happiness of Spring to give me the recharge I need.

Writing through the winter was not what I expected it to be. Having signed with my agent at the end of last summer, I worked out a solid writing plan for the fall. And it worked. Knowing my manuscript would go on submission, I knew the right thing to do would be to draft my next book right away. I had already sketched out a plan for a sequel so with Rebecca’s go ahead, in September I formulated a more solid plan for Book 2. Not exactly chapter by chapter but I had the main plot ironed out and even most of the subplots. I began drafting it in October and had completed several of the early chapters before the end of the year.

By the first of the year, I had high hopes for all I would be able to accomplish through the rest of the cold dark winter. I was on a roll after all. Surely I could hammer out the rest of this draft by April 1st. I had the time—even with freelance projects to work on, and normal family life happening.

So why then, as January, February, and March rolled on, was it so hard for me to keep drafting? Why was I stuck? Why wasn’t my heart in it suddenly?

I have a couple of theories.

Maybe it was because I wasn’t even sure an editor would make an offer on my manuscript. That made it kind of hard to see the need for a sequel. In the doldrums of the winter, I think I doubted my vision for these two books a bit.

Maybe it was because I knew there was a small chance an editor would offer and then want to read or at least hear about the sequel. That may have been too much pressure—not exactly a great environment for the creativity necessary to write another book!

Maybe it was because I didn’t actually have another book in me. Maybe this story had run its course and I didn’t believe in the sequel and much as the first book. Maybe my heart wasn’t in it even though I wanted it to be.

Maybe it was because I had other things in my life that demanded more of my attention than I accounted for. Additional freelance projects, kids’ sports, school activities, my daughter’s college preparation, and so much more.

It’s not like I wasn’t writing at all this winter. I just wasn’t drafting much. Instead, I spent my writing time revising those first several chapters. And boy did I revise them! In fact, they are the shiniest beginning chapters that I’ve ever written. But still, as happy as I was with those chapters, I wasn’t drafting. My sequel wasn’t moving forward.

Except that now that the sun is shining and I’ve opened the blinds completely in my house to let all the light pour in finally, I realize I was wrong. My sequel was moving forward. My brain just needed a break. It needed a long winter’s nap away from the story, away from the pressure to make it amazing, away from my own expectations.

It took taking a break for me to see that I do have the sequel in my heart…the story has not run its course, and I am dying to write it. Yesterday, with my break officially over, I spent the day re-reading what I had drafted so far and I was pleasantly surprised. It was actually good. The characters felt real to me—just like in Book 1. Their world felt bigger and more amazing. The conflict felt on target with where I had hoped it would be, and most of all it felt like a perfect continuation of Book 1. Like it didn’t skip a beat!

Now of course as I continue drafting and ultimately revising, parts of what I’ve written may change, but I realize what was holding me back. This is the way I draft. I write several chapters and then I go back. I revise and revise some more. I integrate those chapters with the earlier ones. I make sure I love what I’ve written before I move on. Obviously pushing myself to draft new words before I was ready didn’t work for me. I needed to be sure I had a solid beginning to work from.

Sure I know that the point of a first draft is to just get the story down on paper. But when the story isn’t ready to come out, sometimes it’s best to work with what you have and make that part stronger. And I’m so glad I did. After re-reading what I had yesterday, somehow overnight, five new cool scenes came to me when I was in my half awake, half asleep state of mind, and I actually remember them all!

So today as the sun shines in my window on this bright beautiful spring day, I’ve begun drafting again—faster than I can type. I’ve written an additional 1,000 words so far today and I’m still going! I, of course, took a break to write this post, but I just had to share with you my thoughts on writing a sequel. I understand how hard it can be. I understand the doubts and pressure that come along with it. But I also know that if you truly love your story and it lends itself to a second or third book, you will be able to write it. Sometimes it just takes time—and sometimes that time needs to be spent away from the story altogether.

I wish you could all read what I’ve written so far. I love it so much. I wish you could all read the entire first book, actually! Hopefully that day will come…but for now I’ll do what I love to do. I’ll write all the words I can and breathe life into this story. 🙂

Good luck to you with whatever you’re writing this week. I hope the sunshine and spring recharge your creative energy too!

Jackie <3

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