Recently, I was asked by one of my webinar attendees how I approach writing a sequel. I started my explanation when I realized I had written an entire post on this topic on Tara Lazar‘s blog a few years ago. Hooray for past Tammi helping present Tammi out! 🙂
Since the information still holds true (and since I’m currently in the throes of working on another book’s sequel), I decided to reprint that post right here.
How Tammi Sauer Wrote a Nugget & Fang SEA-quel
In the spring of 2013, two unlikely friends swam onto the picture book scene—Nugget and Fang. From the start, Nugget & Fang, written by me and illustrated by Michael Slack, did really well. I was proud of our standalone. It never even occurred to me to write a sequel.
Then, in 2017, my new editor at Clarion, Lynne Polvino, asked if I’d be interested in revisiting a certain underwater world.
Two years later, my favorite fishy friends returned in the SEA-quel, Nugget & Fang Go to School.
When a publishing house asks you to write a sequel, please know this situation comes with advantages and disadvantages.
- You already know your characters.
- You already know the tone.
- You already know the style.
- You already know the voice.
- You already know the general setting.
- You already know the basic pacing.
- The book needs to be written.
- The book needs to be at least as good as the original, preferably better.
- The book needs to appeal to fans of the original as well as to people who have never read it.
- The book needs to meet a deadline.
- The book needs to get approval from the publishing house, and, if the book does not get this approval, you can’t submit it elsewhere. Plus, you, um, still have to write a sequel that gets approval.
- The book needs to be similar to the original. Oh. But it needs to be different, too.
But how do you actually write a sequel????? In my experience, such a task involves gallons and gallons of tropical tea, endless quantities of chips and salsa from Torchy’s Tacos, and a critique group that reminds you that you can do this.
These are the three things that were most helpful to me as I wrote Nugget & Fang Go to School:
- I read the original. Then I read it again. And again. And again. After that, I read it again. This not only helped me to dive back into Nugget and Fang’s world, but it helped me to rediscover the rhythm of their story.
- I typed out the text of the original and paginated it. This gave me a clear and concise visual of my pacing and page turns. I kept the paginated text of book 1 right next to me as I worked to create the text for book 2.
- I played with words. (Book 1 incorporated lots of wordplay so book 2 had to have that as well.) First, I compiled a list of the wordplay that I had used in book 1:
- Holy mackerel!
- Swim for your lives!
- Sounds fishy to me.
- Oh, my algae!
- I feel seasick!
- Have you lost your gills?
- Catch of the day
- Fang’s heart sank.
- You’re fintastic.
- Fanned his gills.
- Wrung his fins.
This served as a cheat sheet. I knew what wordplay absolutely could not go into book 2. I then wrote a long list of different potential wordplay to use in the sequel. These are the items from that list that made their way into book 2:
- Other fish in the sea
- Oh, my starfish!
- Swim for cover!
- Cool as a sea cucumber
- School of fish
- Sea of faces
- Best friend in the whole underwater world
- Made a splash
- A fish out of water
- There was nothing fishy about that.
Having lots of new wordplay to choose from allowed me to give book 2 a similar feel to book 1, but it helped me to make the new book fresh as well.
Overall, writing a sequel is quite a challenge, but wild seahorses wouldn’t have been able to drag me away from the opportunity.