The back up: 3 tips for writing stellar sequels


The back up: 3 tips for writing stellar sequels

For literary fiction authors, one of the best things is when your first instalment is well-received. Obviously, every author wants to receive praise for their work, and if there can be a little monetary gain there, too, well – that’s a bonus!

But writing a stellar first novel can also come with another exciting challenge – a sequel. You may not have been considering the notion of a second instalment when you wrote the first, but now that you’ve seen that the readers are begging for more it’s time to get down to writing the Godfather II of fiction.

The best literary fiction novels Australia readers love are often those that can lead into a sequel. Take obvious examples like the Harry Potter and Game of Thrones series – they are as famous as they are because they were able to bring the reader into a new world; a whole new place where they could spend countless hours discovering and exploring a stunning land of awesome characters, bizarre places and wild storylines.

So, how are you going to write the next Chamber of Secrets? Be sure to incorporate the following tips:


  1. Bring the main characters into a new story

Just because the public loved your first novel it doesn’t mean that they want the original storyline drawn out like a boring political “scandal” – give them something new!

After all, the original storyline may have shocked and riveted them to the point they couldn’t put the novel down, but it was your characters they fell in love with or – at least – fell in love to hate with.

Therefore, don’t pick up where you left off: take the people, some running themes like, say, unreciprocated love between the lead and a secondary character, as well as the physical setting (unless they are world-travellers!) and start anew with a brand new affliction – this is what really gets the reader excited to come back for more – the old ‘what are they getting themselves involved in this time?’ situation…


  1. Bring in a new enemy (or an old one up to new tricks)

If your novel follows the classic “good vs evil” narrative arc then you have two good options: bring in a new villain or the old but have them try something new and even more evil.

Take, for example, the James Bond series: for around 60 years there has essentially been a revolving door of bizarre new villains out to get theirs in the strangest ways possible.

Conversely, in the Harry Potter series, you have Lord Voldemort always trying new things to conquer the wizarding world for his own evil gains. If, of course, you killed off the original villain without the intention of writing a second installation, you might have to find yourself bringing in a new villain unless, of course, your original villain didn’t actually die.


  1. Introduce some second-story shocks (contains spoilers)

Coming back to Bond, one of the most memorable moments was in Skyfall, where we were led to believe that Bond was killed in the very first scene! It was a moment like this that had us wondering what direction the legendary story was going in: was he really dead? So early in the film? Where is this going?

You didn’t want to fail to live up to the first novel’s hype, and therefore there should be a couple of shocks that propels the narrative’s intrigue. Did someone make it through that everyone thought was dead? Did the burgeoning love story fail to flourish but there are still inklings of something being there between the two characters?

Don’t be afraid to start your novel with a shock – it will set an intriguing tone for the rest of the story.