First Novel

by Mark Anthony
(United Kingdom)

Dear Glen,

I am currently in the very, very early stages of my first fantasy novel based on Atlantis. I am still in the stage of creating characters, plot, etc.

However, after some reading about Atlantis (mainly from Plato) a pool of potential characters and stories developed, and I first thought about doing a sort of a series of books. But, I became immediately hesitant as first novels don't usually sell very well, and I don't want to write a series knowing that the first novel may not be up to scratch, as it were.

Would you advise just staying with one novel for the time being?

Answer: Yours is actually a question that comes up a lot. Here's my take...

Your goal should be to write one great book first.

If you do that, if you're persistent, and if luck is on your side, you may get an agent and/or publisher interested enough to offer you a contract.

At that point, or perhaps once it's clear your first book will sell well, the publisher may want to know if you have ideas for a sequel. If they anticipate big sales, they may offer you a two-book deal to turn your story into a trilogy.

When that happens, it can be very helpful if you have already fleshed out some ideas for sequels. Ideally, you would have an outline that included plot and character arcs that would cover the entire series. Or you could just decide to make
the series more episodic (like in many mystery series). Either way, your main character had better not have changed significantly and resolved all his issues by the end of the first book, because you will need his inner conflict to drive him throughout the series.

If you haven't done any series planning in advance, it can be daunting to get a multi-book deal. You may feel your character's story has been fully told in the first book, the plot is completely resolved, and there is just nowhere to go in a sequel. Also, you may have deadlines on the second and third books (which you didn't have when writing your first), so you can't take as much time to plot.

This is why some sequels are not as good as the first book. As a reader, you can often tell that the author just didn't know what else to do with the characters, so they made up a mediocre plot on the fly. (Maybe they should have turned down the multi-book contract, but as writers they needed the money.)

Having some advance series planning can help you avoid this problem.

On the other hand, there is no point in writing three complete manuscripts until you have sold the first one. If the first book doesn't sell, you will have wasted a lot of time on the sequels which aren't going to sell either. You would be better off writing other standalone books or the first book of a different series.

Click here to post comments

Join in and submit your own question/topic! It's easy to do. How? Simply click here to return to Plot Invite.

search this site the web
search engine by freefind

Celebrating our 2nd year as one of the...

 Step-by-Step Novel Planning Workbook

NEW! Make Money Writing Nonfiction Articles

"I've read more than fifty books on writing, writing novels, etc., but your website has the most useful and practical guidance. Now that I understand how a novel is structured, I will rewrite mine, confident that it will be a more interesting novel." - Lloyd Edwards

"Thanks to your "Create a Plot Outline in 8 Easy Steps," I was able to take a story that I simply just fooled around with and went willy nilly all over, into a clearly defined, intriguing battle where two characters fight to keep their relationship intact, and try to find a balance in control of themselves and their lives. Thanks to you, I'm not ashamed of the poor organization of my writing." - Nommanic Ragus

"I am so glad I found your site. It has helped me in so many ways, and has given me more confidence about myself and my work. Thank you for making this valuable resource, for me and my fellow writers. Perhaps you'll hear about me someday...I'll owe it to you." - Ruth, Milton, U.S.A.

"I never knew what to do with all the characters in my head, but since discovering Dramatica I am writing again in my spare time. Thank you for making this available. Yes, it is a bit complex, and it does take time, but I love it because it works." - Colin Shoeman

"I came across your website by chance. It is a plethora of knowledge, written in a simplistic way to help aspiring writers. I truly appreciate all of the information you have provided to help me successfully (relative term) write my novel. Thank you very much!" - Leo T. Rollins

"I can honestly say that this is the first website that is really helpful. You manage to answer complex questions in relatively short articles and with really intelligent answers. Thank you for taking the time to write these articles and sharing them so generously." - Chrystelle Nash

"...had no idea that a simple click would give me such a wealth of valuable information. The site not only offered extremely clear and helpful instructions but was a very enjoyable read as well. The education from your wonderful site has made me a better writer and your words have inspired me to get back to work on my novel. I wish to give you a heartfelt thanks for How to Write a Book Now, sir." -- Mike Chiero