Seven Seals Log #1 - Writing a Sequel
In between many other things since around mid-late June, I've been working on the sequel to Gold Fever. I made a bit of a bold decision with the previous book by including the subtitle "Dark Savior Series" on the front cover. It's bold because it the book is crap, then people would laugh at the idea of it ever being a series. Kind of like how the movie Green Lantern dared to have an after credits scene hinting at an extended universe. That's how I think of it, anyway.
I haven't heard anything bad about Gold Fever yet, although it could be argued that mostly friends and family have read it and that's why. Unfortunately, it's difficult to get random people you don't know to read your story when you're an unknown self-published author. I'm not going to go into too much detail on that experience here, but I do have some plans to turn that around. You can read about that here.
I'd imagine the question on many author's minds when writing a sequel is how they can innovate and expand upon the first story without becoming too different and alienating fans. For me, though, there was never much question. The main purpose of this sequel is to expand the world of Dark Savior (While obviously progressing the series plot-wise). The reason it was easy for me to figure this out is that Gold Fever takes place in one location for almost the entire novel. Other places are mentioned and things are talked about to give readers hints about the fictional world, but otherwise they know little about it.
There were also several backstories to the main characters that I left ambiguous. I gave many hints, but they'd only be obvious to me, who already knows what he wants to do with each of them. In Seven Seals, my plan is to turn many of the things that people would expect from my characters on their head. For instance, Gold Fever's main character was Joel. He's presented as a mute who has a good heart and is trying to help out his new friends with the knowledge he has. In the sequel, I want to explore the idea of "what if Joel's not as nice as he seems?"
In Seven Seals, each main character that survived the first book is going to have an arc that challenges the conventions of who they were built up to be. That's not to say that I'm changing anyone, but it's unwise to base how you feel about someone on one experience. Gold Fever was how the characters acted under certain tensions and duress. What if Conrad, the "smart one" of the group, gets into a situation where his brain power is meaningless? And what if he gets himself into trouble because of his natural curiosity?
Of course, it's not just the characters that are going to be fleshed out. Arguably the biggest difference between Gold Fever and Seven Seals (So far, anyway), is how closed off Gold Fever feels compared to the sequel. I have characters visiting and interacting in several unique countries this time around. I drew out a world map and everything. I calculated how long ships would take to reach destinations in the middle ages, or how long it would take to travel cross-country by horse and carriage. Things like that. It was a surprisingly fun experience. I can understand how some authors get so sucked up into their fictional world that they don't even end up writing anything.
Another part of world building that I set out to do was expanding upon the magic revealed in book one. I wanted to go for a "logical" approach to magic in this series, because I feel just explaining things away with magic isn't as fun. It feels like I have to put more effort into something that's clearly laid out with rules and limitations. Of course, rather than dump a bunch of info into a chapter, I'm going for more of a trickle effect. Like in Gold Fever, I introduced certain "types" of Wizards: Elementals and Conjurers. I gave them very specific limitations and even explanations for common tropes of the Wizard; why carry a staff around? How does it power them up? Things like that are answered in Gold Fever, but there's a lot that I left out. For instance, there are several different types of magic users outside of Elemental and Conjurer. I'm introducing at least three additional classes in Seven Seals, with more to come in later books.
One of these days I'll have to copy/paste the document I wrote up on magic in the Dark Savior Series. I made a defined set of rules all the way back in book one that I've been following ever since, with some changes here and there. Not yet, though. I wouldn't do that until revealing everything via the books first.
Keeping the thriller/horror aspect has been more of a challenge so far in Seven Seals. I think this is due to the change in environment. There are a few places in this story that simply aren't scary by default. I instead tried to put the characters in disturbing situations, and I think that's the route I'll have to go throughout the majority of the sequel. The second half in particular is something I'll really have to work hard at to keep the horror elements alive. I still believe that it can be done, because there are certainly chapters already written which are disturbing, but it'll be tough for sure.
So far I'm 16 chapters and just beyond 67,000 words into the draft. I think this will be a shorter story than Gold Fever, but still pretty long. I've worked hard to cut down chapter lengths this time around. I felt that was the biggest weakness of Gold Fever, because I was asking readers to stay committed for longer periods of time. I couldn't justify cutting any more than I did, though. It just so happens that up until now, the story has been a little more concise.
I'll have more to update on soon, but thought I should write something in regards to where I'm at with the sequel. I'm hoping to make a lot of progress this month and be done with the draft by October. We'll see how that goes...