You might think that once you've done the hard work of writing the first book of a series, the other books just follow naturally when you sit down to write them. You might think that having your characters already known and mapped would make it easier to pick them up again when you set out to write the next part of their adventure. You might also think that authors never wish they could bend space and time to make a few minor tweaks in the book that's already published and out there to reposition the threads of plot and character arc just a teensy tiny tad.
You would be in good company if you thought all of these things. Until I set out to write a sequel myself, it's what I thought as well. Now I know better.
Don't get me wrong. I love love LOVE my characters, which is a good thing since I'm going on seven years now of having them in my head. But I've learned that having your characters already fixed in ink limits your options for what you can do with them in the next story. Now I have to work to stay true to who they are. Working within the confines of historical events adds another layer of restriction to the story. I know I'm going to get there, and I've already (thank goodness) remembered how to do it: let the characters lead the way. I've found that anytime I try to force the story by throwing events at my characters for them to react to, I lose my way. But if I look at what's happening in the world around them and then ask them what would they do, they're happy to let me know.
Here's what the window beside my desk looks like:
Those are sticky notes with the names of secondary characters, plot beats, historical events, cultural/historical details and other items that I need to make sure are included or resolved. This isn't a full list, just the things I wanted to keep front and center in my mind. I've got the first few chapters about done, and I have the events for the next few chapters already laid out in my mind. We're about to leave on a long family road-trip that will have us driving cross country for three days each way. My amazing husband is going to do most of the driving so I can sit beside him with my laptop open, typing away. I'm looking forward to our family vacation, but I'd be lying if I said I wasn't almost as excited about the time to write coming up.