Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Sequels, Part Two, Taking Joy in Writing

Two weeks ago, we discussed sequels. Why they’re hard to write, how to avoid sophomore novel pitfalls, etc. And while it was great to hear everyone’s thoughts, I still had a lot of anxieties. But that’s where a good writing friend helped, and I thought you all might benefit from her wisdom. (Thanks, Sharmon.)

As I listed all my worries about having my readers like book two as much as book one, she said, “Of course, not all your readers will like it as much.” That stopped me cold. Of course, I knew that in my head that people have different favorites, but to have her say it aloud really made me stop and think. Then she asked me about all the big series I’ve ever read from the Chronicles of Narnia to The Lord of the Rings to the Harry Potter books. She asked me if I had favorites. I did. And they weren’t the same favorites that others had. For example, I thought The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe was okay. But I really didn’t like The Last Battle. On the other hand, I loved The Magician’s Nephew and The Horse and His Boy.

She reminded me that certain stories appeal to certain readers and there’s no getting around that. I can’t write a book that will make everyone happy. (Oh, right. You’d have thought that I already knew that.) She reminded me that the best thing I can do is to have fun as the novelist. If I have fun with the story and take joy in writing it—that is the thing that readers will latch onto. That’s what they crave. A good story.

I think that’s the lesson to writing anything from a short story to a novel. We must take joy in the telling. And when we lose sight of that, we begin to lose our ability to write.

What about you, readers? Can you tell when a writer is taking joy in the telling? And writers, what do you think?


  1. I don't know if this is really related to what you're saying--I think it is, but I'm kind of crazy. I always think that if I'm not enjoying what I'm writing, people probably won't enjoy reading it. So I typically delete the entire section that is weighing me down and go in a whole other direction with it--and it always ends up a million times better.

  2. Sequels are such tricky things, but like you're friend said everyone has their own tastes of what their favorite book was. In Harry Potter, I like number 3 and I'm with you on the Narnia series with The Last Battle being my favorite.

  3. Great post. I agree 100 %. I understand that it is important to keep the audience in mind, but you can't please everyone. Just write the story in your heart. I think that is the best any of us can do.

  4. I can definitely tell when a writer is writing something for the demand and not for their own creative muse. Sometimes they can pull it off but other times...you almost wish they hadn't bothered. Like with LJ Smith and her fourth Vampire Diaries book. She didn't want to write it but the fans and her publisher were vying for it back then and it totally ruined a good thing. She should have stopped after the first three books:(

  5. I think if you utilize the skills you have and write with passion and revise, revise, revise ... it will all work out the way it's supposed to!! And not everyone will like it.