Guest Post by JD Savage: The Sequel – How Much from the Previous Book is Too Much?

Today’s post is a guest post by writer JD Savage, author of “The Seeds“.  His topic is one that I’m dealing with myself at the moment – how much information about the previous book should one include in the sequel?

JD’s post is part of the Literary + Blog Tour.  Literary+ is a writer based project brought together and lead by Shen Hart. It brings together passionate, quality self-published writers to help each other promote their work, bringing more readers to every member. It was sparked by the simple fact that there are many top quality self-published authors being over-looked because they do not have the time and resources to efficiently and effectively market and promote themselves. With ambition and passion, Literary+ will take its members to the heights they deserve through a tight-knit community of like-minded writers.


The Sequel 
– How Much from the Previous Book is Too Much?

I’m currently working on a sequel to my first novel. I had had an idea that was really about things that happened. As I really focused on writing it, I discovered the characters hiding within it, and the story evolved into things that happened to them, and how those events changed them.

So, I’m writing the sequel. Of course, I want the reader to be so intrigued with this book that they will turn around and pick up the first one as well. In order to do that, I plan to include just enough of the details from the first book to make it enticing.

But, how much is just enough?

Here’s a shocker… as a writer, I am plagued by doubts, (I know, it’s just me. You, on the other hand, are fully formed and confident in your abilities). When I feel the weight of such indecision, I turn to research. I tried the major search engine, (no, not the one Microsoft pays TV and movie actors to use… the other one), but I couldn’t find the magic answer to my question of ‘How Much is Too Much?’

Plenty on exposition, plenty on back story, but nothing really quoting research on this particular problem. So, I went to the source… people who love to read.

If there is one thing social media is good for, (besides snark and cute kittens), it’s getting people to share their opinions. I am lucky enough to be connected with some pretty smart people, people who are writers and, better still, voracious readers. I put the question to them, and got some pretty solid advice. Here is what I learned.

Different works require different levels of previous details. A novel that is more of a character study requires less back story in book two, with just enough so that the reader can see the progression of the characters. Books where the story is more focused on plot development may require a bit more, so the changes ahead can be fully appreciated.

Along those same lines, books that follow characters in different story lines, like crime drama or detective novels, need the barest explanations and then only if it’s relevant to the story at hand.

Book Two should be able to stand on its own and still be part of the series. The details from the first book should be woven into the narrative in a way that enriches the reader’s experience. Slowing them down or slamming on the brakes to explain what happened in Book One is a serious no-no.

For editors, this can be a particularly vexing problem. Editor extraordinaire Laurie Laliberte mentions the unique experience of getting a bit lost if there isn’t enough of the original in the story to have current developments make sense. The key is to make each book a good book. A reader who is intrigued enough to want to learn more is good. A reader who is confused is gone.

The most common response was simply that the reader wants just enough to know ‘why’. They don’t want large chunks of Book Two to be rehashed elements of the first book. If they’ve read the first one, they get bored right quick with all the explanations. If they haven’t, you will lose them when they read Book One and find that they know all of this already. As Shen Hart, leader of the Literary Plus group on Google Plus explains so succinctly, ”I don’t want to spend half of book two being reminded what happened in book one.”

The overarching advice here is simply, “Entertain me. Don’t bore me.”

I was humbled to have such great advice, freely given. I read each word many times and hope to do right by the reader. I will take this advice to heart, and I hope you will, too.

My friend Ellen summed it all up for me. “I have already read part one… I want more, not a refresher course.”
So get busy.

To find out more about JD Savage and his writing, here are some links: