WIP Progress Meter

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Writing challenges and spring

I have a confession to make: I don't usually struggle much with my writing.

That's not to say it is easy, exactly. But for the most part, the writing usually flows pretty smoothly. I don't generate the amount of ideas that some of my writer pals do [at one point my friend Alex Bledsoe was writing seven books at a time--one for every day of the week!], but when I am working on a novel, the writing normally flows with relative ease.

I am discovering, however, that starting the second book in a series is a challenge.

I have written three novels so far (we're not counting the nonfiction books in this-completely different process). The first two were also meant to be series books, and I have notes for the books that would come next, but I've never actually started the second book in either series. [My friend Mindy Klasky says you should never write the second book until you have sold the first one, and I followed this advice. Good thing, too, or book three--which got me my agent--would never have been written. Which is her point, I believe.]

But since my agent is confident that we'll sell PENTACLES AND PENTIMENTOS, I have started working on the second book in that series, tentitively called PENTACLES AND PREDATORS. Here is the problem:

With the second book in the series, you have to remind the folks who read the first one of what happened, while also making it clear for anyone who didn't read the first book. You don't want to bore the first group, or confuse the second one. Nor do you want to have what is referred to as an "info dump," which is when an author basically plops a bunch of "you need to know this" information in the middle of the first chapter--usually to the detriment of the pacing and the plot.

None of this is simple. Or easy. In fact, it is a great big balancing act. I have already rewritten chapter one twice, in fact. After going back and forth and getting some feedback from my wonderful critique partners and writing friends (*throws big kisses to Lisa and Candy*), I think I am FINALLY getting the hang of it. Whew. The rest of the book should go as smoothly as the others, I think.

I guess we'll see. I'd love to hear what other writers have done to deal with this issue, if anyone has run into it.

In the meanwhile, I am really pleased with the way my online writing class is going. As usual, I have an absolutely wonderful bunch of participants and they make it both fun and inspiring to be teaching the class.

Other than that, I am eagerly awaiting spring. The massive amount of snow is slowly melting, and the days are warmer than usual for this time of year (although quite gloomy at the moment). The time change will help, with more light in the evening, too. And the red-winged blackbirds are back!

Happy one week until spring, everyone!


  1. Writing sequels in such a way so as not to confuse the reader who may or may not read the first one is tricky. In my Seasonal Sisters series (yet to see light of day), I introduced pertinent information about the first book through dialogue between characters throughout the book. Book 2, Winter's Peace opens up with Winter and her daughter preparing for her sister,Autumn's wedding. Autumn's Healing was the first book which opened up with Autumn being at her neice's hospital bedside. The four sisters are close and play well in each other's stories. Through dialogue, interaction and memories you get a part of all the girls in every book yet each story features one as the star of the show.

  2. Kelly,
    Your story sound fascinating and I like the way you've handled the issue!
    I think I've finally got the worst of the problems out of the beginning chapters of my "book 2" and things are starting to roll along...