Reedsy’s Savannah Cordova: How to Ensure Your Romance Sequel Exceeds Expectations

I’d like to welcome Savannah Cordova from Reedsy to my blog today! I was so excited when she reached out to me and asked if I would be interested in hosting a guest blog post. Of course I said yes! I love Reedsy and all they have to offer indie authors. If you like this post and are interested in others like it, Reedsy hosts its own blog, and you can find it here. Thanks for stopping by today!


How to Ensure Your Romance Sequel Exceeds Expectations
by Savannah Cordova

Having enough acclaim to write a sequel to your book is every writer’s dream — but that doesn’t mean the process comes as easily as the butterflies when you get a crush. There are plenty of critically panned sequels out there, and the pressure can be nerve-wracking: you’re stressed about both living up to the first novel and coming up with something fresh and original.

The best romance novel sequels build on the success of their debuts, while also introducing new concepts, characters, and plot lines — which means that some beloved elements of the first novel might end up on the cutting room floor. A lot to juggle, right? Read on if you’re a romance author in need of some help; here are five tips to help your sequel shine.

1. Identify what your fans loved and focus on it
A great love story is a surefire way for a book to attract a following and take on a life beyond itself. With investment into a fictive world, and the growth of a fandom, come expectations. Expectations that need to be met or, dare I say, exceeded.

To do this successfully, it’s important to analyze what really made your first love story sing. Were people inspired by your fresh twist on that popular romance trope? Was the main love interest setting readers’ hearts aflutter? Did people enjoy the relatability of a certain character’s struggle to accept love? A stellar first romance novel normally has something special to distinguish it from other releases (if you’re feeling brave, reviews of your book might help you on this front). Zero in on this aspect and do your best to tease it out in the sequel.

That said, you shouldn’t be completely cowed by what you think your fans want — it’s your story, after all! Don’t be afraid to challenge their expectations and take the plot in unanticipated directions. It’s even advisable to drop some characters and subplots if they no longer serve a purpose. “Out with the old, in with the new,” as the old adage goes.

2. Introduce new plot threads
Writing a sequel doesn’t always mean picking up where you left off — this can fall into the trap of predictability and boring linearity. You may need to resolve cliffhangers left in your first book, but you should also take the opportunity to explore uncharted waters!

Many romance authors change the who of the story in their sequels (focusing on a new set of protagonists, often secondary characters of the previous book), but keep in mind that you might be better off simply changing the where and when. Great material can be found in illustrating your amorous protagonists adapting to unfamiliar settings and different life challenges, and can allow you to “test” the strength of their romantic relationship.

Another idea is to throw up some roadblocks that will put your characters through their paces, revitalize your narrative, and make space for character development. For example, in Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason, Bridget diverges from the original setting of London and, after a mishap on a vacation in Thailand, ends up in jail — definitely not what she (or readers!) were expecting. However, we learn about Bridget’s resilience, and this scene change also sets the stage for her two suitors to fight over her, in that iconic fountain fight scene.

3. Don’t hesitate to change the stakes
Beware of giving your readers another helping of the exact same dish. It’s fairly easy to change the more episodic events of a story, but what will really give your story fresh dynamism is changing your protagonist’s priorities or stakes. Better yet, doing this without betraying any key qualities of your characters, their principles, or the overall tone will mean the key change won’t seem gratuitous or excessive to the point of unbelievability.

Let’s take Jojo Moyes’ Me Before You trilogy as an example. In the second book, following the death of her lover Will, Louisa is dealing with her heartbreak and trying to move on as best she can. After an accident, she ends up in a church basement with the members of the Moving On support group.

So what’s changed? For one, in grief, she’s a more world-wise, introspective character. She’s also adapting to a new social setting, where she is introduced to handsome and charming fireman, Sam — you can probably see where this is going. The stakes have been altered because of the events that have occurred. She’s recovering from an accident and therefore vulnerable, which no doubt factors into the risks she will take if she is to fall in love again.

4. Develop your characters in interesting ways
You may think you know a character, and then they respond to a situation in a way you never would have anticipated. Surprise is the essence of any great drama, right? Though introductory beats are usually where a good chunk of character information is found, any good novel will treat character development as a continuous process. To do so will give you room to interrogate and deconstruct your characters — and subvert expectations.

Though character development has been touched upon in point #2, consider also how you might want to accentuate a feature (or flaw) of a character that was not touched upon in your first story. This might come naturally if the character has aged, as well as with the general forward-thrust of your plot. Perhaps a softer, more sensitive side to a character is revealed when they become a parent — or a more daring, combative facet of another character comes to the fore when their relationship is threatened by a third party. The list is endless!

5. Expand on the backstory
Even as you’re in the process of driving your plot forward, why not throw in a bit of time traveling via flashbacks? There is more incentive to do this if you’re penning a sequel to the first part of a book that did well — your fans will be invested in your characters and hankering for juicy details on their backstories.

Moreover, elaborating on a character’s origins will give color to their actions, reactions, and decision-making in the present day. For example, in the Bridgerton books and Netflix series, we learn that the Duke of Hastings lost his mother at a young age and had a terrible relationship with his father. From this, we are better equipped to understand his reluctance to marry Daphne Bridgerton — the Duke has trust issues and feels unworthy of her love.

Throwing in some snapshots of life before the present day is often an effective way to understand characters’ psyches and how this factors into a romantic dynamic. In this instance, Daphne and the Duke’s love story is made even more powerful after we learn of the psychological hurdles the Duke has had to overcome to commit himself to their relationship.

And there you have it. Hopefully these ideas will aid your writing process and enhance the next act of your story, as it were. You might even have an entire series under your belt one day!


Thank you, Savannah! Reedsy offers a ton of writing/publishing/marketing resources for indie authors. Check out Ricardo Fayet’s free marketing book here. Reedsy also hosts their own YouTube channel, and you can find it here.

And my favorite part of Reedsy is their straight-to-inbox free courses! Check out all they have to offer here.

Thanks again, Savannah, and have a great week, everyone! Until next time!

Welcome Guest Blogger Women’s Fiction and Domestic Thriller Author Sarah Krewis

a stack of books. quote says: what i learned when i published my debut novel
Provided by Sarah

I want to thank Vania for allowing me to guest post on her blog today. Our friendship began a little over four years ago, I believe, and with it has come some pretty stellar conversations about the life of an indie author. Today I want to talk about a few tools necessary if you want to succeed in this business, based on personal experience. 

When I began writing my debut novel, four years before I published it the first time, I had no idea what I was doing. Through research, my love of reading, and a handful of supportive people on Twitter, I figured out the barebones of how to write and publish a novel. It still wasn’t enough. 

I was stupid and naive. I thought that because I had a cover made, I had someone edit the book, and someone else to format it too, that it was all I needed to publish my story. Sure, my book cover was really well done. But I was impatient. I didn’t have a clear vision for my story so I wasn’t able to work with the designer to get it how I wanted because I didn’t fully know what I wanted. My editor gave it a first glance edit and made constructive notes. I made changes that I thought needed to be made, then I was done. I thought one round of edits would be enough and I didn’t need to have anyone else look at the book. I had set a publishing date, made the announcement on social media, and was two steps ahead of anyone who’d graciously offered to help me. 

I imagine now, when I look back on that time, a clear picture of those who helped me, standing on a sidewalk. Shock and disappointment on their faces, watching the cloud of dust behind me as I flew straight for the finish line with my unfinished project that I was so sure was this great thing. Back then, I had a lot of support on social media. I felt important, accepted, and successful. 

Then, I published. And I fell flat on my face. 

It seemed like overnight I lost 95% of support from social media. I sold approximately 25 books that first day, which isn’t bad but most of those were family members. Then sales dropped off a few days until I had months with no sales. The friends that were still in my corner were concerned for me and I was lost in a darkness of shame and disappointment in myself. I had no backbone for the blows I endured during that time and I felt defeated. 

My first review was from a FB friend who hadn’t even bought or read the book. That 5-star review was posted on the day the book went on sale. Before there were any sales.  Then, family members finished reading the book a few weeks later and I got more 5-star reviews. A few friends who read the book gave 5-star reviews or 4 stars. I was so excited! 

After about six months, I finally sat down and read my book again as a reader. I couldn’t believe it. The book wasn’t a 5-star book. At. All. At best, if I’m being nice, I’d give it a three. Once we got settled into our new home, I began a new edit and commissioned a new cover. December 1st, 2019, I released the newly edited version of my debut novel, Broken Tomorrows

It’s still not a 5-star book. 

Over the last three years since I first published the novel, I have grown and learned as an author. I have attempted to mend some of the friendships that I lost, and I took a good look at how I reacted and how sensitive I came across to those who knew me. If they left a 5-star review because they didn’t want to hurt my feelings, that’s on me. I never want anyone to feel like they can’t be truthful with me because it’ll hurt my feelings. 

In 2020, I took six months and focused on myself. I reviewed my life since I joined this business of writing and I asked myself some really tough questions, like, is writing really what I want to do with my life? I also stripped Broken Tomorrows off Amazon and redid about 75% of the story with the intent of republishing a third time. How do I know I’ve grown? I took a step back and realized that I need to write something new and fresh. I need to walk away from my characters and meet new ones. I do have a plan for what I rewrote of Broken Tomorrows, but that will come in a couple of years after I’ve shared some other characters with my readers. 

Authors should never pick up the task of writing a book unless they are prepared for everything that goes into it. Here are five tools you MUST understand before you begin writing that book, tools that I learned the hard way are essential to the craft.  

Read Reviews with Caution: As authors, we aren’t supposed to read reviews as they aren’t really for us. They are for other readers to share if the book is worth buying. I can do a whole other blog post about my thoughts on reviews, but I’ll save that for another time. IF you find yourself peeking (believe me, it’s hard not to do), take them for what they are: Someone else’s opinion. Read it, process it, check it, and then move on. 

Get a Backbone: This was one of my biggest lessons I had to learn, and it’s not something that happens overnight. Sometimes we need to read bad reviews and get negative feedback to strengthen us. But we also need to be stronger than the sensitive versions of ourselves. How to do this? Don’t take everything so personal. If someone gives you a negative reaction, take the good you can learn from it and grow. 

Have a solid Writing Community: I went into this business thinking that everyone in the writing community were supportive and loving people. That’s not true. There’s a saying out there that says something like, “other writers aren’t our competition” but in reality, not everyone believes that. While I did eventually find a handful of really great writers who support each other, it’s rarer than you might think. Reach out to other authors in the genre you write and support them. Some of those people may give you support back, or some may use you because your support goes a long way. Know what to look for and at the end of the day, understand that when people say writing is a lonely business, it’s not a false statement. 

Own Save the Cat Writes a Novel: I wish I had this book back in 2014 when I first started drafting Broken Tomorrows during NaNoWriMo. It gives a clear breakdown on each scene that needs to be written and why. It’s the perfect guide for those who enjoy outlining their novels. I get nothing for recommending this book to you, I just really believe in it. You can find the book on Amazon by Author Jessica Brody. 

Invest in Yourself: I used to scoff when people would tell me to do this. I mean, when you don’t have the money for an editor or cover designer, you don’t have it. But, while you may not be able to afford that $1800 Developmental Edit, you can buy books that will teach you how to edit yourself. You can find a way to enroll in inexpensive courses online to teach you the craft. Groupon got me into a Write Academy course and a 6-month subscription to The Writer Magazine. There are deals out there you just need to look for them. Sell items that you don’t use anymore and start a Writing Fund. Network with other authors and reach out to University students. 

Vania knows a lot about making writing a business. If this is your first time on her blog, I recommend following her because she has a lot of useful advice based on personal experience. I’ve learned that you have to treat this like a business if you want to make it as a successfully published author. Don’t let these tips above discourage you from doing what you love, if writing is what you feel destined to do. Writing has a lot of tough moments, but when you are holding your bestseller in your hands, you’ll remember those tough moments as paying your dues for success. 


To purchase Broken Tomorrows click here.