How much review is necessary? Sequels

The ADHD audience demands that you get to the point and do so quickly.  That’s the deal in movies and television today. Compare the opening episode of Columbo, where there’s a loving 5 minute helicopter shot that brings us to the mansion– 5 minutes of nothing but scenery. Unnecessary? Yes. That was just how they did it. Compare to today, where that same information would be conveyed in several 1-2 second shots. We’re in a bay, and now we’re at this mansion with this guy.

And look at the cuts in movies now. Every 5-6 seconds they change the shot. In the more extreme, Alfred Hitchcock’s shower scene has multiple cuts per second, to give us a frenetic view of a murder. There’s something like 36 cuts in that scene, and we’re not talking about what Norman is doing with his knife, either.

How does this affect books?

I think your average reader isn’t tolerant of the long, loving descriptions that we see in 19th century literature. Get to the point! BLUF! Bottom line up front! We’re looking at you, JRR.  Skip to weathertop, the rest of that stuff was unnecessary.

Maybe you do shorter cuts and try to stay relevant and on topic. Maybe you don’t. That’s a matter of author style.

But this brings us to the sequel. These days, it’s not enough to publish one book and then profit. You need sequels. That’s apparent. Does your sequel stand alone or does it need to be read in sequence? Do you just stick a synopsis in the beginning to fill in those who are joining the program in progress, or do you put it in the novel, real organic-like, so the reader is thinking, “Gee, I know that Oedipus was sleeping with his mom, skip this paragraph because there’s nothing new for me here.” At least the synopsis can exist sort of outside the book. Has it been a year since I read the first book? And why didn’t you have the sequel published sooner? Then I can look at the synopsis and I’ll think, “okay, yeah, I remember it all vaguely now, like looking through a glass darkly. Thanks synopsis, you’re the best!” Otherwise, I can say, “read the first one 2 hours ago, so it’s all fresh and don’t need the synopsis. Skip!”

I may have mentioned this before, but there was a series of books about these spaceships that were powered by mages. This is not surprising; after all, most of science fiction looks like magic. It’s not like authors have physics degrees. If they did, they’d be off running companies instead of writing fiction. Just sayin’.  So back to the book. Every stinkin’ chapter, we had a recap of what just happened. This drove me NUTS. After 3 chapters, I went to read the afterward to figure out what was going on. Turns out, this was a serialized book, in which installments were published at separate times. Fantastic! In my OCDness, however, I wanted to tear it up and edit it to rip out those sections so it was readable.. Blah blah blah, yes, we know he’s a mage and he’s on this ship, rip out those 12 paragraphs, let’s keep the story moving.

It seemed odd to me that no one edited it after stitching it together to make it flow.  If you annoy your readers, you lose them, at least the ones that don’t have a weird book fetishes. You know the sort of book fetish people: “I must complete all books that I start!” and “It’s criminal to burn books or use them for toilet paper, no matter what they are.” That’s just weird. If I could burn some of the ebooks I’ve read, I would gladly do so. They were awful, and didn’t deserve to see the light of day. And some stuff is downright dangerous, i.e. all books by Joel Osteen.

Besides books by the damned, many books start with a good premise but the execution needs to be, you know, edited. By an editor, not uncle Mumphy who may have taken a college class in creative writing. 50 years ago. While he was avoiding the draft. In Canada. Yeah, if you’re selling a book, then you are a professional, and thus you need to treat your writing like professional product. Unless you’re giving it out for free, and then what’s the point of that? Isn’t your writing worth something? So find an editor so we don’t have the whole ebook stigma hanging over your novel. Then we can get down to the basics of critiquing your novel for the other things it lacks, not just dumb cosmetic tiny typos.

Those editors who happen to be pricey will also fix the problems in your novel such as you over-using a phrase or perhaps you hammer a point home a few too many times. Yes, we get it. You support a political position and this book is your platform, darnit. Even the best writers seem to do that, the difference is that their editors put big red slashy marks through the bad parts and those are ripped out before it ever gets to the consumer.  Instead of a preachy book which goes on for hours about climate change, we can instead read about what your characters think and how they’ll arc, i.e. they could go from being a chickenlittle alarmist to someone who doesn’t believe the sky is falling. Didn’t the fox eat up all the birds in that one? Alarm was correct, just didn’t see the right threat.

Anyhoo, back to the point, which is deciding how much review is going to sink this sucker.  If you MUST review, please do so lightly, and put it up front. And put the review in paragraphs which can be skipped, without new information, so if some of us are skimming that stuff, we don’t get blind-sided. No, really, it’s okay for us to skim that stuff. That’s why you really ought to just have a synopsis of the previous episode, like they did on Murder She Wrote: “Previously, on Murder She Wrote: “Jess, you’ve been at or near the scene of over thirty murders. Most people never see one, yet you’ve been a suspect in a dozen, and your proximity, while not correlation, seems to be an indicator that someone is going to be bumped off. That is why I don’t like being around you.”  “Well, Sheriff, I understand you, but I’m not leaving Cabot Cove.”


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