Monday, January 9, 2012

Sequels and Middle Child Syndrome

WARNING: For those of you that happen to be middle children, understand that the following is merely a generalization, used for comparing the art of writing a series, and is by no means intended to cause offense.

Many of you already know about three months ago I FINALLY let my oldest child, Gaia's Secret, out into the world. Very soon after, I gave birth to her sister, Gaia #2.

"This should be EASY," I had preened. "This time I know the process, I've read tons of books and blogs about writing and I've practically got John Truby's Anatomy of Story memorized...heck, I've already got all the characters and the ENTIRE series outlined. What could be so difficult?"

*anvil drops on head*

I didn't account for the fact that Gaia #2 is a different child, entirely.

1. Birth Order Personalities (aka WHOSE CHILD IS THIS, ANYWAY?)

I mean, really, what did I do wrong? I didn't remember having so much trouble getting my first born to talk and my first born didn't incessantly fight me over word choice and sentence structure and the direction of the plot. "Time Out" wasn't working, either, in fact, Gaia #2 seemed perfectly happy sitting in that corner all by herself...not talking.

Then I found this nice little quote:
"Middle kids bemoan their fate as being ignored and often grow resentful of all the parental attention given to the oldest and the baby of the family, and feel short-shifted." - Stacy DeBroff

Ah ha! And I suppose it doesn't help that I don't have a concrete title for Gaia #2, yet... *taps chin* 

Which brings me to...

2. Favoritism (aka Why Can't You Be Like Your Sister?)

Okay, so your first child went out into the world and is doing just fine. People seem to like that child, and some people even take a moment to tell you how much they like that child. (Of course, not everyone likes your children - but you learn to be OK with that...sorta...)

Naturally you're drawn to the child that is more like you. "Gaia's Secret" was happy, fearless, took control. Gaia #2...not so much. She is melancholy, lonely, and has an overwhelming sense of emptiness. In fact, she sort of reminds me of Eeyore with the raincloud permanently over his head. Too much time with her, and I walk away feeling depressed, drowning in a sea of woe...

And that's okay.

She just wanted to know that I was there for her, that I'd be patient and give her all the time and attention she needed. Once I did that, once I let her simmer there, in that empty corner, she grew bored and came around and started talking. I don't particularly like (or agree) with what she's been saying, but I listen. I try not to compare her to her predecessor and I try not to remind her of all the work her predecessor had done. I also try not to remind her of the expectation, set by Gaia #1, that would be inevitably put on Gaia #2.

Which leads me to my last point...

3. Sibling Rivalry (aka My World is Better than Your World)

It exists. Stay out of it. Make sure each has your constant support, and let them sort it out. Hopefully, given time, they'll be able to appreciate each others' differences and how those differences make them better and more complete.

And try not to make them feel like this:

After realizing the above, handling Gaia #2 has been infinitely easier. In fact, I'm learning a lot from her and being challenged in ways I hadn't expected (like somehow keeping track of all these characters and subplots...O_O )

And for those of you that know my first born, Gaia's Secret, I want to say THANK YOU!!! You guys have been AWESOME -  leaving so many comments, giving feedback, and sharing her with friends. That support has been enabling in countless ways, and helps me better prepare Gaia #2 before sending her out into the world :)


P.S.  If any of you are/have been writing a series, PLEASE share!


  1. Barbara, this is a great post! I never really thought about the books in a series as children, but it makes perfect sense - since they are like our chilren :-). Now, for me, my first born is giving me such trouble that I can only imagine what the others will be like *bites nails*. I keep giving her makeovers hoping she will turn out as pretty as I'd planned... and, well... we're getting there!

    And I'm sure book 2 will grow up someday. After all, with a big sister like Gaia's Secret, she can't help but be amazing!

  2. You are one crazy cookie Miss Lip Kloss. But this is so you.

    I'm pretty sure book 2 will be fine--don't sweat it! You're an amazing writer (and hopefully real-life mother someday?), so I have the utmost faith that your second child will be the best and brightest of the lot. Tell your first born I still love her though.

  3. This one made me smile. Great analogy.

    I am writing a series. On the second one myself. It's not really proving difficult, though, other than the fact that it sort of got boxed at the end of the summer, and I haven't had a chance to get back to it :(

    And a completely different novel has sort of superceded it for the moment.

  4. Ahh, Barbara, this post is awesome! Such a good analogy. I know Gaia #2 will come around for you. How can it not. In the end every child wants attention and it's not gonna happen if it doesn't play nice!

    PS. I know I've been a horribly absent CP/writing buddy lately. I'm sorry! I've lost contact with the writing world of late, and I really miss it (and you!).

  5. Christine - Yours was already beautiful!! KEEP AT IT!! And thanks...if mine turns out decent, it's because your eyes were on it!

    Tyson - *beams innocently* And sheesh, THANK YOU. I'll pass on the message :)

    Andrew - How exciting for you! And I have a special request...once you get back to that sequel, let me know. I like hearing about other peoples methods of madness.

    Sari - HIEEEEEEE! DO NOT DESPAIR, my dear! Life gets crazy. My blogging pretty much jumped off a cliff and was left in fits and spasms...*hangs head* Hope you're doing well despite the chaos! *hugs*

  6. Barb this is so witty! I'm a middle child and I was everything they are talked up to be :) Ask my parents - by the time I turned 13 they were ready to kick me out of the house!

    But, I think in the end these middle children end up being very well loved and amazingly accepting of others because of everything they've learned from their own mistakes... hopefully #2 will learn to embrace herself and be just as fabulous as #1 but in her own special way!

    I'm sure that with you as her creator #2 has a fabulous start! Looking forward to it!

  7. Ohhh, I was kind of smiling inwardly when you said you figured the second would be easier because you had the first one set up. In some cases, this is very true and in other cases, it can be like pulling hair to write sequels! Faith and I have four books in our series written, and we've learned something new with each one. With my Rising duology, Rising2 has been SO much easier to write in some ways and so much harder in other ways. The world-building is done, but the characters are wildly different. The writing is easier and I know the characters better at the start than in the first one, but this has issues of its own to work through.

    I think sequels can be more daunting, too, because the expectation is higher. It's like "This is the bar of where the last book was at. This one has to at LEAST match that and then probably be better!" And the problem is that the first book is already edited and polished and COMPLETE, and the second book is a pile of unfinished, unpolished stuff.

    Hang in there! You'll get through it! You'll get Gaia2 written and I'll get Rising2 written and we'll talk each other through it. ^_^

  8. Oh dear! As I personally have more experience at being the youngest, I would have to say the last book you write is going to be the one holding a finger about an inch away from your eye saying, "I'm not touching you!!!!" and no matter how much you threaten it, the more it'll laugh at your frustration.

    As I know that my current WIP will be my first series ever, I haven't finished book one, so you'll have to forgive me if I just be the one cheering you one. I have no advice to give, but I sure do make a loud noise when I want to!!!

    (Bringing me to football games is ill advised as I will embarrass you... My father taught me well. Ye have been warned!)

  9. You guys are awesome!

    Jenny - Ha! What a wonderful middle child you are, too :) I KNOW your parents must be SO proud, even if they were ready for you to go at 13. And thanks so much...I hope so! Your enthusiasm helps TREMENDOUSLY!

    Laura - *slaps forehead* You WOULD have been smiling inwardly!! :D Yes, and it's the characters for me, too! Some of them I know so well, but the challenges are new, and they aren interacting with different characters, so I'm suddenly finding myself exposed to a dynamic I hadn't foreseen. They make the story richer (at least I'm hoping, lol) but keeping it all straight is SO tough!

    M.S. - So YOU are the baby! *points* *POINTS* :D So, what you're saying is, once I get to the third, you're offering a shoulder to cry on?? :D Way to write a series! Keep me posted on your progress, please. Oh, and I would SO love to take you to a football game.

  10. Hah! What a wonderful analogy.

    I can't believe I haven't been here in FOREVER. But, to my credit, I just finished a huge revision, and finally have time to actually read the blogs I like.

  11. Aww, thanks, Matt! That means a lot, coming from one of MY favorite bloggers!

    And even if you haven't "stopped by," you probably haven't missed anything. I haven't blogged in FOREVER, which has also kept me FROM blogger, reading the blogs that _I_ like.

    Great job finishing your huge revision!!

  12. Hahahaha! Oh Barb, I love that you've compared this to the middle child syndrome! It makes me laugh!! Although, I have to say, I'm the oldest in my fan and have NO CLUE what its like to be ignored and in the middle.

    I mean... come on... do I look like the kind of person that would stand for being ignored? [insert tough girl face]

    Anyway, I haven't started my sequel to Keepers yet... but its in the back o my mind... just biding its time. I'll have to keep all this in mind when I finally DO start the sequel, and try not to feel frustrated if sequel child ever feels neglected and insecure!!

    P.s. Does that mean the last book in my series will be the spoiled end child?? Heehee ( :

  13. Sure, I'll try to remember to do that. My notebook is still packed from the move, though, which is why I haven't gotten back on it. I need to fins it, though.

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