How to Start the Next in a Series

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Whether you’re working on the second, third, sixth, or fifteenth book in your series, it always feels like a completely different monster compared to the first one. This may be why my second book is taking me years to finish, far longer than the first.

I published my first one with the note “Book One of the Third Face Trilogy” over three years ago, but these tips are intended to apply even if your first book is still an unrevised mess that you only finished last night.

Find a new beginning.

We’ve all been taught from early in our writing careers that a good story needs a beginning, middle and end. Somehow, though, many of us seem to think that if we have a previous book, the beginning is pretty much written. Or, we have to spend the first chapter or two reminding the reader what happened in the first book.

Instead, write the beginning as if it’s the very beginning–what you wrote before does not count at all. Imagine that your reader not only hasn’t read your other work, but doesn’t know it exists. Establish a brand-new scene and go from there.

Re-introduce characters–briefly.

Again, act like these people are brand new. Bring them up and remind us what they look like, then treat your past work as their backstory. You probably have some rules in mind for how to sprinkle in backstory, so just keep to those and you’ll be fine. It might be okay to mention one or two things a character did before, but I wouldn’t spend more than a sentence on it at a time.

Only say it if it’s relevant.

Your main character’s village was burned down? There was a huge war? Some characters have crazy magic powers? Nobody likes the local ruler? Well, unless it’s going to be important to something that’s happening right now, I don’t want to hear it.

To be fair, this part is mainly aimed at science fiction and fantasy works that have a lot of worldbuilding thrown in. The fact is, readers don’t want you to build the whole world in one volume. That’s why a series is great–you can give us the pieces we need to understand one facet of your larger story, then expand on that as you go on.

To summarize: old information will (mostly) drag the new story down.

We might need to know certain key things to get what’s going on, but anything beyond that is fluff. It’s okay if a new reader doesn’t know about everything that’s happened–in fact, that might get them to go back and read the previous one. That’s a nice bonus if you ask me.

Thanks for reading, guys! Are you somewhere in this process? Done it before? What are your tips for continuing the journey?

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