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I'm writing 2 stories simultaneously. The first one spans 17 years. The second picks up where the first left off... but only about 25% of the way in.

The sequel seems to work best if I introduce the new characters about 5 years before the end of book 1, but most of the characters don't fit into the first story. (One of them does appear, but only for a single chapter.)

Am I allowed to have a sequel that starts 5 years before the first book ends, or will I need to do something else with that 25%?

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    Of course you can do that, there's no set rules. In the sequel, are you going to cover the same events from a different point of view, or the plot is mostly independent at the beginning? – Alexander Jun 15 at 0:04
  • @Alexander One of the new PoV characters starts out retelling a side event. The others start out being mostly independent. – Evil Sparrow-Reinstate Monica Jun 15 at 0:31
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As has been pointed out, there are no "rules" stopping you from having a sequel starting within the time frame of another book in the series. "The Horse and His Boy" takes place wholly within the last few chapters of "The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe", for example.

Thinking like a reader, if I loved a book and its characters and I read another book where I can see different characters tangentially intersecting with events I'm already aware of - I would LOVE it. Not only will I be reading a fresh new story with a great new character (or two) and different stakes but I will get a chance to briefly revisit ones I loved without the story directly continuing the last one.

Far from saying this is ill-advised, I would go so far as to say this is a brilliant idea. I wish more authors did things like this.

Advice for writing the sequel

Disclaimer: Your mileage may vary, this is just my opinion.

I would strongly recommend setting out early to anchor your readers with a sense of where and when the new story takes place within the wider fictional universe. That's not to say that an "ah-ha" moment where they realise halfway through couldn't work, just that it carries more risk. It really is up to you if you think you have the skills to pull a late reveal off or not.

Let us get attached to the new characters long before we meet anyone central to the previous story. The reason being is that readers may expect the established character to come in and take over. Meeting established support characters early is unlikely to carry that same impression.

Let us see how the events in the previous story ripple out into this story. I would caution against solving any problems for your characters with those ripples but making additional problems will probably make for a gripping read.

My final advice: in all things writing, if you wonder "should I do this?" or "am I even allowed?" do it anyway. Try stuff. Break rules. If it works, great; if it sucks, tuck it away and pretend it never happened (or figure out what's wrong and fix it). Whatever you write is not set in stone - so experiments are always entirely recommended.

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    In the Marvel Cinimatic Universe, The Hulk, Iron Man II, Thor, and Captain America: The First Avenger's modern setting scenes all occur within the same week (News Footage from The Hulk's ramapge at a college is playing in the background of Iron Man II indicating it's on going situation, and Coulson is assigned to the landing site of Mjnoir at the end of Iron Man II. A deleted scene from The Hulk is the incident that allows for the discovery of Captain America's frozen body and his revival. There is also a chronological order of the films that does not fit the release order. – hszmv Jun 17 at 18:55
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A "sequel" that takes place during the events of its predecessor is called a midquel (or more precisely, an "intraquel"). In your case, only the first 25% of your second book is intraquel, but the point is: not only is this allowed, but it's so common there's even a term for it.

To give you another example, that's probably more relevant to your own story: Shrek Forever After begins during the events of Shrek 1, with Fiona's parents being informed that she's been rescued from the tower just before they were due to sign a deal with Rumpelstiltskin. This is what sparks Rumpelstiltskin's vendetta with Shrek, and sets up the main storyline.

So if your second book needs to be part-intraquel, go ahead and make it part-intraquel.

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    other examples are several of the "Ender's Game" series books occur during the events of the original book – NKCampbell Jun 15 at 19:10

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