Climbing Another Mountain: The Journey of Writing a Sequel

It’s been months since my last blog post, as I have been completely and totally buried in editing my second novel. When I began this journey to publication years ago, I had thought the biggest mountain to climb was getting published in the first place. While, yes, that was a challenge requiring courage and support, little did I know that the process of editing a sequel was going to be quite so vigorous. Not only do I have to make sure characters are consistent and follow through logically and realistically, I also have to make sure all the changes my editor and I made editing the first book, Alawahea, flow through to the sequel. Since I originally wrote book 2 over fifteen years ago, the process of editing book 2 became something more of an undertaking than I expected. The story I wrote fifteen years ago dissolved, became something totally different, and that journey was an even bigger surprise than the original path to publication.

I am in awe—again!—of the synergy between editor and author. Until my editor stepped in and began asking questions, pointing at places where the story didn’t flow right, I literally could not see that the story even needed to BE updated. At the outset, I had thought book 1 flowed beautifully into book 2 and there would be very few changes that had to be made. It makes me laugh now—that self-created blindness that we all have experienced at one point or another when it comes to our own lives. When I finally realized how utterly and completely off-kilter book 2 was from book 1, and that the editing process would be so thorough that it ripped up the entire book, it led to frustration, anger and even a few tears—and then to acceptance, freedom and the birth of a totally new story. Who I was fifteen years ago (the “I” that wrote the original story) has utterly changed, so why wouldn’t the story? We don’t stay in one place, and neither does what we create.     

Book 2 required something beyond mere editing changes: it required a complete and total re-write. Characters were removed and scenes added, old storylines retired, new ones appeared, and out of the ashes of the old, a phoenix has risen. The true shape of book 2 is being slowly revealed to me, along with a deeper and stronger understanding of the characters whose lives are playing out on the page. It has been the most frustrating, challenging and yet fulfilling process I have ever experienced in my life, filled with all the tears—both sorrowful and joyous—of parenthood. Book 2 is growing up, and I’m humbled by what is being revealed. It feels somehow like I have had no say in it, even though my fingers are on the keyboard as the story flows through me. Will it resonate with audiences the way book 1 has? I don’t know—but I do know that the transformational experience of watching book 2 grow up and join its older sibling in the eyes of audiences will be a yet another journey of self-awareness and transcendental joy for me. Maybe even another mountain to climb. 

North Wall Denali in Denali National Park