I haven't tried to write a sequel for two and a half years. That was three books ago. A lot's happened since then.
When I was working on STARWIND, I knew there was more to the story. The plot itself was self-contained and easy to fit into one book, as I try for with anything that could be a first published book. But I had ideas for where things would go afterward. The story's events aren't limited to just the race between worlds, and while the ending is designed to be a good moment of closure, it's also blatantly made to lead into further adventures.
In query letters, they refer to this as "series potential", and it's what you say so you don't scare off an agent with "I have a seven-book series planned for this thing." Because yes, I have a seven-book series planned for this thing.
Do I think I'll ever get to write all those books? I have no idea. I'll be happy if I ever have reason to write the second one.
Anyway, yes, I'm currently deep into plotting the sequel to STARWIND. I made an official document for it a few days ago, and it's now up to twelve pages long. No, I haven't typed up twelve pages of material in a few days; I've been keeping plans for the entire series at the end of my original plotting document, but that got too messy when it became time to plot a separate book. But it's going well so far. I have character arcs planned for all the returning crew, and a lot of work to do on some new people so they all get reasonable arcs of their own. I have new worlds to create, and I'm already having a lot of fun with that. And I have a plot that has some of the same basic story structure while not feeling repetitive, with a lot more going on than just "we have a race to win."
It's been interesting to build on what's come before. I feel like a lot of the heavy lifting is done, all the establishment of setting and locations and main characters, so I can do more delving into new stuff and not worry about if some things are going to work. Some things already have worked, which is a tremendous help. It feels oddly comfortable to go back to working with these people, planning out their next adventure now that I know them so well. And yet I have to avoid repeating myself, or making the story seem like too much of a rehash of the first book.
If I ever write this, I'm sure someone somewhere will give me crap for writing another story where the heroes have to go visit different worlds and gather what they find there while dealing with all kinds of exotic hazards. But if all goes according to plan, the next three books will have three distinctly different structures.
Yes, I'm talking about it like it's going to happen, because even I sometimes get tired of my own self-depreciation. I know this plot is just like any other I've written - there's no way to know if it'll ever actually become a book. But I feel really good about STARWIND. I'm hoping this one will do well, and actually looking forward to querying it and seeing what happens.
And because of that, working on a sequel doesn't feel like a waste of time, which is tremendously gratifying in and of itself.
Next week: the SEQUENCE OF EVENTS. It's in caps for a reason. :P