word craft


The Second Book

The Unexpected Life of Oliver Cromwell PittsIt’s won­der­ful to receive a review (The Unex­pect­ed Life of Oliv­er Cromwell Pitts) that reads: “Riveting…This first in a new series will cap­ture the hearts and minds of read­ers and his­to­ry buffs alike … Avi’s exam­i­na­tion of the plight of the des­per­ate­ly poor is wor­thy of Dick­ens. Impos­si­ble to put down.”

But then, please note, I am already com­mit­ted to writ­ing a sequel! How am I ever going to match this?? Frankly, it’s daunting.

There are all kinds of things the writer must do to begin such a project. First, you have to cre­ate a ver­i­ta­ble cat­a­log of the facts about your char­ac­ters (par­tic­u­lar­ly your main char­ac­ters), aspects with which you must now live (and use) as you go for­ward. Age. Height. Gen­der. Man­ner­isms. Cloth­ing. Pat­terns of think­ing. Cul­ture. To cite a few. Then there are speech con­fig­u­ra­tions. Per­haps cer­tain speech quirks. Even par­tic­u­lar words. Does your char­ac­ter say “Sure,” or “Okay,” or “Why not?” Or per­haps just shrugs. Then there are atti­tudes: does he like this per­son but not that one? Also, does do your char­ac­ters evolve in the course of the book?

Now mind, I was­n’t par­tic­u­lar­ly fussy how I laid these things down in the first book. Get it right, I’m most­ly think­ing. But as I go for­ward into the next book, I MUST make use of what I have done. Like it or not, you have cre­at­ed a tem­plate. And—let it be noted—that one of the rea­sons read­ers like sequels (and series) is because the character(s) is familiar.

The End of the World and BeyondI believe it was John D. Mac­Don­ald—of mys­tery writ­ing fame—who sug­gest­ed that if you are going to write a series—write the first three before you pub­lish any­thing. Some­times, if your tim­ing is right—and it was here for me—you are work­ing on the sec­ond book before the first book is set in stone. That is to say, it was only dur­ing the final phase of pub­lish­ing the first Pitts book that I con­sid­ered what would hap­pen in the sec­ond Pitts book. I had a gen­er­al sense, but hard­ly pre­cise. I could, and did, make some adjustments

And oh, yes, hav­ing a good mem­o­ry is vital. Let it also be said that a good edi­tor and copy edi­tor is cru­cial. You will get notes: “In book one, chap­ter sev­en, line twelve, you wrote.…”

But now that the sequel—The End of the World and Beyond—has been writ­ten and is about to be pub­lished, ear­ly reviews have come in:

“Told in appro­pri­ate­ly 18th-cen­tu­ry dic­tion, Oliv­er’s picaresque is a har­row­ing page-turn­er that takes an unflinch­ing look at what life was like for those liv­ing in servi­tude in the Amer­i­can Colonies. Oliv­er is qui­et­ly hero­ic but also real­is­tic as he endures his fate. African Bara, though seen through white Oliv­er’s eyes, is giv­en trope-defy­ing agency, his intel­li­gence and supe­ri­or knowl­edge of the ter­ri­to­ry and cus­toms putting him in the lead but nev­er at Oliv­er’s ser­vice. Brief back mat­ter gives his­tor­i­cal con­text to this sequel. Action-packed and inspirational—another stun­ner.” (Kirkus)


2 thoughts on “The Second Book”

  1. Wow! Those are pret­ty sweet reviews, Avi.

    The John D. Mac­Don­ald advice is wise … but would be hard to fol­low for a work­ing writer try­ing to put food on the table!

  2. Amaz­ing reviews, which does­n’t sur­prise me, but I’m sure it’s a relief for you after all of your work. Can’t wait to read #2!


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