There was an interesting discussion recently on a writing website. It was a discussion about writing series books. The original poster was pondering the wisdom of whether to write a sequel when the first book had yet to be sold. Many of the people who responded thought it rather ludicrous to do so, calling it a waste of time among other things. But the original poster was bravely undaunted by the naysayers and maintained that no writing was wasted, that continuing on with his story gave him valuable experience.
Of course this discussion interested me because of my own series. And I have to say that my opinion coincided more with the original poster’s than with the others. No serious writing endeavor is a waste of time, especially if you aren’t under contract to an agent or publisher.
When I finished The Prodigal, I hadn’t planned to continue. However, I found myself intrigued by the “what happens next?” question at the end of the story. Sure, it can stand on its own, but like most writers I had fallen in love with the characters, and “what happens next?” to them was important to me. Considering that I had no other fresh ideas at the time, I saw no harm in writing a sequel; it was fun. And that turned into The Alliance. But the story still wasn’t finished and no new ideas had popped into my head outside of Jack Mallory’s tale. So then along came The Fortune.
By writing those next two novels, I was actually much better as a writer. In fact, it gave me further depth for the characters that I used to great effect in re-writing The Prodigal one last time. It also gave me more research time which in turn was used to flesh out the first book even further.
The fourth book is the one I am working on now, The Driver’s Wife. This one is different in that Jack Mallory is not the main character. The story could definitely be a stand-alone, one that I will be marketing after this final draft is done. Perhaps that is the one that will ultimately be my debut novel. But if I hadn’t written the four novels before it, The Driver’s Wife would never have been written at all. So I say follow the muse…wherever it leads.