Follow-up the Leader

Jim Winter brought up an interesting topic at Crimespace today regarding what to write as a follow-up to the novel he and his agent are currently submitting. His book is a standalone and he mentions that if it were a series book he would start working on number two right away and possibly even outlining book three.

Harry Hunsicker was of the adamant opinion that one should not write the follow-up to a series novel until the first one has sold. He advocates starting something new even if it’s basically the same characters. Now Harry is a great writer, and has had quite a bit of success with his Hank Oswald series, so obviously he knows what he’s talking about. Buuuuuuuuuttttt, Laura Lippman is also an excellent writer with some success of her own and she advocates the opposite approach. Laura had the second book in her Tess Monaghan series finished by the time the first one sold and credits that with being able to jump start her career early on.

Both have valid points but because you’re here you obviously are dying to know what my opinion is? I side with Laura.

This is actually a debate I’ve been having with myself for a few weeks. I have the first book in the series finished and I’m submitting it currently to agents. I wanted to immediately start the next book and did so with MURDER BOY. About halfway through I knew this wasn’t the book I wanted to followup the first in the series. I wanted it to be a bigger and better book than the first one and one that, if the first didn’t sell, could be used as the new first book in the series. I’m confident enough in my character that I know he will sell, I think it’s just a matter of which book he will debut in. So right now I’m working on a different book, one that I hope will be the second book in the series, but I think could be reworked to act as an opening book if it had to.

Any thoughts?