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!

Thursday Thoughts: Keeping daily word counts and other bits and pieces.

Keeping a Daily Word Count.

A couple months ago, a romance writer offered a Google spreadsheet to anyone in our romance group on FB. We could add our name and enter our daily word counts. This isn’t a private total–anyone who added their name can see (and be motivated by) others’ word counts, and they can see yours. I’ve never needed the motivation, but I’d never kept visual track of my daily word counts either, and I thought, what the heck.

It was addicting, to say the least.

I love(d) (the challenge isn’t over yet) adding my daily word counts and watching as other did the same. One author in a column close to mine does high numbers too, and subconsciously, or maybe not so “sub”, I tried to keep up with her. It was fun.

But keeping track in a public way like that was also hard. Here’s why:

  1. You are keeping score. You’re not supposed to compare yourself to others, or if you do, you’re supposed to do it in a positive manner. That doesn’t always happen.
  2. It can make you feel bad on the days you can’t write and you have to put in 0. That’s tough when the person next you logged in 5,000 that day. The problem is, you don’t know how another person’s life is. They can be a full-time author where 5,000 words a day is the norm for them and a 0 day means they had an emergency. Sometimes a 500 word day for someone else is a great day because they work a full-time job and have kids. I didn’t like my 0 days. Especially when I had a week of them between books.
  3. Added pressure. It’s addicting to enter in a number at the end of the day. This can make it so you don’t give yourself enough grace if you have a bad day. Some say bad words are better than no words, but I don’t agree with that. If something else is taking up headspace and I know I can’t sit down and write something decent, I won’t bother. I know I can make it up later. Because I do. Giving yourself grace only works as far as you putting in the work later.
  4. There wasn’t a way to claim editing words. I wanted to log in the new words I wrote for that challenge. There were a few days I put in 0 because I was rereading and smoothing out the first third of my book. I was working, but I couldn’t log in any numbers. Entering in that 0 made me feel like I hadn’t worked that day.
  5. Writing and publishing isn’t always about writing new words. We couldn’t modify the spreadsheet because there’s a formula that tallies up our words and entering anything else in the field makes the formula not work. But if I were to make my own spreadsheet, I would make room for days that I did something else so I could still feel productive.
  6. Seeing the words add up is a great motivator. There are some negatives when doing a challenge like this, but I like seeing my words add up. Right now since January 4th when she offered us the spreadsheet, to March 20th, I’ve written 141,826 words, and I’ll have more before the challenge is over (April 13th) because I have a book to finish. But I won’t be starting another project, so as soon as this book is done, I’ll be entering in zeros for the rest of the challenge. That will be hard for me, but i’ll just have to make peace with it because I know I’ll still be working.

Would I recommend doing this? Yes, if you can keep yourself from getting carried away and playing the comparison game in a negative way. Your fellow writers’ successes should bolster your own, not drag you down.


In other news, I’m still going through my infection issues. Eventually I’ll get better, but it may take another round of antibiotics (I’m on my third and I can’t drink while on them which is a real bummer!). I need to make another appointment but I’m going to take a small break so I can have a glass of champagne over the weekend. I want to celebrate the completion of my second book of 2021. I may already be done with it by the time you read this post, I’m not sure. I’m 61k into it right now, and I tend to drag my feet toward the end because no matter how eager I am to move on to the next, I’m still attached to my characters and hate to say goodbye.


I’m not the only one with medical issues, and I had to bring my cat in to the vet. She kept going to the litter box, and I’m glad I trusted my instincts–it turns out she had a UTI. They gave her an antibiotics shot and I think it made her feel not that great. She sleeps a lot and doesn’t have her usual spunk. I’m hoping once the antibiotics do their job she’ll be back to her old self, but I’ll probably need to make her a follow-up appointment just to be sure. I know all about lingering infections and I don’t want to her to suffer. Here’s a picture of her if you don’t follow me on IG or you’re not friends with me on FB.

Blaze is a two-year-old Siamese Ragdoll mix.

One more thing I’m excited to share with you–Savannah Cordova from Reedsy is going to guest blog on Monday, March 29th! When she first reached out to me, I didn’t think it was real! I’m happy she thought my writing and publishing blog was relevant enough to contribute, and I hope you get a lot out of what she’s going to be sharing with us.

If you don’t know what Reedsy is, they are a team writing/marketing/publishing experts and professionals that help you with your journey. They offer lists of vetted freelance editors and book cover designers. They offer a FREE book formatting feature on their website (similar to Draft2Digital’s) and I’ve often blogged about the free classes they offer right to your email inbox that allow you to complete them at your own pace along with a short quiz at the end of each course. They really are amazing, and Ricardo Fayet, founder of Reedsy, wrote and is offering his book How to Market a Book: Overperform in a Crowded Market (Reedsy Marketing Guides Book 1) free on Kindle right now. I’m so honored to host Savannah on my blog!


Lastly, even though I haven’t been feeling 100% and I’ve been dealing with a sick cat and I’m always going to the grocery store for milk, I am trying to spend time outside and this is the pretty picture I captured the other day on a walk. With spring coming almost a full month early, this has been beautiful, cool, crisp weather to walk in. These are the golden days in Minnesota–when the weather is warming up but the bugs haven’t caught on yet. I love an evening walk in weather like this.

Enjoy your weekend! May it be productive! Check in with Savannah on Monday…. hope to see you there! 🙂