The hard, nose-to-the-grindstone work of writing Stronghold‘s sequel continues, and I must admit that it has been taxing. My enthusiasm for the project has not waned (on the contrary, I find myself more invested in it with each sitting), but the pre-writing process has begun to prove itself unproductive. I feel as though every session re-tooling the outline and filling it with new details has become circular–with each aspect I feel I am fixing, I am making something else less effective (or so it seems, anyway)
While two very specific personal incidents drove the narrative of Stronghold, the sequel has no organic event from which to draw; and though I am sure of the themes and overall concept, I feel that reverse-engineering a narrative to match those ideas feels stilted and almost false. As a result, I have very strong, specific thoughts to express but no story to carry them. I think I can sum up in two words what that means: Bad News.
The story design process for a sequel is strange. The writer is beholden to connect with a former story or concept while also needing to create something different (and supposedly better). The writer must constantly remember the former tale while not being slave to it–providing something accessible and connected yet also original and fresh. The balancing act is a difficult one as the writer develops something familiar yet new, the same but unique. Like I said here, sequels can quickly spiral into bigger, more embellished versions of an original thing, and one wants to make an intentional effort to avoid such a mistake.
But, as per usual on the writing front, I am encouraged. Placing these demands on the sequel will make it more fluid and multi-faceted; and I would rather have a more difficult go of things on the design/outline/treatment stage than at the redrafting stage down the line. Cutting a paragraph out of a treatment or outline is far less painful than dropping a 3,500 word chapter from a book.
All that being said, I am still excited about the sequel, and I intend to have it out within the next 18 months of the first’s book publication, but in the meantime I am sending out a request for aid. Has anyone out there written a sequel, and if so, do you have any insights on how to balance all the aforementioned elements, the old and new, the familiar and the fresh?