**Tynea Lewis, LitPick Site Administrator, has submitted this article on behalf of Claire Merchant.
When I first started writing novels, I never thought that I’d be writing stories with sequels. It’s not that I had anything against sequels, but I always thought that if a character’s story ended then there was nothing more to say. Like, why wouldn’t I just keep writing if the story wasn’t finished?
It’s not always that simple.
I suppose you can liken it to writing an essay. You pick one topic per paper and if you introduce too many ideas or make it too long in length then people begin to lose interest—or completely lose the point of it.
I always found it difficult to end a story because I felt like I was saying goodbye to a friend. So I made a conscious decision to set all my stories in the same city of South Coast where my characters could still wander into other stories that I wrote, and life would still go on. For instance, although their told from different viewpoints, my third published novel, ‘Forever Ruby’, acts as a kind of prequel to my first novel, ‘Mistry by Moonlight’, and explains how Ruby became how she is before she comes to meet Taylor in her story.
It worked, but it just wasn’t the same.
I had written fifteen novels from different perspectives when I decided that my first published novel ‘Mistry by Moonlight’ could do with a sequel. To be fair, I started thinking more seriously about a sequel when people started asking questions about what came next for Taylor Mistry.
Didn’t it end? I could have sworn that I ended it. This confused me a lot.
But then I sat back and posed the question: What was next for Taylor? Happily ever after? Ha, no.
Every decision has a consequence and that included the final decision that Taylor made in ‘Mistry by Moonlight’. I realised that Taylor’s story wasn’t finished just because I had ended it. Actually, it was really just beginning. She was her own person now. I had created a character who was separate from myself and who found herself in different circumstances as a result of her own stupid decisions. It was easier to continue writing her story when I thought about it. It was easier to consider what would happen next for her when I stepped into her shoes that were amazingly so different from my own. So, I explored the consequences of her decisions and ended up writing a sequel and a threequel to Moonlight and both are set to be published by Pegasus Publishers in the years to come.
After completing the Mistry series, I became more fascinated with what happens next for a few more of my characters and so have since plotted out sequels for two more of my stories (both of which are unpublished as yet) and even started some with the intent of splitting them into two novels.
There are so many different ways to approach creating a character and writing a story and they differ from person to person. But I will say that don’t ever dismiss the idea of a sequel—don’t tie up all the loose ends too neatly because it’s a lot harder to write yourself out of a corner than it is to simply tell people the answers to their burning questions.
So my advice to aspiring writers out there is just to start your story as close to the end of it as possible. Don’t try and jam too many storylines in because you might just have a few novels at your fingertips. Pick one or two and see what you can come up with, give your characters a few obstacles, make them struggle, make them bleed, and finally, don’t be afraid to end it.
Even if it’s not really the end.
Claire Merchant is the author of Mistry by Moonlight (2013), South Coast Son (2014), and the just released Forever Ruby. We look forward to at least three more books from Claire, Knowing Nora, Midnight Mistry, and Mistry at Dawn.