So I took the past two days off from official work — I’m on vacation, right? — in order to make some real headway on my next novel. I’m now about 5% into it (as seen in the progress meter at left), and I have to say it’s been an interesting experience so far.
I’ve never written a “sequel” before, and I’m finding that it raises thorny problems. None bigger, of course, than the question of how much I can take for granted. That is, can I count on the fact that readers will read Book 1 before hitting Book 2? And even if they have read Book 1, how much can I count on them remembering?
I knew that this problem existed in a theoretical way, but until I sat down to start up this book I didn’t know it in a practical way.
My prologue to Book 1 was 3,830 words long, which is fairly massive for a prologue — though in my defense it operates in a much different way than most traditional prologues. The longest chapter in Book 1 was one of the climactic ones, at 4,924 words, and the average length was probably around 3,100 words.
The prologue to Book 2, the first draft of which I just finished? 5,399 words.
Some of that is taken up with action and basic character development — though it’s a character that we grew to know pretty well in Book 1 — but I fear that far too much of it is giving recap of basic plot data from the first book. I’ve tried to parcel it out, tried to be subtle, but I found it much more of a problem than I thought it would be. I’m longing now to take Tolkien’s approach and just assume that the reader will slog straight through the whole series, giving no help at all to anyone joining the show part way along.
Am I over-thinking this? How much can I trust you readers? Any advice for the Tolkien approach versus the give-some-background approach?