It’s no secret that the Indie book scene is rife with sequels these days. In the indie romance world, in particular, it seems like every author feels the need to write the same story from a different point of view, continue the story, or write a spin-off that focuses on another character from the original. Now, I’m certainly not saying there’s anything wrong with it, but I’ve read far too many sequels/spin-offs that have completely flopped. So, dear authors, over the next few days, I present you with a What Not to Do, of sorts. Ready?
1. Do not continue the plot line unless you’ve set us up for it.
Let’s take a look at some famous series for a moment. Probably the most famous is Harry Potter. JKR, while not the best writer around, certainly does weave a nice plot line. Each of the individual novels has an internal goal, but each one also follows a larger, more complex storyline as well. It’s the reason we rooted for Ron and Hermoine’s relationship to bloom for years.
It’s the reason we never suspected that Snape would do the unthinkable. We felt satisfied after each novel because Harry is still alive and will go on to fight another day. And because Harry’s alive, and Voldemort is still alive, we know there’s probably going to be another book. The bigger plot is still unfinished, while the minor plot feels concluded.
Other examples: Twilight does this, as well, but on a smaller scale. The minor threat (James, Victoria, etc.) is conquered, while the larger threat (the Volturi) remains. Lord of the Rings is similar, but as an epic, it has less to do with a minor threat and more to do with the end of a journey.
Ok, so where are indie books falling short? (And I’m talking mostly about indie romance because that’s where I’ve seen most of these problems.) Let’s take Abbi Glines’ (who you know I adore) Fallen Too Far, Never Too Far, and the still unnamed 3rd book as an example here. Fallen and Never were written specifically as a duo. We’re set up for Never at the end of Fallen, so we are prepared. The 3rd book, however, was not set up at the end of Never, and is the result of thousands of women begging for more of the two characters. I wanted to scream “It’s peer pressure, Abbi. Don’t give in!”
Alas, she did, and has promised a third book.*
Yes, I realize this is not high-brow literature we’re talking about. And yes, I appreciate the desire to please your audience. And yes, I understand that she’s making a killing on these books.
BUT… Not only was the second book a flop, in my opinion, but because were haven’t been set up for a sequel, Abbi will be fishing for more conflict for the third book. If you’ve gotta fish for it, it shouldn’t exist. As an author, when beginning a series, it’s important to have a vision in mind for the final end result. This vision drives all of the characters’ actions and all of the narrative throughout the series. Since this is romance, it won’t necessarily be difficult to find conflict, but that doesn’t mean it will make a good story. This is a case of “Sex Sells,” and because so many people have fallen in love with her characters, Abbi can write anything
with them in it, and people will buy it.
Moral of the story: Writing a series is all about set up and pay off. Contrary to our Capitalist minds, pay off without the set up, is not a bonus.
*Don’t worry, I’m going to use Abbi as a good example for some of her other work later.