Focus on one story at a time.
Sequels are a pet peeve of mine. I can’t tell you how many sequels I have planned before I have even finished the first story. My brother has the same problem. He’ll be four pages into a story that he plans to turn into a novel, and then he’ll tell me all about the sequel. And I think, “Woah, dude! You need to finish the initial story first!”
My brother and I have the same problem as many other writers. Realistically, half of these stories will not be finished. And the other half that are finished don’t need a sequel; they’re great on their own.
I have a lot to say about sequel-writing, but that’s for another day. For now, just remember this: Finish the first book before you even think about writing a sequel. Focus on your current project; not possible future projects.
Focus on one plot at a time.
April 8, 2000
I would like to highlight my comment that a story should have only one basic plot, not two. Just a little background: The Canter Club story focused for the first half on a horse race, with all the preparations, conflict with other competitors, and excitement of the actual race. The second half focused on a mystery relating to some stolen horses. I was mature enough to realize that two plot lines are confusing to a reader and destroy the continuity of the story.
Now, this was an obvious double-plot problem, but later on in my writing development, I made the same mistake. I wrote a story that started off with griffin racing, changed to a mystery about a man whom everyone thought was dead, and finished with a surprise revelation about one of the characters that had very little to do with the story at all. I essentially had three plots in one story.
Maybe I’m the only one who’s done this, but in the event that I’m not, here’s some advice: Describe your story in one sentence. If you can’t do that, you probably have too many things going on in the story. Sub-plots are okay, but they have to contribute to the overall plot; they can’t become stories of themselves.
If you can describe your story’s plot in one sentence, you likely have a cohesive theme. It may be painful to throw away those other ideas, or to put them on the back burner to become sequels or stories of their own some day, but trust me—your story will be so much better because of your focus!