Now it’s time for me to learn how to write the second novel of a series. There are so many decisions to make: how long after the end of the first book should the next story begin? How many of the original cast of characters should reappear, and how many new ones? Since Charlotte is not a professional investigator or law enforcement officer, how should she get caught up in another murder mystery? Should there even be a murder? What are her personal stakes in being involved in this one?
Should any of her personal issues in the first book recur in the second? Is her romance with Simon progressing, or is it still frustratingly up in the air? Should another love interest appear on the scene? What about Ellis? Should she make an appearance? Or the artist Hannah Verhagen? Is Charlotte still working on Olivia’s project, and if so, is she still in touch with Donovan? And so on and so forth.
One of the ideas that has been growing on me is creating a trilogy, of sorts. An Uncollected Death would be the first book. The next two can stand alone in the same way, but would be a continuation of some of the themes and situations in AUD. This approach would work because two important characters don’t actually appear in AUD–Ellis and Hannah. Donovan grew into a character with a lot of potential. Charlotte was left dealing well with her situation, especially after getting her beloved painting back, but there were no guarantees that things would work out as well as she planned.
Apart from a three-book story line, another advantage of doing them as a trilogy is my time frame for the next two books. I want the second novel to come out this fall, and the third one next spring. As a writer, I come up with characters or places or situations that have to be pulled out because they get in the way of the narrative. They might be useful, though, in a different narrative. There are some things in the “Discarded Chapters” folder of the AUD Scrivener files on my computer that are likely to be useful in one of the next two books. I like that idea of being able to utilize more of what I actually come up with (while fully aware that some of those babies will still have to be killed). It should help the planning and writing go more quickly. Maybe.
Three books in a series is also easier to market, from everything I’ve read and observed. It demonstrates to potential readers that there really is a series, and promotional pricing and packaging is more effective. I’ve got several tentative titles in mind, keeping the theme of a past participle with a pun, as in “uncollected death/debt.” As soon as I’m sure which one works best with the current story line, I’ll reveal it.
What have I got so far? Well, I was originally going to have the second mystery take place in the fall, soon after the first one ended, until I realized that Charlotte’s personal dilemmas wouldn’t come to a head until the holidays if things didn’t work out as planned. So I’m beginning it on the day of the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year. There’s a winter storm raging, Ellis has stood up Charlotte for skiing in Aspen with her father’s family, and the house in Lake Parkerton still hasn’t sold. It’s a situation that can happen all too easily if it’s winter in NW Indiana. We’ve just come out of one of our worst ones, so using the weather as a contributing factor in the story line won’t be too hard!