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.