While I was querying A Wicked Little Rhythm, I couldn’t just sit on my hands. I had to write something. So I started a sequel.
Stupid. Don’t do this.
Here’s why: if you don’t land an agent for the first book, you don’t have anything new to query. What are you going to do, pitch book two in a series? Who wants to read that? It’s like saying to someone, “Yeah, you’ve gotta read the latest JR Ward novel. Don’t bother with the first six.”
It just doesn’t work.
But I digress. I started a sequel anyway. I loved my characters, and I still had more story to tell. When Tamar called, offering representation, I was about 50,000 words into a sequel, and I told her about it. In book two, I was turning the villain from book one into a hero, explaining some of his motivation and revealing why he’d done such villainous things.
She shot that down, explaining that the villain couldn’t be the hero in book two — it’s just too soon. People were going to hate him at the end of book one. He could be the hero of book three.
See Drawing board, back to the.
So then she started shopping my novel, and I decided to rework the sequel, keeping half the book. This was harder than it sounds like. I was clinging to my original plot like whoa-and-damn, and I just couldn’t make a new story work around it. My husband picked up on this: “It just doesn’t seem like you’re very excited about this story.”
He was right, of course. He usually can’t get me to shut up about my stories — when I’m not staring off into space, that is. “OMG, hon, so then I want to make him control electricity, and I’m going to put them at a game at Ravens stadium, and they’re going to be attacked by these winged scravers, and Isaak is going to have electricity come out of the scoreboard and electrocute them all…”
But none of that was going on. No talking, no tossing story ideas out there. I was trying to shoehorn the old plot into a new story, and it just didn’t want to fit. I was frustrated and sweaty from trying to wedge that damn thing in there, and it just didn’t want to happen.
So I finally gave up. I let it go.
And you know what happened? A new plot came to me.
It’s amazing to me how this works. When I was 50,000 words into the new-and-improved sequel, Tamar recommended starting something completely new, just in case A Wicked Little Rhythm never (knock on wood) sold. I had these four brothers who have been rattling around in my brain since high school, and I wanted to tell their story. I’d written a novel about them twice, but neither one was any good. But I loved those four brothers, and they wouldn’t let me get away from giving them a novel for themselves. And damn it, this time they wanted me to do it right.
But when I started, it was impossible to get away from the original story. Again, I was trying to shoehorn these brothers into my tried-and-true plot, but they just didn’t want to fit. I had to let it go.
And hello, new plot.
This is one of those lessons that keeps whacking me upside the head. If I’m struggling with a chapter, with a scene, hell, with a paragraph, sometimes I get so frustrated that I swear in my head and just delete it all.
Then, magically, once that obstruction is gone, the words just flow.