I wobbled over the summer about writing a “Conventions 2.” However, the more I thought about it the more I felt there was much more to write about the characters and their time. In some ways with Conventions: The Garden At Paris, I believed I had barely gotten started.
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For me, it’s difficult to pick up a book sequel, especially if you thoroughly enjoyed the original. You feel the pressure of hoping that the characters and story are on par with the predecessor and if the stars align, whether or not the new entry will be able to surpass it. The film Jackie Brown is drawn from Elmore’s Rum Punch, who’s original story is called The Switch. It had the same two main characters from Jackie, Ordell and Louis, and it exceeded my wildest expectations. I adored every page! It wouldn’t shock me at all if Leonard could pull off that same magic twice. Here goes! 📚 🥃
Yet over the years I have also discovered that writing sequels, and/or a series of “stand alone” novels based on the same characters, is a dicey proposition in several ways – and not just for the reason noted above: a potential reader worrying if the sequel will “match” the previous effort.
One upside to a sequel is a reader of the first book can pick up a sequel and jump in having a fairly good idea of what is to follow. Lots of people occasionally like that “comfort” in terms of reading. And that is understandable: the world today leaves us all with numerous reasons to wish to seek to escape to somewhere with familiar faces.
Some readers of a first book will also look forward to a sequel just because they want more. In that a sequel provides a writer with a “built in” readership. They want to know what happens next.
However, a major downside is if a reader is not grabbed by the first installment they are almost certainly not going to read those that appear next. Whatever happens, with a series – particularly one with an ongoing story – you are probably writing for a smaller audience for each successive book. After all, if you didn’t like that initial “Jack Reacher” or “Robert Langdon” book you bought, you probably won’t buy any others.
Back in the spring, I pulled a biography of John Marshall off a shelf over in the Catskills and brought it back here to England to re-read for this planned next novel. He was an intensely interesting man who most of us know little about today. In the early 1800s, as Chief Justice, he made our U.S. Supreme Court pretty much what it is now.
Marshall was also rather a, uh, “romantic” guy. By Jane Austen standards he might even have been termed “dashing.” Age 42 (and married; his wife was back in the U.S.) in 1797 while in Paris trying to negotiate for the U.S. with the French government, he became smitten by age 30-ish widow the Marquise de Villette – and she by him.
Despite any pitfalls, a sequel allows us a chance further to fill out the lives of many of the characters seen in the first book. New ones, in my case here, such as Marshall, will appear. There will inevitably be new issues and dilemmas as well.
I wrote the other day about the inspiration that Instagram had unexpectedly provided me for the Conventions sequel. A view of one photograph spurred me to create two new characters. That happening reinforced my feelings that I could indeed produce a worthwhile second novel written as a general continuation of the first…
My verdict? If you’re a writer don’t avoid tackling a sequel if – and THIS is VITAL – you believe you can improve upon its predecessor. If you honestly feel you can, then get busy and write it…
A sequel will not make everyone happy. But if you feel you have more to say with many of the same characters and general story backdrop, don’t hesitate. You’ll certainly please at least some readers who aren’t quite ready themselves to say “goodbye” either. 🙂