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Laurel Dewey | Feeling the Fear and Writing the Sequel Anyway


It’s hard enough to write a solid first novel. There’s all that fear and concern that you won’t be able to navigate the territory correctly. But after you break through the angst, write the book and actually get an agent interested in it, you think you can sit back and take a break for a bit.

Wrong! When I finally scored an agent for my first novel, Protector (the first book in the Jane Perry series), he asked me, "So? What’s next?" I remember stammering something about how I wanted to just take some time off since I’d put sixteen months into writing the book and a year prior to that researching it. "No, no, no," he said, "I need to know where this story is going with Jane Perry."

Frankly, I had no intention of continuing Jane’s story. I had ideas for other books, some fantasy and other mystical thrillers. But my agent made it clear that I’d created such a compelling character in Detective Jane Perry that it cried out for a series. A SERIES? The emotional roller coaster I went through in putting Jane’s life on the page was so cathartic and exhausting. I put my heart and soul into Jane Perry and it creates a backdrop around my life while I’m writing her story that I find it hard to focus on much else when I’m in that realm. I just wasn’t ready to dive back into that pit again. But my agent made it clear that I didn’t have a choice. There was no room in today’s competitive fiction market for a "one shot wonder."

And so, I embarked on the unexpected sequel, which I titled Redemption. And the fear crept up again. "Am I good enough?" "Can I top Protector?" "Will it all fall apart and will I be a failure?" I can’t tell you how many times I said these exact words to myself, the whole while I went about researching the sequel and finally putting the first words on paper.

My best friend wanted to know why I was busting a gut to write another novel when the first one hadn’t sold yet. It was a logical question for someone who wasn’t in the writing business. I tried to explain to her that it was like a test to see if I had the right stuff. "So, you’ve got to hit it out of the ballpark and drive in a grand slam?" she said, "with no guarantee that all that hard work will ever get published?" Well, when you put it that way, I thought, it’s pretty depressing. But, yeah, that’s about right. So, you know, no pressure, right?

With that reality floating in the back of my head, I continued to write Redemption. And I realized quickly that you can’t let all the mind chatter discourage or slow you down. Because let me tell you, it WILL slow you down, if it doesn’t outright put the brakes on your progress. I had great days and I had downright horrible days working on the sequel. But the more I got into the book, the more I realized that Detective Jane Perry was easier to write. In fact, I was able to have more fun with her character, given that the subject matter I chose for Redemption was not as dark as what takes place in Protector. The sequel allows Jane to evolve and slightly soften while retaining her gritty, no holds barred attitude that readers really liked in Protector.

When it came time for my editor to review the first draft, he was so complimentary of the book, commenting that he thought it was better than Protector…and he really loved Protector. I can’t tell you what that meant to me. For someone who had no intention of ever continuing Jane Perry’s story, I suddenly had created a platform for not just two books but many more to follow. Pretty soon, my mind was focusing on the third book, which I’m writing right now, and even the fourth book in the series.

I’ve been called a lot of things as a writer, but "one shot wonder" won’t be one of them.

Click to visit Laurel Dewey’s website

Published by The Story Plant




8 comments posted.

Re: Laurel Dewey | Feeling the Fear and Writing the Sequel Anyway

I imagine it could also be one reason why people don't start the first ... what to follow it with!
(LuAnn Morgan 11:26am June 26, 2009)

Congratulations on the books and the stick-to-it-ness!
(Karin Tillotson 12:23pm June 26, 2009)

I know writers who take a thread and keep going with it. Throwing new settings, conflicts between characters and new people in the mix keeps it fresh.
(Alyson Widen 12:23pm June 26, 2009)

Just look at those of us who never made it a first time. But I can also see that writing a book "to order" would be difficult if you don't have another story for such a series right off the bat. Kudos to you for your first novel and successfully writing the second. Best wishes for the success of this one.
(Sigrun Schulz 3:31pm June 26, 2009)

You were able to overcome your fears and keep going. That was a great accomplishment. Many of us never make it that far. Good job!
(Rosemary Krejsa 5:21pm June 26, 2009)

Congratulations on your books. We
can't always follow the path we would
like, but that doesn't mean the one we
have to take will be so bad. I'm sure
you will get the chance to explore
those other books in time.
(Patricia Barraclough 10:07pm June 26, 2009)

Congrats on your sequel! best wishes!!!
(JoAnn White 8:49am June 27, 2009)

I love sequels! I already know some of the characters and that gets me into the story faster. I can't wait to read this book.
(Patsy Hagen 1:05pm July 4, 2009)

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