Romance Author Barbara Barrett

Today, I welcome romance author, Barbara Barrett, who’s going to talk to us about sequels. Take it away, Barb.

Three Potholes to Avoid When Writing a Sequel

I’ve never given much thought to the nature of sequels. I assumed the author typed “The End” on the first book and kept going. That’s the approach I took when I started the sequel to my first published romance novel, The Sleepover Clause. Boy, was I wrong! My critique partners soon set me straight. Since I’m now back at the drawing board, I thought this might be a fitting time to share some of the lessons I learned.

That’s not to say I’ve had this great epiphany and am now all knowledgeable. More like I’ve discovered a few potholes to avoid and am using this article as an opportunity to put them into coherent perspective.

The intended timeline for this second book in my “Clause” series starts shortly after the first one ends.  So I began with essentially the same scene, same location and same assemblage of characters, thinking this would make for a smooth transition. Discovery Number 1, don’t litter the first few pages with too many characters. Someone who read the first book probably wouldn’t be thrown by this. But someone who isn’t familiar with the first book will be thrown with all the names and connections coming at them before they’ve had a chance to acclimate to the time and setting. As in any book, sequel or not, the main characters need to stand out and immediately engage the reader. That’s unlikely to happen when they’re competing with everyone else for space in that first chapter.

Discovery Number 2, Avoid Information Dumps. In other words, don’t give the reader too much information too soon. Not only does it overwhelm the reader with unnecessary details that clutter up the introduction, it slows the pace. And pacing is important. The beginning of a sequel is highly vulnerable to this tendency, because the writer is anxious to bring the reader up to speed as soon as possible so both reader and writer can get on with the new story. Edit, edit, edit to eliminate every nonessential item, every plot point that can be revealed later. Focus on introducing the main characters. Establish their conflicts as soon as possible, not the full extent, that won’t happen until well into the first quarter of the book, but lay out the bones. Not only does that hook the reader’s interest, it also will help set this book apart from its predecessor.

Discovery Number 3, the second book should assume its own personality from the start.  Without realizing it, I started this first draft of the sequel in a fashion similar to the first. I even had one of the main characters echoing dialogue similar to that of one of the characters in the first book. I could argue that I was attempting to establish a common framework shared by the two books, but get real. It’s one thing for the reader to immediately recognize the author’s voice; it’s totally another matter for the author to be perceived as a “one-trick pony.”

I’m off to start the second draft and follow my own advice. Who knows? Once it’s finished, it may inspire a sequel to this blog article, “Three More Discoveries I Made About Sequels.” So what do you think? I am on point or off base?

Barbara Barrett spent her professional career as a human resources analyst for Iowa state government, and that training has stayed with her in her writing of contemporary romance fiction. The theme of her writing, “Romance at Work,” reflects her fascination with the jobs people do and infiltrates her plots almost to the point of becoming a secondary character.

      A member of Romance Writers of America and several of its affiliate chapters, she was first “published” in sixth grade when a fictional account of a trip to France appeared in her hometown newspaper, the Burlington Hawk-Eye. Years later, she was fortunate enough to visit the subject of her essay, although in it she never envisioned that she would trip on a curb near the Arc d’Triomphe and have to limp her way through the Louvre.

      Now retired, Barbara spends her winters basking in the Florida sunshine and returns to her home state of Iowa in the summer to “stay cool.” She is married to the man she met in dormitory advisor training her senior year of college. They have two grown children and six grandchildren. When she’s not writing, she’s busy lunching with friends or playing Mah Jongg.

      Her first book, The Sleepover Clause, was released by Crimson Romance in September of 2012. Her second book, And He Cooks Too, will officially be released by The Wild Rose Press on March 22, but in the meantime, it is available in the Kindle version on Amazon.

      She loves talking about writing romance and welcomes invitations from book clubs to join them via phone calls or the Internet.  Check out her contact information to request she visit your book club.

Barbara has offered a glimpse of her new book, And He Cooks Too

Three men, three lies. Two made her doubt herself and the last nearly destroyed her career. And now, blacklisted by the city’s finest restaurants, Chef Reese Dunbar must put the resuscitation of her battered reputation in the hands of yet another man. The television experience Nick Coltrane’s cooking show offers is her best option. But after giving her heart to him, her trust is put to the test when she discovers that Nick has lied about the real reason he brought her on board – he wants her to replace him before his audience learns he is a fraud; the host of “And He Cooks Too” can’t cook. Reese must not only come to terms with Nick’s deception, she must also reconsider the unhealthy motivations behind her relentless drive for success. Before he can escape the charade he has allowed himself to be party to, Nick must stand up to his aunt, the only woman who has always stuck by him, and risk losing her support. Reese’s parting words, questioning whether the woman owns his soul, help him find the courage and self-knowledge to do that. In return, he helps Reese realize the folly of atoning for a teenager’s mistake through an adult’s misplaced ambitions. Only as they come to trust the other are they able to return the other’s love and pursue the careers that give their lives meaning.

Here’s an excerpt:

The woman, her boss had called her Reese, angled her head, as if absorbing the man’s statement. It was the first real look Nick had gotten of her. Not bad. Not bad at all. “Patrice got the job because of Julian Parker, not because you and she got together?”

He glanced away. “Uh, well—”

“Both of you?” She started for the door again. “I am so out of here.”

Louis clamped a hand on her shoulder. “C’mon, Reese. Cut the drama. I thought if I explained the situation, you’d understand.”

“What I understand is that there is nothing here for me anymore.”

“You know the code, Reese. Chefs don’t leave their kitchens in the middle of service. You’re good, but not good enough to test it.”

She twisted around. “You can thank your new sous chef for the timing. Do you think her telling me just prior to the dinner hour was an accident?”

“Stick around. We’ll work out something,” he coaxed.

“Yeah, right.”

“Nobody leaves me high and dry. You’ll regret going out that door.”

“Let’s see who regrets what.” She ripped a net from her head, allowing a mass of raven black hair to escape, and pushed through the door to the outside world.




Facebook: Barbara Barrett

Twitter:  bbarrettbooks

I want to thank Barb for being with us today. Her book sounds wonderful, and I look forward to its release.




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18 Responses to Romance Author Barbara Barrett

  1. Ruth says:

    Good luck, Barb! Given the potholes you describe, I’m guessing that starting/writing a sequel is a lot like making a new friend…at some point, you want to give her enough information for her to like you, to get to know who you are now, and to know about your past (but not all at once). Soldier on! :-)

    • You got it, Ruth! It sounds so easy, doesn’t it? But just like meeting that fabulous person you’re will be your buddy forever, a little restraint is a good idea, or you risk overwhelming them.


  2. Holley Trent says:

    I’m guilty of number one. Fortunately, my CP cracked the whip on it and came straight out and asked, “These people are charming, but where’s the plot?”

  3. Lilly Gayle says:

    Great advice, Barbara. I recently finished book two in my Darkness series. In my first draft, I made the exact same mistakes. One of my CP’s kept reminding me this wasn’t Vincent and Megan’s story. It was Amber and Gerard’s. She had to drill it into my head that a new reader wouldn’t care much about the h/h in the first book. They wanted to get to know the h/h in the second book. Essentially, I had to rewrite the first draft as if it were a first book, using all the information from the first book as backstory. And that made it harder to avoid backstory dump. Eventually, I got the hang of it. I hope! And I’ll soon be starting book 3. Hope you get to write your book 3 as well. Your series sounds romantic and fun!

    • Thanks for your comments, Lilly. It helps to hear from others who’ve experienced similar experiences starting sequels. However, as I’ve told several of my readers that I’ve started the sequel to The Sleepover Clause they’ve said something like, “Good, I can’t wait to hear what happens with Aubrey and Mitch.” I’ve had to let them down carefully so that I can raise interest in my next couple. But that experience has made me give more consideration to the secondary stories of the other two couples that will support this new one. Never easy, is it?


  4. J. Ramey says:

    Loved ‘And He Cooks Too’. And found some very good points in your sequel article. Look forward to reading more from you.


  5. sarah andre says:

    Great advice and so hard to do! What a fun premise and title. Good luck with sales, Barb!

  6. Janna Shay says:

    Great post and terrific advice. And He Cooks Too sounds so interesting. It’s going on my TBR list. Best of luck with your book.

    • I hope you like the book when you get to it, Janna. I think there may be another “chef” book out there waiting for me to tell its story, though probably not a sequel. I just can’t turn off the research mode about food, or is it because I just love to eat? We’ll see. Thanks for stopping by.


  7. Judy Jaastad says:

    Hey, great points. As a foodie, “I love And He Cooks Too”

  8. Oooh, I love sequels. Having them have a personality of their own if they are about different main characters is key. But I love getting to revisit characters from other stories to see how they’re doing after their HEA!

    “And He Cooks, Too” is in the que line on my Kindle waiting to be read!

    • Debra,

      How true about keeping the characters from the first book in the second and thereafter so readers can see how they’re doing. Given the shorter time frame in which the first book takes place, it didn’t seem right to have my h/h riding off into the sunset so soon. That works to my benefit in this sequel, because it leaves room for a follow-up story about them, even though it will be secondary.


  9. Such great advice. I’m writing a sequel just now and I’m finding it quite a challenge. Will the reader know this? I’m constantly asking myself that question and re-writing! Good luck.

    • Nancy,

      That challenge of deciding what the reader needs to know and what can be left out of the story because it’s not important to the second story is huge. It’s making me crazy and at the same time it’s such fun.


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