2nd Book Problems

I know. My novel is, as of yet, unpublished. But that doesn’t mean it’s too early to start studying up for the future and the problems I hope to conquer next!

I write fantasy. If you read fantasy novels, you’ve probably noticed a trend: books rarely stand alone (unlike the cheese). That doesn’t mean the story isn’t self-contained, but often, there are overlaying archs that are worked towards, independently of the novel’s internal story arch.

There are a lot of things to think about before starting your second book. If you’d like to avoid 2nd book problems, there’s only way way to do that.

Refuse to write them!

But for the rest of us, there are some questions we need to ask.

When is too soon to start plotting your sequel?

Before you get started?

Some say that no plan survives the first encounter with the enemy– or at least that plans and outlines should be seen more as guidelines than rules.

Get A General Idea First?

Some say it never hurts to know where you’re starting and where you’re hoping to end up.


Some like to follow the story and see where it goes, flying by the seat of their pants.

Should You Change Point-Of-View?

In Romance series, it’s often expected. You typically branch off and pair off all the friends of all the brides and grooms.

It can be done well. Personally, I’d suggest:

  • If your first book was single POV, to add no more than two new ones.
  • No matter your POV (or POVs), you need to grant some continuity. Either:
    • keep at least one main character.
    • have the new main characters as the tertiary characters from the first.
    • have the new main characters as ancestors/descendants of the main characters from the first.

How Much To Reintroduce!

You want new readers to know enough about what’s going on, old readers to be tactfully reminded of what happened in the previous book(s), and readers speeding through the series to not get bored!

It’s a tough tightrope to walk!

As always, with background info, an eyedropper is better than a dump truck.

Techniques to try:

  • Flashbacks to a previous book
  • Prologue or scenes replayed — from a new character’s point-of-view

Giving too much information in the beginning of a story is a standard error. Says Jo Lindsay Walton:

Bad books are often not a bad read–if you start in the middle, [after all that exposition]! – Jo Lindsay Walton

Problems With Cannon!

When you’re writing a sequel–especially one you’d never expected to write, the story may take you in new directions, where you find yourself painted into a corner.

You may have missed the opportunity to hint at someone turning into the bad guy, the new story arch that should have been underlying the first one, or given characters traits that are now plot-stumbling blocks.

But! You can also find the limitations help give the book direction you might have otherwise floundered at.

When To Start Thinking About Series Themed Titles!

The time to think about series titles is right about the time you’re ready to publish book one, if you have ANY notion of ever playing in that same world again. Don’t worry about it before you have a final title for the novel!

And remember. The series name itself must be STRONG.

A Song of Ice and Fire, while whimsical and a hint at later plot developments, never caught on as strongly as Game of Thrones

The title names can be themed, alliterative, story/plot derived, etc. Whatever you (or the publisher) thinks will sell.

What To Do When You’d Never Intended A Sequel But Reader Demand Is Strong!?

Brainstorm when you’re writing your novels where else you can go. Leave threads open! Life isn’t nice and neat, you shouldn’t have everything wrapped up with a bow when the reader hits: “THE END.”

  • Are there things the main character wanted or needed to do next?
  • Are there secondary characters who deserve their own book?
  • Would a prequel novel make sense?
  • Would a generation-skip-ahead novel make sense?

What Is The Hardest Part of Book Two?

Hands down: making the story’s plot and emotional arch strong enough to stand alone.

You still need an inciting incident.

You still need struggles and nearly un-surmountable odds.

You still need that false victory.

And that crushing blow, snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, that makes the main character (and the reader) feel that hope might be lost.

And you still need that climax – that restores hope, gives a sense of accomplishment.

Plus–even if there’s another sequel coming–you need a denouement. The falling action that grants the character time to take a deep breath and reassess and make plans.

If you’re working on that sequel – best of luck. If you’re dreaming about the day when it’s your turn? The best way to make that happen is to finish book one!


These notes are taken from the titular panel. The panelists were Annie Bellet, Jo Lindsay Walton, Katri Alatals, and Laura Lam. The panel was moderated by NS Dolkart.

Vlog: 2nd Book Problems

There are a lot of things to think about before starting your second book. If you’d like to avoid 2nd book problems, there’s only one way to do that.

Refuse to write them!

But for the rest of us, there are some questions we need to ask.

5 Things To Remember When Creating a New Religion

What Is Mythology?

There are many definitions, but the one I’m addressing today is:

Mythology is folklore and legends that tell how things came to be.

Note: We often think of pantheons of gods: the Greek, Egyptian, Roman… but divinity isn’t required.

5 Things To Remember When Creating a New Religion (or Mythology)

1. Steal from the dead

  • It’s less culturally appropriative to steal from dead cultures, rather than current ones.

2. Remember what you’re doing

  • You’re writing a book – you only need to invent as much as is necessary for your story.

3. Beliefs influence societies

  • When world building, think about how the society’s beliefs will influence their culture and politics.

4. Remember people are different.

  • You shouldn’t invent new religions and state that All Followers of X are this and All Followers of Y are that. It’s not realistic.

5. Remember the different types of religions.

Most fit in one (or more) of the 4 categories below.

  1. Polytheistic
    • Greek, Egyptian, Norse, etc. Mythology tells how they’re all family, their wars, trials, and tribulations.
  2. Pantheistic
    • God is everywhere and has infinite faces. Everything is part of an all-encompassing, immanent God.
  3. Monotheistic
    • One supreme god-figure who is responsible for all creation
  4. Animistic
    • All things have their own spirit.

Even with all these tips, it’s hard to create something truly unique that doesn’t come across to readers as analogous to a religion they’re already aware of.

That can be handy, because you don’t have to explain as much.

The challenge lies in fighting assumptions.

Best of luck. Do you have any tips?

This post was derived from the titular panel at WorldCon75, with panelists Tarja Rainio, Kathryn Sullivan, Michael Underwood, and moderator Ju Honisch.

Vlog: 5 Steps For Creating Mythologies

What Is Mythology?

Mythology is folklore and legends that tell how things came to be.

5 Steps For Creating A New Mythology

Top 7 Tips For Quick Query Rejections

Top 7 Tips For a Quick Query Rejection


1 – Typos don’t matter, the right agent will see through them to the heart of your story.

If the agent sees that you don’t line edit your query, and easy fixes that any spell-check should have caught are ignored, they might love your story idea, but they’re going to be concerned. If you let that many errors get through on a one-page query, how much editing is your novel going to need? Even agencies that do thorough rounds of edits are going to hesitate before taking on that much work.

2 – Take as many (or as few) words as it takes to tell your story

Novels are expected to be certain lengths, dependent on genre and target age range. If you submit something more than 10,000 words outside the expected range, the agent will likely think you don’t know the market and aren’t ready to query.

3 – Focus on world building, sprinkle in pace and plot with a light hand.

The agent wants to know who the story is about and what happens. The world is the context, but the main character’s emotional and physical journey is the story. If you query the world and neglect the plot, you’re likely looking at a rejection.

4 – Once you have your query the way you want it, don’t ever change it.

Everyone hates form letters. Agents don’t like feeling as though you’re looking for just any agent who’s willing to take you. They want to have been chosen and for you to have done your research. Adding a note about meeting them at a conference, seeing a talk they gave, or books that they’ve agented and/or mentioned liking in their bios helps.

5 – Query any agent that sounds good

There’s a reason agents list what genres they represent and describe their taste in books. Sending your query to agents that aren’t interested in those genres is a quick way to a rejection. They WANT to say yes, they HAVE to say no to most, and you just made their decision easy.

6 – Research Everything The Agent You’re Querying Has Ever Done

Don’t stalk the agents. I may have mentioned this before. Referencing things from their private journals or obscure articles from their childhood is wrong. Only use information that is publicly available on their agency site or publicly associated social media. Don’t go back 10 years. Just focus on what they’re looking for now. People don’t like working with stalkers.

7 – Disparage other authors and novels, use them to demonstrate how yours does those things RIGHT

You’ve been told to use comps (novels to compare yourself to), but you should never talk about how you’ve improved Harry Potter or written a more realistic and gritty Grapes of Wrath. Talk is cheap. Comps should be stylistically and/or thematically similar. And recent.

Comps should preferably be under 3 years old. You might be able to stretch it to 5 years. If you use a well known older novel, make sure your secondary comp is recent.

The best way to use comps is to use two that contrast. Game of Thrones meets Gilmore Girls.

Or to tell how yours is a twist on the novel you’re naming. Harry Potter at a spy-school for up-and-coming wizards.

The writing world is small and people have friends in many places. Disparaging a published author, while you’re still looking for an agent, will look petty and egotistical. Not confident.

I hope you have great success following these tips, on the path to quick rejections. Thanks for making my query look even better.


These tips were gleaned from the panel, “Common Mistakes from the Slushpile” from WorldCon75 and panels like that one.

Vlog: Top 7 Tips For a Quick Query Rejection

Here are my top 7 tips for getting a quick query rejection.

Reading Aloud

I like going to panels on ‘reading my own work’, dreaming about the day when I’m asked to give a book reading of my own.

As you might know, I’ve started doing these posts in a vlog. Facing down my nerves and working on my public speaking… in private where I don’t have to face a live audience and can do as . When I’m not writing, I’m one of the voice actors for Anansi Storytime. And I haven’t counted out novel narration as a career choice.

So, I get some practice in reading stuff aloud, but not so often with reading stuff aloud in front of people.

Here are some tips from a workshop I attended at WorldCon75 entitled “Reading Your Own Work.”

Reading your own work is about five things.

  1. Pitch

    • The pitch of your voice can be high, low, or anything in between. Varying pitch can help keep interest. And you can pitch your voice to carry across the room, even without raising your volume, by projecting it.
  2. Volume

    • Being loud can get attention, but sometimes, speaking softly is what keeps the audience’s attention.
  3. Timing

    • Timing is knowing when to pause and when to keep going.
  4. Pace

    • Finding a rhythm and knowing when to — break it.
  5. Rhythm

    • You can use internal rhythm.
    • You can repeat vowel sounds or consonant sounds.

Ways To Play With Sound In Your Writing and Reading

  • To avoid your rhythm sounding like a rap, treat it like a sandworm – break the rhythm
  • Nothing succeeds like excess. When you read your work–Overdo it. Pretend you don’t think you sound ridiculous and have fun with it. If you’re enjoying yourself, the audience probably will, too.
  • “Tits and teeth to the gallery”
    • One of the other attendees is a singer from Yorkshire and gave this tip, for helping carry your voice to the back of the room.

When I went into the panel, I’d brought my first chapter, imagining, from experience with other workshops, that “Reading Your Work Aloud” meant I should bring some of my own work.

Instead, our panelist had us write a brief paragraph in 5 minutes. While thinking about all the things we just discussed.

Now, I typically think of my writing as matter-of-fact or introspective. In the past, I’ve declared that lyrical writing just isn’t what I do. But, when I set out to write a paragraph thinking about pitch, volume, timing, rhythm, and pace? This is what flew out of my pencil.

The pounding and churning of the ocean waves. They came again and again to wear away the remains of the wall that was. The wall that stood and grew when the town was strong and new.

Those days were past.

I’m not sure about you, but I think I might have some lyrical writing in me after all.