As I slog my way through writing the sequel to Cry of the Sea, I have asked a few writers of series and sequels to visit my blog and write about their experiences. In the spirit of National November Writing Month, my first guest is sharing what she's attempting to accomplish during the month-long writing challenge. She is still waiting for her big publishing break, but she is pretty confident that it is on the horizon. She's written what sounds like an exciting paranormal YA and is shopping it around. While I have a book published and am struggling to figure out how to write a follow-up, she has known from the beginning that her project would be a trilogy. What's amazing and brave to me is that she's begun writing the sequel completely on faith that the first book will sell. I know a lot of writers who want to do series books struggle with the question: should you write the sequel before the first book gets published or hold off and start something new? Here's author Tamara Girardi's take on it.
When I first started writing a YA paranormal about eight years ago, I attended conferences where writers talked about it taking ten years on average to get an agent and sell a book. I thought, “That will not be me!” I also scoffed at the suggestion my first (or fifth) book would not sell but end up “in a drawer.”
The aforementioned YA paranormal novel rests in an old computer, aging peacefully along with a few other projects started but abandoned.
Now, though, my more recent manuscript, a YA fantasy titled DREAMSEER, is on submission with several literary agents, and I’m hopeful I’ll find “the one” who loves it like I do. In the meantime, I’m following other ever-present advice in publishing: write another book.
Against common advice, as part of NaNoWriMo, I’m writing the second book of what will be a DREAMSEER trilogy. In other words, I’m daring to write a sequel to a book that is unagented and unpublished. It might also end up resting peacefully on this computer (when I upgrade to a newer model, of course).
Don’t get me wrong. I have faith.
I have faith that DREAMSEER is strong enough to catch an agent’s eye, an editor’s eye, a reader’s eye, but there are no guarantees in this business, are there? DREAMSEER could be revised to stand alone, but the ending really sets up so much for the second book that it would feel unfinished without a sequel.
In other words, I’m breaking the rules.
Despite my faith, the rules and the averages and the disappointments of the industry weigh on me as I sit down to my NaNoWriMo writing sprints. No page is wasted. My writing this time around is better than last time, but what if I could be writing something different now? Something that will sell? Would that be time better-spent?
The truth is there’s no crystal ball with swirling sand to predict the future of my publishing career (although there is a sandseer with a crystal ball in DREAMSEER and its sequel).
And perhaps that’s one of the true benefits of NaNoWriMo. The expectation is that writers silence internal editors, and in this case, internal disbelievers. In talking with other writers I’ve come to believe we all have moments of doubt. Faith, and the realization that even if we never publish we’d want to write anyway, silence that doubt.
For me, NaNoWriMo silences that doubt. It has to! How else could I write 50,000 words in 30 days?
An English instructor for Harrisburg Area Community College’s Virtual Learning program, Tamara Girardi holds a PhD in English from Indiana University of Pennsylvania and a Master of Letters in Creative Writing from the University of St. Andrews. Her YA fantasy DREAMSEER won the 2013 PennWriters Novel Beginnings Contest and is on submission with agents. Tamara is a member of Backspace, Sisters in Crime, and PennWriters. Follow her on Twitter @TamaraGirardi.
I'm taking a break from rewriting old stuff to write something new. Well, I keep trying to anyway, and then another editor or agent says, "Hey, can you rewrite this manuscript you sent me?" and then I have to stop my new novel and go back to the old one again. This has happened to me three times this year. And sure enough, just today, after writing about 1,000 new words, I get an email from my editor at Fire and Ice with all her edits for my upcoming novella Passing Notes (due out in January, 2015).
But I'm determined. I will have this new novel completed before the year is out. What is it that I'm writing? The sequel to Cry of the Sea. Only, it's not just the interruptions to work on other projects that keeps me from finishing it. The problem I'm having is that I never intended Cry of the Sea to have a sequel or be a series. It ends where I planned it to end. However, the people who've reviewed the book have unanimously declared that the book requires a sequel. My publisher has requested a sequel. My readers keep asking me what happens next. A sequel must happen.
I'm not sure what all of these people want to happen next, and it frightens me a bit to tell the wrong story. If you've been following this blog, you know how long it took me to get Cry of the Sea right in the first place, and the idea of quickly producing a sequel of the same quality is daunting. Many of my readers love Juniper's boyfriend Carter. Can I capture his voice again and make him as charming and adorable as he was before? Reviewers have commented again and again on how strong and admirable Juniper is. Can I keep her that way? And... well... what happens if my sequel isn't exactly about mermaids? Are people expecting it to still be about mermaids? So many doubts plague me as I write and discard and then write and discard some more.
Plus, (and let's be frank here) it's not like Cry of the Sea has been a runaway bestseller. If I write this sequel, will anyone buy it? Is it worth doing? Or should I just move on to a new project?
I am on chapter five now. It is slowly coming together. Some hints: it still has an environmental theme; it has more ties to American Indian mythology, and it has a lot to do with an old growth tree. This book should be a lot scarier than the first by the time it's done, and I'm pretty sure it will lead to (dare I say?) a third book. To keep me motivated, I've invited some writers to come visit the blog over the next couple months and tell their stories about writing sequels and series books. I hope you enjoy what they have to say. If you've got any encouraging words for me, I'd love to read them.
D. G. Driver
Author D. G. Driver's
Write and Rewrite Blog
“There are no bad stories, just ones that haven’t found their right words yet.”
A blog mostly about the process of revision with occasional guest posts, book reviews, and posts related to my books.