Writing a Sequel

SequelI’d finished my android novel and was brainstorming the next big thing (NBT). I had created a NBT document and made a list of 11 topics I really would like to write about. These ranged over music, money, magical realism, crime, growing up, time travel, and much else; all juicy stuff for me.

Then the unthinkable happened. A New York literary agent agreed to represent my android novel. It took me about one nanosecond to decide. Of course there’s no guarantee he can sell it, but the important point is that he thinks he can. There’s nothing I can do now about that project but wait.

So I went back to the NBT list and tried to focus. But one plain fact blurred the words on the page. If my agent sells my android manuscript, and if it does not totally bomb, then one day the phone will ring and the question will be, “Do you have a sequel?”

So I added an entry to the top of the NBT list: “Androids: The Sequel,” and I stared at it for a long time. How do you write a sequel? What is a sequel, exactly?

A sequel has to be a follow-up of the previous story, but I think all that means is that some of the same characters and  spatiotemporal locations are used. It’s not an epilog, but a whole new adventure having many of the same faces and colors; similar mood, themes, and atmosphere as the first.

In the original android story I wanted to dramatize the idea that most people would flatly refuse to extend empathic respect to any machine, no matter how intelligent it was. Do I have anything else to say about people and intelligent machines? I decided I do, and now I have a six-page sketch for a sprawling story.  It needs a lot of work, but it exists.

But I’m worried about backstory. How much do I have to explain about the previous novel, and how do I do that?  Do I have to re-introduce my recycled characters from scratch, or can I assume readers already know them? And where do I start?  I don’t want to pick it up literally where the last story ended. Maybe I can jump in anywhere and later tie it back somehow.  Do I need to plant seeds for a third sequel? Maybe I should.

Does each sequel have to trump all previous? In the first novel, I ramped up the tension as high as I could, to life-and-death stakes, and then I wrestled that climax to the ground. Now I have to top that?  Hmm. Won’t be easy.

It takes me an intense six months to write a first draft, another six to rewrite, and at the present moment, I’m close to being androided-out. My motivation for diving back into that world needs more coffee. That’s another problem with a sequel.

But I’m betting the phone will ring and that question will be asked, and I know my answer must be, “Yes.”

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