Why Sequels Are Harder to Write – Guest Post by Hope Bolinger

Today we have a guest on the blog! Hope Bolinger is a YA author and literary agent, and this post is part of the blog tour to promote her upcoming book: Den. Stick around to the end of the post to read more about that. :)

Have you ever read a sequel and thought, “Meh. The original was better”?

Or have you ever felt that a book didn’t need a sequel, and that the author simply wrote a second book because their publisher said, “Stacey, you sold a million books. We need a second installment NOW!”?

Believe it or not, authors get intimidated by writing sequels. Even if we’d originally planned for a series, we worry that our second book will end up like so many other second installments to popular books: mediocre at best.

In this article, I’ll break down some of the trickiest obstacles to writing a sequel, and how to overcome them.

Reason One: You Have to Jump Over the Previous Bar You’ve Set

Obviously, if you wrote a terrible first book you only have up to go from here.

But let’s say you did, at the very least, so-so. Now you have expectations to meet. You have to present a book that’s equally compelling, surprising, enticing, and any other positive “ing.” That’s a lot of pressure.

How to overcome this?

First, accept that your first draft will not be as good as the final draft. Second, enroll the help of betas who have read the first book. Ask them if this one ups the ante.

Reason Two: You Have to Provide Plot Info without Confusing New Readers

Some readers read book two before book one. I’ve done it myself with certain series. So now you have the task of introducing them to the world you’ve previously set up without throwing so much information at them that they get lost, or worse, bored.

How to overcome this?

Just like you did with book one, sprinkle in details lightly. Have characters mention previous events in dialogue. Don’t overdo it. But make sure to give enough of a recap so they feel in the loop. Think about T.V. shows that do a “previously on blah blah blah” section. Try to evoke the same feeling.

Reason Three: You Have to Avoid Being Predictable

Readers know all your curveballs by now. How? Well, you pitched all of them in that first book.

Now you have the task of subverting expectations whilst still fulfilling them. You need to present the same character they know and love, but have different stakes, different nuances, and enough “different” to not be hackneyed or boring.

How to overcome this?

Don’t be afraid to experiment. You don’t have to match everything to a T in regard to that first book. Allow the characters and plot to surprise even you, the author. And allow yourself to take risks. Even if that means you end up with a sequel that doesn’t quite measure up, at least you tried your best and, most importantly, had fun.

About Hope

Hope Bolinger is a literary agent at C.Y.L.E. and a graduate of Taylor University’s professional writing program. More than 800 of her works have been featured in various publications ranging from Writer’s Digest to Keys for Kids to HOOKED to Crosswalk.com. She writes about 250-300 articles a year. Her modern-day Daniel, “Blaze,” (Illuminate YA) released in 2019, and they contracted the sequel “Den” for July 2020. Her superhero romance she co-wrote with Alyssa Roat releases from INtense Publications in September 2020. Find more about her at hopebolinger.com


About Den

Danny Belte barely survived his sophomore year at King’s Academy, having to deal with horrible initiation practices, stomach-churning cafeteria food, and the constant threat of arson.

His junior year doesn’t start off much better. Facing a series of mysterious suicide attempts that begin on day one–and a disturbing pattern that appears to connect them–Danny has a feeling something far more sinister is at play. He tries to narrow down a list of suspects as those closest to him disappear, one by one.

Can he protect his friends from a possible murderer on the loose? Or will he find himself trapped in a fate worse than a lions’ den?

Find the first book, Blaze, here.

If you enjoyed this post, please share it!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.