Monday, 26 October 2015

On the Writing of a Sequel

When I first set out on the writing of APRIL SKIES - the sequel to my debut novel, ABIDE WITH ME - I had in mind the mantra that a sequel needs to be written, not only as a sequel, but also as a standalone novel. APRIL SKIES needed to satisfy not only the readers of ABIDE WITH ME, but also appeal to new readers, readers that had never heard of John, or Kenny, or Ronnie Swordfish. 

I knew I would find that part difficult. Writing to please the reader, you see, has never really been my thing, so to speak. 

I wrote ABIDE WITH ME without any thought of an audience, any thought of anything at all other than writing the words as they filtered through to my mind from the ether.

But with APRIL SKIES, I was writing for two audiences, merely by its very nature of being a sequel.

And I think that’s why it has taken so long. Getting that balance, you know, not referencing ABIDE WITH ME too much, thus causing old readers to skip those sections yet still referencing it enough to perhaps reacquaint them with the characters and events. Likewise, there would be a genuine place for referring to ABIDE WITH ME in terms of giving new readers some of the background to the characters yet I didn’t want to give too much away in case it put them off wanting to read ABIDE WITH ME.

A real balancing act.

When I completed APRIL SKIES, I thought I’d finally got it licked.
Then my publisher asked me to write the blurb. 

It is pretty well known amongst writers that the writing of things like the synopsis, or the query letter, or the blurb, can be more difficult than the writing of the novel itself. 

So when my publisher asked me to write a blurb for APRIL SKIES consisting of 150-200 words, I knew it would be a struggle. 

A few hours later, when I‘d written the 185 words or so, I thought I’d achieved the balance of referencing the old and introducing the new. So when I received a note from my publisher saying he thought I’d referenced ABIDE WITH ME too much, my heart sort of sank. A coffee or two later, I had another look at what I’d written, and realised he was absolutely right. It was as if I’d been unable to disentangle the new book from the old, as if I couldn’t allow APRIL SKIES to exist without it being tied to ABIDE WITH ME.

So I had another go.

The new blurb for APRIL SKIES had no reference to any events or characters from ABIDE WITH ME. Sitting back from it allowed me for the first time to see APRIL SKIES in isolation, as a book apart.

It’s hard to describe that feeling. 

My eldest daughter, Mollie, is almost seventeen. She now attends college instead of attending the local secondary school. Writing the blurb for APRIL SKIES without referencing ABIDE WITH ME is the same, for me, as seeing Mollie now as a young woman in her own right, rather than my little girl.

It’s a funny old thing, this writing lark, isn’t it . . .

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