Monday, January 17, 2011

S-words (stakes, sequencing, sequels)

I thought I had pretty good stakes* when I wrote my project...(and I'm not going to lie, I still think they're great) but the problem was the sequencing.

By placing some events in the wrong order I eliminated the highest stakes too early and as soon as those stakes were gone/resolved the book should have ended.  Um, the problem was there were like still 80 pages.

Now I am re-sequencing and reevaluating the stakes throughout my novel, along with about a million other things that need to be fixed.

This has lead me to another topic.


Can I just say I am so SO SO glad I've haven't ever developed that kernel of an idea that could have been the sequel to this MS.

Seriously.  This project has so many problems.  But they are problems that can be fixed.  Had I based 250 more pages on the faulty project...I probably would have had an entire MS that didn't work.  AT ALL.  

And just because you can make something have a sequel...doesn't mean you should.

I've read some really lame sequels lately and for me, what it boils down the stakes.  In these crappy sequels the stakes are never as high as the were in the first book, and that's a problem.  A big one, you don't feel the same draw to the problem, to the characters, to anything that's going on.

So my advice is don't write the sequel, I know you want to but don't do it...

Unless you are an amazing writer with a three-book deal and an overarching story line that is really awesome, then be my guest.

*stakes:  what the character has to lose throughout the book...whether it's personal, or will effect others, or the entire world depends on them.  You can read about raising the stakes in a writer's digest article or Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maas (he has an awesome section on stakes :) )


  1. hahah this is so true. thank you for putting it eloquently! S words. hahah

  2. What? All this time I thought you were a crappy blogger (since you haven't updated your family blog since last june) and here you have an amazingly entertaining blog that you post on every few days. How did I not know about this? I am glad I found it.

  3. Well I am a crappy blogger... when it comes to that other blog. I don't know why it suffers so much neglect, I just never seem to get around to it.

  4. Yeah, I have an idea for a sequel to my WIP, but I'm pretty sure it would be lame. Good point, with the stakes. I don't know how people develop trilogies, honestly.

  5. "Overarching storyline" I think is the key word here. I look at some of the most successful stories that shot up into franchises (a dream often spawning tirades of crappy sequels), and they all have this in common.
    Lord of the Rings--Three books to destroy the ring. One to introduce it.
    Harry Potter--Seven books to kill Voldemort
    Twilight--Four books for Bella to get laid.
    Star Wars--One movie to destroy death star...PYSCHE! New death star!

    The big difference is that the author knew they wanted to do this. They could even foreshadow something in book 3 back in book 1. I feel like a lot of times a sequel is just a way to "resell" a story. I like my mini-villains to die off book by book, but my major baddies to stick around for a while.

  6. Yeah I think I must be a natural born "play it again sammer" I am on book 4 having not sold one and two was better than one and three is just Not where I thought we were gonna land but whew! Finally having a breath on 4 to write two other short stand alones. It took me two years to write one....and two months to finish the rough on the sequel. It gets easier....once you prove to yourself you Can do. The first one I finished (years ago) and was happy with...felt like a freaking gift from the word gods....LOL agents didn't agree. But it was an important step. don't get so wrapped up in fixing that you don't finish. I spent years and 20 some ideas tinkering and fixing them to death. Finish...then fix. Then hop right back on the horse.