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A Tale of Two Novels

Draft, edit, revise, scream into the void, publish. Or something like that.

By Addison HornerPublished 9 months ago • 4 min read
A Tale of Two Novels
Photo by 🇸🇮 Janko Ferlič on Unsplash

"Second verse for the hustlers (hustlers), gangsters (gangsters)..."

- Bruno Mars, popular music's poet laureate, circa 2016

How do you write a sequel?

Let's set the scene. You just poured your bleeding heart into every crack and crevice of a story, filling the gaps of imagination with sequence and substance. Characters breathe. Incidents incite. Arcs...well, arc.

"Journey before destination," they say, quoting a popular fantasy author. But now you've journeyed hard enough to crash/limp/slide/saunter/soar over the finish line of your first novel. Those two little words rise to the front of your consciousness.

No, not THE END.

What now?

Last year, I wrote a book. You can read about that journey-destination duo here:

I've since gone traipsing through the trenches—alpha reading, developmental editing, multiple rounds of revisions, beta reading, proofreading—as I prepare to self-publish. I'll save that for another article, though. This, to borrow Bruno's ebullience, is the second verse.

Second Beginnings

Sequels are bigger. Because of human psychology, cultural expectations, attention spans, and whatever else, every installment needs MORE. More of what, though?

If you look at the Marvel Cinematic Universe—arguably the most successful long-form storytelling mode in this century—you can see it. We started with this:

And ended up with this:

(Please disregard anything that came out after 2019.)

Storylines, character arcs, and stakes cascaded on top of one another for 13 years. Not every story was a winner, but the $2.8 billion Marvel earned from "Avengers: Endgame" (2019) means something.

Okay, back to me now.

My first book, Marrow and Soul, is a whirlwind of ghosts, heists, trials, electric puppy-lizards, pastries, deaths, and assorted twists. How do I grow bigger?

Answer: I look at the dimensions.

Book 1 takes place in a single city. In Book 2, I take the protagonist out of the city, forcing her on a journey that will change her perception of the world.

Book 1 features some ghosts. Book 2 features more ghosts.

Book 1 has what appears to be a simple good-vs.-evil system. Book 2 adds more layers to make the protagonist (and therefore the reader) question the morality of those she considered to be the good guys.

In summation: sequels add depth and complexity to the first story's foundations.

Theme Night in the Author's Office

I like writing with themes. Anyone who's read my work on Vocal knows that. I take root concepts that interest me—death, relationships, dreams, desire, forgiveness, connection, etc.—and shape stories around them. If something appears at the beginning of a story, it better have some relevance at the end.

For Marrow and Soul, a supernatural fantasy featuring ghosts and resurrecting relics, I leaned into life and death as the motifs that shaped my protagonist and her environment. The opening sentence:

If you want to watch thousands of people die in slow motion, go to a feast in the Palace District.

I leaned into those layers as I wrote. When I started drafting, I had a basic idea of the story and the big twist at the 75% mark. As I fleshed out every chapter, those themes of life and death wormed their way into the narrative. They were the focal point.

For Book 2, I could do the same thing with more confidence and nuance, knowing that I'd done it once before. I found a few motifs—light, glass, and sight—and crafted the story around some crucial questions:

What does it mean to be seen?

Why do humans want to be seen?

What does it feel like to be invisible?

And so on. Not only are these questions thematically appropriate for this fantasy world, they're big questions for normal, non-magical creatures like us to consider. The result is a stronger story, one bound by common thematic threads.

Practical Magic

Time for statistics. In comparing the processes of writing Marrow and Soul and its sequel, I can see my own growth as a writer. First, the numbers for the first drafts:

Marrow and Soul

First draft word count: 99,826

Months spent writing: 18

Days I wrote: 118

Hours spent writing: 77.45

Book 2

First draft word count: 100,833

Months spent writing: 4.5

Days I wrote: 94

Hours spent writing: 77.05

The biggest difference for Book 2 was that I knew what I was doing. Kinda. More than I did for Marrow and Soul, that's for sure. Not only that, this is a stronger first draft in terms of storytelling and prose.

Does it need revision? Heck yeah. But we'll get there.

Practically, what made the difference in these processes? A few things:

  1. Consistency. While writing Marrow and Soul, I figured out a writing routine that kept me drafting in half-hour spurts. For Book 2, I started with that routine in mind.
  2. Opportunity. I spent two months outlining and planning, then started drafting a week in early March of this year. When spring break rolled around, I used the extra time for a writing sprint that earned me 24,000 words in five days. And they're decent words, too!
  3. Validity. I'd written a book. I'd started and finished a manuscript. If I did it once, I could do it again.

So...what now?

Oh yeah, that pesky question.

Now we move forward.

I'm setting aside Book 2 for a while so I can return with fresh eyes.

I'm preparing to launch a Kickstarter for Book 1—you can follow along at the link below:

And I'm growing my platform as an author and editor, one step/reel/post/article at a time.

As the great Brando Sando wrote, "Journey before destination."

Here's to the next step.


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About the Creator

Addison Horner

I love fantasy epics, action thrillers, and those blurbs about farmers on boxes of organic mac and cheese. MARROW AND SOUL (YA fantasy) available February 5, 2024.

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  • Randy Wayne Jellison-Knock9 months ago

    Excellent article. Congratulations on all you've accomplished so far. Best wishes for upcoming release. Thanks for sharing this with us.

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