5 Rules for How to Write a Sequel to Your Book
5 Rules for How to Write a Sequel to Your Book
Just when you think you’ve figured out how to write a book, you realize you have to learn a whole new set of rules for how to write a sequel.
You’d think writing the second book in a series couldn’t be that much different from writing the first one. They both have a beginning, middle, and end—three acts, all the usual plot points, rising and falling action, etc., etc., etc. (said your best Yul Brynner voice). Even better, you’ve already done the hardest part of the foundational work, right? You’ve already successfully made it through one whole book with these characters, which means you already know what they like for breakfast, how they survived their childhood nemesis, and what their go-to move for bad-guy kicking will always be.
So far, so good. But it’s also true a sequel is a new animal in its own right, with its own set of unique questions and challenges—ones you maybe never even dreamed of when toiling through that first book.
I am now almost a year into my first experience with a sequel—the second in an unexpected trilogy, beginning with my portal fantasy Dreamlander. Having just completed its ginormous outline and now standing on the brink of streamlining it all into a cohesive first draft, I am excited to report it has been an amazing experience. The chief question I’m left with is: Why didn’t I do this sooner?!
I have also learned a ton, about storytelling in general and, of course, sequels in particular. I’ve already written about how to determine the best ideas and approaches for your sequel ideas, as well as how to plan and outline your overarching story throughout the entire series. But today, it’s time to consider how to write the sequel itself.
I’m working on a sequel right now and would love your thoughts on how else a sequel differs from the first book. How can we use the relationships readers have already built with characters to jump right in, without having the slow build up of getting to know the cast? Do we need to explain to readers why this story doesn’t have all the elements of the previous one?
Top 5 Guidelines for How to Write a Sequel
Honestly, one of the most important questions of any book is—where to begin? Almost all of the same rules for beginning your standalone book’s chapter also apply to your sequel. If anything, a sequel’s opening chapter offers you more opportunities for great hooks with fewer burdens for introducing important story elements.
Historically, the opening chapter has been one of the most difficult parts of any book for me. There is just so much to juggle from the first line on. You have to introduce the protagonist in a characteristic moment that defines him, as well as a scene that introduces or hints at the main story conflict, illustrates the theme, and absolutely thrills readers.
Of course, a sequel’s opening chapter also has to accomplish all of this too, but it’s actually a much easier challenge, if only because you’ve already been there, done that in the previous book. When I originally wrote the first chapter of Dreamlander—the trilogy’s first book—I had to take into account that readers knew nothing about my character or the story world or the premise that people were living two different conscious lives, one waking in our world and another in a parallel fantasy world they visited in their dreams.
I had to open that story with a protagonist who was just as clueless as the readers—which meant it was actually really hard to come up with a Normal World hook that fulfilled all the necessary requirements. (The opening scene that ended up in the book—which I was pretty happy with—was actually an eleventh-hour edit just weeks before publication.)
But guess what? *happy dance* I didn’t have to mess with that in the sequel. I got to jump right into the heart of the story, with a protagonist who was already in the know about what was happening to him and who was, in turn, able to help readers ask all the right questions about why it was happening.
However, your sequel’s opening chapter will also present some of its own unique challenges. The Hook must still be a Hook—not simply a continuation of the final scene from your last book. And even though you won’t have to introduce your protagonist, plot, and theme from scratch, you will have to reframe them in a way that reminds readers where things stand and gives them a foundation for moving forward in this book’s unique dramatic and thematic premises.
You must choose a sequel’s opening scene with just as much care as you used for the first book. What scene will dramatize not just who your character is, where he’s at, and what he’s doing—but what scene will best show readers how the character has changed from Book 1 to Book 2?
You must also determine how much time should pass between books. Sometimes this answer will be obvious, sometimes not. But if you skip too much time, you may find yourself unwittingly jumping over some of the events readers were most desperate to know about in the aftermath of the first book. Take a step back and ask yourself: What is my readers’ most pressing question after the first book? See if you can answer that question or at least acknowledge it in your first chapter, to pull them right back in.
Types of reports
Reports can be further divided into categories based on how they are written. For example, a report could be formal or informal, short or long, and internal or external. In business, a vertical report shares information with people on different levels of the hierarchy (i.e., people who work above you and below you), while a lateral report is for people on the author’s same level, but in different departments.
The structure of a report depends on the type of report and the requirements of the assignment. While reports can use their own unique structure, most follow this basic template:
- Executive summary: Just like an abstract in an academic paper, an executive summary is a standalone section that summarizes the findings in your report so readers know what to expect. These are mostly for official reports and less so for school reports.
- Introduction: Setting up the body of the report, your introduction explains the overall topic that you’re about to discuss, with your thesis statement and any need-to-know background information before you get into your own findings.
- Body: The body of the report explains all your major discoveries, broken up into headings and subheadings. The body makes up the majority of the entire report; whereas the introduction and conclusion are just a few paragraphs each, the body can go on for pages.
- Conclusion: The conclusion is where you bring together all the information in your report and come to a definitive interpretation or judgment. This is usually where the author inputs their own personal opinions or inferences.
If you’re familiar with how to write a research paper , you’ll notice that report writing follows the same introduction-body-conclusion structure, sometimes adding an executive summary. Reports usually have their own additional requirements as well, such as title pages and tables of content, which we explain in the next section.
What should be included in a report?
There are no firm requirements for what’s included in a report. Every school, company, laboratory, task manager, and teacher can make their own format, depending on their unique needs. In general, though, be on the lookout for these particular requirements—they tend to crop up a lot:
- Title page: Official reports often use a title page to keep things organized; if a person has to read multiple reports, title pages make them easier to keep track of.
- Table of contents: Just like in books, the table of contents helps readers go directly to the section they’re interested in, allowing for faster browsing.
- Page numbering: A common courtesy if you’re writing a longer report, page numbering makes sure the pages are in order in the case of mix-ups or misprints.
- Headings and subheadings: Reports are typically broken up into sections, divided by headings and subheadings, to facilitate browsing and scanning.
- Citations: If you’re citing information from another source, the citations guidelines tell you the recommended format.
- Works cited page: A bibliography at the end of the report lists credits and the legal information for the other sources you got information from.