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I finished the 1st draft of my book, and have put it in the freezer(as I asked about in this question). I was planning to start work on a sequel of the book in the meantime.

But I was told by someone that I should not work on a sequel till I have sold my first book, since if I can't sell the first book, I will never be able to sell the sequel either, and all my effort will be wasted.

Is this good advice? As it means all the effort I put in creating the characters, themes, Universe(it was a Sci-Fi/Fantasy book) will be wasted.

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9 Answers 9

up vote 15 down vote accepted

I say heed the Muse. If there's a story burning to be told, go ahead and write it. No effort is wasted. Even if your novel and its sequel are never published, you will have the experience of creating a universe and writing a sequel to an existing story, and you can always use that experience when crafting another story.

Besides, who knows how long it will take to sell your first book? And if the publisher wants a two-book deal, or the first one (a different story) gets bought, now you have two additional completed novels under your "brand" to offer the agent/publisher.

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3  
+1 for "No effort is wasted". –  Joel Shea Aug 17 '11 at 15:35
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and +1 for the idea of "two book deal". –  Alpha Aug 15 at 6:42

Heard Dr. Jerry Pournelle talk once about how Robert Heinlein taught him and Larry Niven to write. One of the things he told them to to do was to throw away the first quarter of their manuscript and start the book where actual stuff started happening.

That is to say, if you can't sell the first book, that doesn't necessarily mean you can't sell the second. Maybe the first book was the part you had to throw away! Or at least, perhaps the salient bits can be condensed into the first chapter or a prologue.

The biggest issue in my mind is what happens if a publisher accepts the first book, but demands changes that basically make the sequel obsolete, such that you would have to start over again.

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I'm okay with the idea that the sequel might be made obsolete by changes in the original. If this is Shan's first novel or set of novels, then that's a valuable learning experience. Seeing the consequences of decisions play out is important in learning how to plot, and how to set up a plot to allow for future development. I don't consider that wasted time, even if it means a bunch of work never sees daylight. –  Lauren Ipsum Aug 16 '11 at 19:13

I would recommend that you go ahead and write it. If you have the story line already developed or have an outline, then go ahead and start working on it. As Lauren mentioned, if the publisher decides they want a two-book deal, then you have a head start on that. In fact, you could also suggest that the book lends itself to a sequel, which is already underway.

If the traditional publishing route doesn't pan out, you can always self-publish as an e-book. One of the trends that people are noticing with e-books is that if readers like the first book, they are more likely to go looking for more books by the same author. If you have another ready to go, you can start developing a following even faster.

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I've got a different angle on it. If you revise your first draft, you will have less revision needed as you write your second book. Consider:

You write your second book. You go back and revise your first, and discover major changes that will vastly improve the first, but will require huge changes in the second.

Seems like you should take another round on the first one. If you want to write a second book to give yourself a breather, maybe make it something completely different, not a sequel.

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it never hurt anyone to get a head start on their next novel. in my opinion, beginning the sequel shows a lot of faith in your first novel. you know it's good and is going to be published. go ahead and write, we all know that writing is a contagious disease. not to mention, if you're a true writer and storyteller at heart, once you start you can't stop!

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If it's a choice between writing the sequel and not writing, by all means write the sequel- practice helps.

You might also consider writing a stand-alone short story that uses the world you've built, and possibly some of the characters. If you decide to go the self-publishing route, you can use the story as a freebie teaser for your novel. If the short story came to a satisfactory conclusion and I enjoyed it, I'd be a lot more likely to buy the novel or give the series a try.

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Brandon Sanderson in lecture 13, Brandon's Revision Process (which is online on his YouTube channel), explains his process thus:

  1. First draft
  2. Continuity
  3. Polish
  4. Give to Alpha Readers
    ------------------------
    6 months break
    ------------------------
  5. Work in Feedback from Alphas
  6. Give to Betas
  7. Work in Feedback from Betas
  8. Polish

I may have forgotten a step, but that is not important here (watch the video). What is important is that Brandon lets his manuscript rest for half a year to gain some distance from it that will allow him to better rewrite.

And during this break,

he writes the first draft of the next book.

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The most important thing an author can do is write. Reading is the second.

After you have written your novel the events are set in stone. What if you want to change something in the first novel in order to have the something you changed lead into the second novel?

So yes write the next novel or at least start it.

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Some publishers offer publishing deals for series, I myself have finished 3 drafts of my first novel and I plan that the 4th draft will be my last. But I am waiting to revise my final draft so right now I got a good idea for the sequel and I began writing it. It does not mess up my flow with the previous book and I think it's a better idea but of course that is just my own opinion.

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Hey Anonymous, this is a nice anecdote, but it isn't really helpful if you don't have some consequences (good or bad) to share with us! You're saying "I did this," but unless your can tell us "...and it worked well" or "...and it went badly" or "...and there were pros and cons," it doesn't really answer the question much. –  Standback Aug 17 at 11:28

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