Writing Excuses 7.34: How to Start the Next One

Let’s talk about how to start the next one — not the next book in a series, necessarily. Your next project might not leverage the worldbuilding or characters you used in your previous project. We discuss the challenges each of us have faced, and how we’ve cleared those hurdles.

If you’re having trouble letting go of your previous project, this ‘cast should help you, if only because you can see it’s something each of us had difficulty with as well. Of course, we also offer you some pointers and some tricks to make this transition easier.


“The Hairy Housewife,” because Brandon didn’t hear Howard correctly the first time he said “harried.”

The Newsflesh trilogy by Mira Grant, wraps up with Blackout, and is a very satisfying example of a series that does something different with each book.

13 thoughts on “Writing Excuses 7.34: How to Start the Next One”

  1. Well, you guys have excellent timing. I’m literally just finishing one project and starting another right now, and the two projects are quite different, so this was really helpful.

  2. On the noodling with ideas to find one front, I found a lot of the early writing exercises from the book The 90 day Novel interesting.

    It starts with just doing lots of short free writing to try and find what idea really, truly excites you, but to keep digging even when you think you have it because that first idea is almost never the one you REALLY want to work on.

    I’ve never done his entire method beginning to end, but I’ve found the beginning useful when trying to suss out a good story from all the chaos of ideas I run into when trying to pick what to write next, how, and why.

  3. I love how you guys always dig into these little things like this that can really help us out. Thanks once again.

    But I’m surprised you didn’t carry your Indiana Jones example to the end. You talked about how Temple of Doom deviated from what people liked in the first and wasn’t as well liked, leading to a return of the elements from Raiders in Last Crusade. Then, in Crystal Skull, they deviated again and looked what happened. Lucas and Spielberg set out to make an homage to the 50’s B-movie sci-fi, similar to what they did for adventure serials in the first one, but since this was such a departure from the previous movies, and using much different elements, it failed in its reception much like Temple (if something that earns 700 mil can still be called a failure).

    It certainly lends credence to sticking with what works, but as Mary said, the trick is to give them what they want while still doing something new. I think it’s all about audience expectations. They have none when it’s something new, so the crucial bit to understand in any follow-up is what key expectations does the audience now have towards it, whether it’s book two of a series or a completely new novel by an established author. But then, as you point out, you run the risk of becoming pigeon-holed. I imagine that’s one of the hardest things to nail down and only comes with experience.

    In Crystal Skull’s case, the expectations were nothing like what it turned out to be. I suspect if it had been made as anything *other* than another Indy movie it would have been received much better (ok, minus the fridge and monkey scenes, too). Similarly, I think much of the fault of the prequel failures had to do with Lucas not understanding and meeting the key audience expectations, but that’s a whole other conversation.

  4. Hi. Another fantastic podcast. I’m curious how much time you guys spend recharging the well between projects, or do you read other works while you write?



  5. This is one of my favorite pet peeves with the fantasy genre. It seems to me that MANY authors never really leave seem to leave their first series, or in the worst case first story. Instead continuously rewrite the same thing over and over, sounding more and more tired. Don’t they want to grow and show us how wide they are, how interesting they can be?

    I realize expanding a successful work must seem like a good idea (bill to pay etc) but why expand it with more of the same, why not expand it with something different?

    So when people say more of the same, I wish more authors would say no I can do better, let me show you this different but equally cool thing here…

  6. Dashitall Mike! Now I feel all weird… have you ever read or listened to someone on the radio, and then when you find out what they look like in real life, they’re nothing like you’ve imagined?

    What I just went through was that… twice.

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