On Writing a Sequel to a Novel

A writer of novels may end up in a quandary if, having announced that a sequel to his or her latest novel is in the works, things don’t pan out as planned.  Suppose you’ve broadcast a title to this promised sequel, one with the main character’s name included; suppose you’ve even included a first chapter within the final pages of the novel it is intended to follow.  Then suppose, while writing this sequel, you hit a road block, a snag, and finally you are just plain stuck and there’s nothing to do but ditch it and start over.

It happened to me after I published my novel, Turn on No-Bridge Road.  Before I finished No-Bridge, not wanting to part with already developed characters, I had written two chapters of what I thought would be a fine sequel to this tale of a Virginia family, an old house brimming with secrets and baffling relationships, and a surprise ending.  Featuring one of the No-Bridge characters, I planned a mystery story.  I titled it Timothy Darling and the Girl in the Sailboat.  It was to revolve around the death of a girl at a local boarding school, a drug ring, a false accusal, a trial—well, you get the idea.  I’ll spare you the details but put simply, I apparently had bitten off more than I could chew.  Following a nudge from my editor, I came to realize the best thing I could do was to start over with a new focus.

Of course, setting aside seven or eight chapters of a novel is not an easy thing to do.  It’s a struggle for any writer to recover from abandoning such a lengthy effort.  It took me about ten months before I was ready to begin again with a new plot and a different focus.  This time rather than writing about Timothy, the son of No-Bridge’s main character, Claire Darling, I have chosen to again feature Claire herself, to follow her life’s struggles after her husband’s sudden death.  The ‘working’ title is currently The Widow Darling, leaving me wiggle room to change that.  No more definitive promises for me on this one.

So, having reached this point, what should an author do about what is currently being printed in the back of each new copy of the original novel—that first chapter of a sequel that is no longer relevant?  It is of course possible to request that it be removed from all future print-on-demand paperbacks; I’m sure it could also be deleted from future Kindle or other ebook orders.  One might also consider replacing that misleading chapter with one from the current sequel in progress.  What would you do?

I’m still thinking about it but, for now, I believe I’ll leave well enough alone.  People continue to ask me when the sequel is coming out, so that’s a good thing.  And I’m now enjoying writing this sequel to a novel.  It’s a first for me.  Maybe by the time The Widow Darling appears on the scene my readers will have forgotten all about Timothy Darling and the Girl in the Sailboat.  I hope some of them will read this post and understand.