Guest Post by Author Nick James: Writing a Sequel vs. Writing the Follow-up

When I was first working on the manuscript that would eventually become Skyship Academy: The Pearl Wars, I knew from the start that the story I wanted to tell was too big for only one book. In fact, halfway through the draft, I’d determined that the series would have to be a trilogy - very much a beginning, a middle and an end. The struggle, then, was to make the first book stand on its own in order to interest agents and publishers. Luckily, when the manuscript did find a publisher, I signed a two-book deal, which meant that at least two thirds of my trilogy was secured. 

When it came to writing the sequel, Crimson Rising, I approached the book thinking that it was going to be much easier to finish than the first. I mean, I’d already established the world and characters. I’d mapped out the overarching story, at least generally. I knew much more than I did coming into that first book. It should be easy, right?

Well, I was selling the process short. I’ve learned now, having written both the second and third in the trilogy, that it really only gets more challenging. That’s not to say that the process is unpleasant, because there are so many upsides, but it was, for me, a very different process than The Pearl Wars.

It seems like so many series, both in print and on screen, take a nosedive with that second installment. I did not want to be one of those series, which meant I not only had to match the quality of the first book, but I had to surpass it. This was a constant goal (and sometimes bane) when I was writing Crimson Rising. I wanted to include everything that made the first book great, but make it bigger, tighter and more rewarding for the reader. I also didn’t want to repeat myself. I’d already pulled readers into the world of Skyship Academy with the first book, so there wasn’t that initial hook available to me anymore. I needed to do something a little different--take things in a new direction while still moving the overarching story forward. 

Okay, great… right? It all sounded so easy in my head, but the practice of it was a constant struggle to one-up myself, develop my characters further, and add to the mythos of the universe that I’d created. Luckily, the ending of The Pearl Wars gave me a great jumping off point. For those of you who have read the first book, you'll know that the ending adds a philosophical/moral undertone to the series that wasn't necessarily there before. I definitely wanted to explore that and go a little bit "darker" in the second book. 

Going in, I also knew that while the first book was a lot of necessary build-up, Crimson Rising would blow things wide open. It would start off with a bang and keep going full-throttle from there. That’s what really kept me going. When I think of sequels that really worked, I always go back to Terminator 2: Judgment Day. Not a book, I know, but to me it’s really a beacon of what it looks like to improve upon an original in the sci-fi world. This was a huge inspiration in the crafting of this book and something that I kept returning to. Having that inspiration was a great help.

I could never pick a favorite between the first two books in the Skyship Academy trilogy, but I can say that those who enjoyed the more action-oriented parts of The Pearl Wars will love Crimson Rising. Now onto the third and final entry! And here’s an exclusive preview: take everything I just wrote and multiply it times three. Now there's a challenge!

Nick can be found on his website, Facebook, and Twitter. You can also e-mail him if you have more burning questions about the Skyship Academy trilogy!

When he was a young boy, Nick James’ collection of battle-scarred action figures became the characters in epic storylines with cliffhangers, double crosses and an unending supply of imaginary explosions. Not much has changed. The toys are gone (most of them), but the love of fast-paced storytelling remains. Working in schools from Washington State to England, Nick has met thousands of diverse students since graduating from Western Washington University and braving the most dangerous job in the world: substitute teaching. Luckily, being dubbed the “rock star teacher” has granted him some immunity. He currently lives and teaches in Bellingham, Washington.

Buy Nick's books on Amazon or Barnes and Noble.

Crimson Rising Blog Tour Schedule

9/10 The Busy Bibliophelic: This or That With Nick James 
9/11 The Readinista: Review 
9/12 Kelsey Sutton: Guest Blog
9/13 The Book Cellar: Interview 
9/14 Kindle and Me: This or That
9/15 Death, Books & Tea: Interview 
9/18 The Mod Podge Bookshelf: Giveaway 
9/20 Coffee, Books & Me: Giveaway 
9/21 Books, Sweets & Other Treats: Interview 
9/22 Fire & Ice: Interview & Giveaway 
9/23 Joyous Books: Shelf Envy 
9/26 A Little Bit Of R&R: Review 
9/27 The Book Smugglers: Guest Blog 
9/28 I Am A Reader, Not A Writer: Guest Blog & Giveaway