Now What? The Process of Writing a Sequel.
I’ve just completed the second round of edits for my forthcoming YA debut, POLTERGEEKS. It was a pretty instructive process because though I already have three books to my credit, I haven’t worked this closely with an editor before. Instructive in that despite the fact that editor Amanda Rutter*got* the book, she was brilliant at helping me strengthen the narrative and flush out key elements in my characters. Very simply, she helped me see things in the story that I couldn’t see … changes that were desperately needed to make the book work better. Next comes copy editing and then proof reading and then … well, I guess you get to be the judge when the book comes out in October.
In the meantime, I’ve started working on the second book in the series. It’s going to be called STUDENT BODIES. It started out as an idea (all books do) and then the idea made it’s way to a back cover blurb. You see, lots of authors plan out their next book in lots of ways, for me, it always starts with an idea of what the reader would see on the back cover of the book at their local book store. The next stage is to write out a very short synopsis of what I *think* is going to happen – maybe a page or two. Then I do what I like to call “the all powerful, all knowing bullet point outline.” I literally take a sheet of lined paper and write out bullet point by bullet point what I’d like to have happen in the manuscript. Once I’ve done that I start to write out a first line of what I hope will eventually become a killer book.
And you have to write a good first line for a book. It’s a MUST. In my first novel SHADE FRIGHT, the first line is “My boyfriend drives a dump truck”. (I’m still not convinced that was the best first line ever.) In UNSEEN WORLD, the story begins with “My name is Marshall Conrad and the world as you know it is a lie.” In POLTERGEEKS …. well, you’ll just have to wait and see.
I know authors who outline an entire book with post-it notes and use that for their process. Frankly, I can’t do that – I’m just not that organized. In fact, I’d probably go a little bit nuts because for me at least, an outline needs to be flexible enough to allow for plot twists and surprises. Very often, I will finish as chapter and then re-read it, look at my bullet point outline and then say “I wish I’d thought of this from the outset.” In short, writing a book provides for surprises when you’re the guy writing it because so much of what you’re writing depends on how you feel or whether you’re getting enough sleep. I’d love to hear from other authors to find out if how they’re feeling at a particular point in time dramatically influences the project they’re working on. I can’t see how it doesn’t.
So that’s where I’m at with STUDENT BODIES. A few chapters in, already surprised by how some of it differs from my original idea and excited about where this story is going to wind up. I have a great team behind me in my agent and her assistant and I have a great editor at Strange Chemistry Books. I need to get the book written by June, I think. That will give enough time for my agent and me to revise before we deliver the completed project to Amanda and the editing process begins anew.
So, here I go. Writing a sequel that will hopefully deliver a punch that will resonate with readers when it finally hits bookstores.