Leaving Feedback

As writers, we like getting feedback on our stories. We’re excited about the worlds and characters we’ve created, and we can’t wait to share them with others. Many of us love reading other people’s works in order to provide feedback and encouragement, but the way we comment can have different affects on them as writers. Now, to determine the best kind of feedback to give, I presented 30 writers with the following questions:

Imagine you gave someone a piece of your writing (a chapter or so). You did not ask them to proofread or edit or critique you work—merely enjoy it, and you get three kinds of responses:

  1. Awesome! That was totally neat! LOVED IT! Check out my story here:…”
  2. Awesome action! A lot of stuff happening here. It was a bit hard to follow at times since so much was happening. For instance, were there four guards or three? Because I only saw them take down three guards, so what happened to the fourth? Other than that, really epic writing! I chuckled when Rex was shouting at the others, “Stop it! Stop it! You’re shooting the mummies!” “They’re already dead!” “They’re ARTIFACTS!” “Then come out, so we can shoot you without hitting anything else. It’s either you or the dead guys.” “Well, when you put it like that…” That was funny. Can’t wait to read more. And hey, if you’d check out my story, I’d really appreciate it. Would love to hear what you think! Anyway, looking forward to more of your story. Keep writing!”
  3. You forgot a period at the end of the sentence ‘He determined this was going to be a very long afternoon’, and you’re missing a word in this sentence, ‘he didn’t dare look up because the bullets were everywhere.’ Also, the action was too fast and unclear a lot of the time.”

Out of the three which would you prefer to receive, and which one would get you to read the individual’s story?

The results:

No one chose #1.

2/30 people chose #3 as their preference of feedback.

28/30 people chose #2 as the feedback they would want to receive.

Those who chose #2 said they would be more likely to check out the other person’s story based on the comment they left behind. Although several people said they didn’t like the person plugging in their own story.

Those who chose #3 didn’t say much other than the fact that if they were going to look for a proofreader or so, they’d go to that individual.

However though, the comment examples I used above are imperfect. When I conversed with the 30 volunteers of the experiment, a few of them were torn between #2 and #3. They appreciated the specifics provided in #3, but in the end, if they were choosing to forever receive a single kind of feedback based on those three choices, they preferred #2. However, if given the choice, they really wanted a combination of #2 & #3.

Here is what I’ve determined:

If you’re only reading a chapter at a time or so, as you begin the story, find what you like about it—if anything really catches your attention. Focus on that. If something yanks you out of the story, make mention of it, but in the beginning stages of this procedure, don’t focus on every little error—not yet, at least.

Once you’re established an understanding with the author, and they ask you to give more detailed feedback, that’s when you can start looking for more specifics. Also, the courteous thing to do is to send that kind of feedback privately to the author rather than publicly. Would you like someone to publicly point out all the mistakes you’ve made, or would you rather the issues be handled quietly?

Even when you’ve established such an understanding with the writer, be sure to maintain a balance between the negative feedback and the positive feedback. Too much negativity can be draining and discouraging, and that can be devastating to a writer.

Another to keep in mind when it comes to some structures of sentences, the writer might not heed your advice. Don’t take it personally. Don’t think of them as stupid or a failure. They may very well have a precise purpose for that structure which you, being too close to it and viewing it as an editor, don’t see. Their decision might not work with traditional publishers, but they may be self-publishing, and it will work. All you can do is offer advice but then let them make their own decisions. This takes stress off of you.

In the end, remember, you’re not their editor—not unless you two agreed upon that and the author is likely paying you for your services. Otherwise, it isn’t your responsibility.

Now though, there is the aspect of leaving feedback and requesting someone read your own story. What is the best way to do this? Simple: don’t make the request—at least not at first. Rather, be encouraging to the author, allow for conversation to flourish, and then you may politely request they check out your story. Sometimes there simply won’t be a right time for that. However, if someone is leaving you the gracious comments, the kind thing to do is go and investigate their story without them having to make the request. That way you can leave similar positive feedback, and the two of you can encourage one another and slowly build a relationship where you can help one another grow as writers.

In the experiment someone pointed out to me a few things that I think are important to mention: caps lock & shorter sentences make things sound more malicious than intended. Also, using text writing (‘u’ instead of ‘you’, etc) when leaving comments greatly discredits you as a writer. The author, whose story you’re commenting on, will likely not check out your story or look to you for any editorial feedback because it appears that you are lacking the basic fundamentals of writing. I’m not saying you are lacking those, but you’re giving that impression when you use such writing. If you want to be taken seriously, then write in a more professional manner.

What happens if you read a story that is poorly structured, horribly written, and absolutely confusing? Should you be honest and tell the person? Or should you just smile and nod, “That’s nice…”? Well, put yourself in their shoes. How would you like to be approached if your writing was that horrible? Perhaps you should privately contact the individual and hint at some improvements they need to make. Don’t present them with a long list of errors on the outset because that could be overwhelming and so discouraging they may quit as a writer. You may make note of a few things and ask them if they would like some help to improve their writing. If they say ‘yes’, then you can begin helping them. If they’re not interested, leave them be. However, let me warn you, if they accept your help, then be ready to invest a lot of time and energy in their growth. If you don’t have the desire to invest that in the person, you can always point them in the direction of a writing mentor/coach.

Sometimes though, the story is honestly so horrible, and you don’t have the time to even open a conversation with the writer to help them improve, so what’s the best thing to do? Don’t comment. As the common proverb states, “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.” Of course, it is entirely up to you.

Now though, I asked the participants of the survey a second question, and it was this:

What do those comments tell you about the people who wrote them? (shy, confident, encouraging, intimidating, arrogant, etc)

Here is what they said about each person. Disclaimer: this is not based on a real individual. This is the views of multiple people according to the comments. Remember, in this scenario, only a chapter or so was read like on Wattpad where many others have their stories online too, and the author did not ask for proofreading, editing, or critiquing.

Comment #1:

Shy

Advertising

Self-centered

Has agenda

Doesn’t care

Uninvested

Not as helpful

Wants you to read them but not read you

Busy

Encouraging

Narcissistic

Arrogant

Didn’t even read

Bubbly

Fishing

Insecure

Clueless

New reader/writer

Not sure how to write good review

Skims

Not comfortable giving feedback/critique

Not into the story

Rushed

Friend/family

Excited but not well thought-out

Didn’t pay attention

 

Comment #2

Balanced

Approachable

Friendly

Constructive criticism

Positive

Encouraging

Genuinely nice

Honestly attentive

Detailed

Eager to help

Engaged

Interested

Cares

Actual reader

Knowledgeable

Conversational

Heartwarming

A bit vague

Excitable

Confident

Thoughtful

Happy

Practical/useful info

Mature reader

Not overly critical

Not editor

Wants what’s best

Valid criticism

Praised author with specific details

Genuinely interested

Helpful

 

Comment #3

Negative

Arrogant

Nit-picky

Looking for something wrong

Hyper-critical

Perfectionist

Close-minded

Uptight

Stiff

Cold

Terse

Standoffish

Quick, to the point

Confident

Helpful

Task oriented

Bad day

naïve

Unfriendly

Discouraging

No one is good enough

Useful info

Proofreader

Disinterested

Determined to give useful info

Didn’t read but rather analyzed

Editor

Critical thinker

Can’t turn off inner editor

Aggravating

Picky

Not encouraging to helpful in the long run

Bitter critic

Grammar nazi

Critical of each error

Intimidating

Now, some of these may be contradictory, but that’s what happens when you get the opinions of 30 different people. However, this is an overarching view of what people think of those individuals behind the such comments.

So, what kind of feedback do you find yourself leaving? And what impression does that kind of feedback give others? Do you like that impression? If not, change the way you comment. Take a moment to make the extra effort, and everyone will benefit.

Why is it important to leave feedback on others’ writing—especially positive feedback? Because that writer might be going through a difficult time in their life, and they’re extremely discouraged, but one kind remark from a stranger can completely change the outlook of their day. If you become acquainted enough with the writer to help them strengthen their weaknesses, it will definitely impact their life—and yours.

There’s enough cruelty out in the world and on the Internet. Why not try to be a bit of kindness for someone today?

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Sharing Others’ Works

Sharing the works of others—it’s the courteous thing to do in order to support one another, but it is one thing to share someone else’s work and another thing to get that writer new readers. So how do you do it? First off, you have multiple platforms on which you can promote others. Any social media outlet (Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, blogs, etc) offers unique opportunities, but how do you share? What do you say?

Most of the time people simply say, “Read this awesome story!” or there might be a little more like, “Be sure to check out this fantastic fantasy story!” or such. It tends to be short and relatively vague, and it works…sometimes, but personally with me, such blurbs really don’t get my attention. It gives me no motivation to click on the link because it doesn’t speak to me.

However, I ran an experiment. I wrote up two random blurbs for a story and sent them to ten different people. Here is what I sent:

  1. “Hey, you should totally check out this awesome fantasy book! Lots of twists and turns. Very intriguing.”

  2. “Hey, you should totally check out this awesome fantasy book! It has me constantly doubting the motives of each characters, so I don’t trust any of them, but it’s a lot of fun. Plus! There’s a character who ABSOLUTELY reminds me of Rumpelstiltskin from ‘Once Upon a Time’, so if you like that character from that show, you’d like this book.”

(The story I wrote the blurbs about is ‘The Magician: Book One in the Rogue Portal Series by Courtney Herz’ in case anyone was wondering.)

I asked them which one did they prefer better? Which one would likely convince them to check out the story. The results?

7/10 chose #2

2/10 chose #1

1/10 was absolutely indecisive

The people who chose #1 said short was best, but they didn’t really give much more reason other than that.

Those who chose #2 said it was much more personalized, and it spoke to them more individually. The impression they got with #1 was the person was sharing the story only out of obligation—not because they really want to or believed in the story.

One person who chose #2 said if it were an official promotion of a story, they would choose #1 instead, but if it was coming from someone they knew and trusted who was helping out a fellow writer friend and sharing their work in a more informal way, they would choose #2.

And the indecisive person? Still hasn’t given me a reason one way or another.

So what is the verdict?

If you are sharing to help someone out in an informal manner, and if you really want to get that author more readers and help them reach their audience, take an extra moment to craft your message. Find something in the story that truly catches and keeps your attention, something that you find unique because more stories don’t do it (e.g. a vampire that cares for his pet cat even though he’s chasing down possible end-of-the-world threats (this story is ‘Shadows of Glenhill’ by Raven Blackburn on Wattpad)). Don’t make it a long blurb or have too many examples of things you really like in the story. Just one should do. Craft it so it’s more personable.

However, if you are sharing someone’s work in a more formal manner (perhaps as a blog post, or maybe your Facebook Page is about promoting others’ stories), then shorter is better, but still try to make it unique. Don’t settle for, “Great story!” Add something more like #1 had where it said, “…lots of twists and turns. Very intriguing!” —this tells you that the story will be one that will make you think as you try to get ahead of the characters and even the author. Every little bit helps, but keep it short. And, of course, always supply the link where the story may be found.

So, go ahead. Share fellow writers’ works. They may do the same in return, and both of you could be helping out one another. That is what a supportive community is all about.

Create a Specialized Group For More Interaction

Last week, I discussed why it’s important to create a Facebook (FB) page now regardless if you’re published or not. Now, there’s a catch with the Pages, and this is the overall lack of interaction with your followers. I’m not saying you won’t have any interaction with anyone—just not as much the Page gives you the illusion of having. This is because of the inability to tag people in posts (unless in comments, but even then it’s unreliable) and not everyone who likes your page will see every post you make. So what is a good alternative? Why have a FB Page in the first place?

The reason why I recommend getting a FB Page first is because it is the first steppingstone into building your platform. It’s simple, and it’s relatively easy to get people to follow you. If someone wants to support you, and they see the link to your Page, all they have to do is Like it. Not much commitment required on their part since they may or may not see your posts in their news feed. Basically, they’re another number, and it makes you looks good. But what if you (and your followers) want more than that? What if you really want to connect with people who are supporting you? What do you do then? Well, after you’ve established how you post and what sort of things you will be posting, you move on to the second steppingstone—creating a customized group primarily for your followers.

Now, to do this, you can create a Facebook Group or even a Google Plus group or something on Twitter—or all the above. There are numerous social media outlets out there, and all you need is the ability to create a group. Once you have that group, you can send a personal invite to those people who like your Page. Explain to them how you will be posting even more stuff in the group and that you welcome interaction. Not only that, but what you post in your group has a higher chance of showing up in people’s news feed than the Page. For the most part, people feel privileged to be invited to such a personalized group, and the fun really begins because now you can tag people to strike up a conversation or to show them a picture or a quote that made you think of them specifically. They feel included, and people like this.

Why not just create a Facebook Group first? Why start with a Facebook Page? First off, there are no rules as to which one you should do first, but I have found people are more inclined to Like a Page rather than join a Group. This is because the thought of a Group gives the impression that more commitment is required (in order to have proper interaction). I like to use my Facebook Page as the gateway to my Group. When someone likes my Page, I send them a private message thanking them for liking my Page, and then I invite them to my Group if they’re interested. Never add anyone to the Group without their approval. This is regarded as rude and may stress out the individual because the last thing they need to put up with at that time in their life is another Group (no matter how awesome it is). Rather, leave the decision up to them. Tell them about it, share the link of the Group, but let them go to the Group and decide for themselves whether or not they want to join. If they join—wonderful! If they don’t, then don’t take it personally.

How long should you wait between creating a Page and creating a Group? While there is no absolute rule to this, I recommend waiting six months to a year before creating a Group after you’ve made a Page. This is because you need to build up your credibility and establish your FB presence, so when people see you have a special group they could join, they won’t hesitate joining because they know you. Also, when you create a Group, you may find it difficult to keep up with constant activity on both sites. I post 95% more in my Group than I do on my Page, but I still keep my Page active because I have specific things I make sure I post there to keep it alive. Otherwise, all my energy would go into my Group. It’s hard to multitask. You don’t want to give your followers duplicate posts because that could lead to them unfollowing you on one (or both) of the sites.

Some people say self-promotion does not work for authors, and they may right. The internet is so bombarded with information and everyone clambering to get on top, that it is really almost impossible to reach a huge mass of people—almost impossible. However, if you stop focusing on the larger scale but connect more individually with each person, and it becomes a real connection. Over time you’ll realize how many followers your actually have.

This is why I recommend interaction through your own Group using your Page as your gateway to the Group. Some people have more success than others using Pages than Groups or using Groups than Pages or something altogether different. You need to determine what works best for you and what your method is to reach your audience. It takes time, patience, and confidence. If you have low self-esteem, don’t make it so much about you. Rather, make it about others—seek to be a source of encouragement, inspiration, and a safe haven on the otherwise cruel place known as the internet. As they come to appreciate what you have to offer, they’ll come to respect you and hold you in high regard, and this gives you confidence.

If you’d like to compare my Page and my Group as an example, you may find them here:

Page: www.facebook.com/AuthorKellyBlanchard

Group: www.facebook.com/groups/AuthorKellyBlanchard

P.S. With the Page and with the Group, you have the ability to customize your URL so it’s not merely ‘facebook.com/(a long series of numbers…)’. Be sure to look into that. It helps give you a more professional presence.

Should You Create a Facebook Page?

Facebook offers a unique tool for artists, writers, businesses, and anyone looking for an audience. This is the feature of a ‘Page’. The difference between your personal timeline and a Facebook page is, you don’t have to be friends with everyone on your page in order for them to see the content you put out. They ‘Like’ your page, and poof! They’re part of your audience. You can post whatever you want without worrying about what others may say or think because, honestly, there isn’t much interaction on the pages. People who’ve liked your page are your captive audience until they decide to unlike it.

Now, of course, there’s always a catch, and the catch here is that you can have 500+ likes, but only 25 of those people will ever see your content on their News Feed. Why? Because Facebook is like that. Facebook tries to encourage more interaction by telling people, “If you like, comment, or share posts from the pages you’re on, you will see more content from those pages.” Otherwise, you, as the creator of the page, can pay to have your content boasted in order to reach a wider audience.

So, why all this talk about Facebook Pages here on my blog? Because a lot of writers ask, “I’m not published yet. Should I create a Facebook Page?” Despite all its flaws and inconsistencies, my answer would be, “Yes.” Why? Consider a Page as the first steppingstone in building your online presence. It’s easy. It’s relatively simple, and you don’t have to worry about breaking some kind of rule (as you might in a group or so) when posting your content. Consider this as your place to discover who you are online, how you like to present yourself, and how you’re going to promote yourself. It’s like the playground to marketing. Yeah, whatever you post, real people will see, and some might respond. You get to learn how to flex your marketing muscles, “Okay, this works…and that doesn’t work. People like this, so I should do more of it.” And so forth.

Not only that, but a lot of times publishers these days will ask you if you’ve established a platform (aka fan base). If they see your page with over five hundred or a few thousand Likes, that will make you look better to them because they can see that even before you finish your book, you were working the market.

Okay, so you got yourself a page now, and you’re probably staring at it asking a few questions:

  1. What am I supposed to post?
  2. How often am I supposed to post?
  3. How do I get people to like my page?

To answer the first question, “What am I supposed to post?” you need to determine what the Page is specifically about. Is it about you and your journey as a writer, or is it about a specific book you’re writing? I highly recommend you make the page about You as a writer because in that way it will be all-encompassing of your work, so you won’t have to host multiple Pages to cover all your books.

Now, once you’ve decided what it is about, you can begin posting. You have a captive audience, but you want to keep it in mind with the general theme of your page. Here are common things people post on their Pages:

  • Photos (things that inspire)
  • Quotes
  • Snippets from your story
  • Tidbits of your day regarding writing (e.g. “My characters have go COMPLETELY off the outline!!!”)
  • Share other people’s work to promote and help them
  • If you have a blog, post link to the blog posts
  • If you’re posting a story online, post links to the story
  • Do giveaways
  • Ask questions
  • Share your accomplishments, fears, and tears with your followers
  • And so much more.

Now, on to the second question, “How often should I post?” The answer is simple: every day—multiple times a day if you can. You see, the more you post, the more visible you are to your followers, and the more chances they have to interact with you, and that, in turn, can bring you even more followers. But don’t stress out if you can’t find a lot to post about. Post as things come to you, and try to make it natural.

The third question asks, “How do I get people to like my page?” First off, make sure your page is attractive to people. Give your page a unique, eye-catching banner (sometimes called a ‘cover’).  Make sure the banner is something that will catch people’s attention rather than deter them. Once I saw a banner that was covered in roaches, and I’m sorry, but no–I don’t do bugs. Just seeing that banner guaranteed that I wouldn’t click ‘Like’ on that page. So make sure your banner is something a bit more warm and inviting.

How do you create a banner? If you know an artist who’d create one for you, approach them with the request, but be willing to pay because that’s the courteous thing to do. If you want to try creating a simple one yourself, try this link: Timeline Cover. It’s nothing fancy, but it’s free, it has all the right dimensions, and they don’t include a watermark on the final product. I always click on ‘Start Designing a Facebook cover’ (upper right hand corner), and then select the blank background option, so I can just work from scratch although you can use whatever they have to offer. Just know you’re not going to get absolutely high quality work from this because it’s extremely limited with tools, but it’s an affordable alternative when you don’t have the personal artistic skills and can’t afford an artist to create it for you. When creating your own banner though, be sure you have the rights to the pictures just to be safe. To do this, look up stock photos.

So, you’ve made your page attractive with a brilliant banner, but how do you get people to your page to like it? The easiest way to get likes is to announce to your FB friends and family that you have a page, and that you’d appreciate anyone and everyone who heads over to it and gives it a like. Outside of that, you shouldn’t go to someone else’s page and say, “I liked your page, so go like mine.” That is rude, and 99.9% of people won’t return the favor.

Now, a tactic some people have used with me is private messaging me a sincere, personalized note in which they really appreciate the content of my page, and they’ve liked it, and they ask that I take a look at theirs. They may or may not ask me to return the like. However, because they’re sincere and took the time to really look at my page to see what it was about in order to craft a personalized message, I’m more prone to go to their page and like it. This only works if it’s an honest message and not something vague like, “Hey, I like your page a lot. Would you mind liking mine?” While that’s nice (because you didn’t demand a like), taking a moment longer on the person’s page to discover what it’s really about and putting that in the message goes a lot further: “Hey, I just love the pictures you share on your page! Very inspirational! I’ve given your page a like. Would you mind checking out my page? <insert link>” This is one way to get some likes.

Another way to get more likes is to join groups that are related to your craft (if you’re a writer, writing groups, artist—artist groups, etc). There may be some marketing or promotional groups you can join as well. Remember: always follow the rules of the groups because you don’t want to spam and get kicked out. If you’re uncertain of the rules, contact an admin and ask for permission to share your page. Many groups will have a specific day set aside for such promotion because they don’t want the group spammed all the time by people constantly sharing their work.

Now, once you find these groups, if you jump out and say, “Hey! Like my page!”, don’t expect many likes. Why? They don’t know you. You need to establish a presence within the groups before expecting anyone to follow you. To find out more of how to do this, take a look at my earlier blog post about The Etiquette of Self-Promotion.

Remember though, your page is nor your personal Facebook Timeline. The page is not where you post pictures of your pets, children, or anything personal—unless it’s directly related to your craft. Keep your private life private…unless you want everyone to know about every element of your life.

So, should you create a Facebook Page right now even if you’ve never published a book and haven’t even completed the book you want to publish? If you want to create one, then yes—go ahead. Even if you’re unsure, remember that you don’t have to share your page immediately. It’s not like people all over the internet will see it as soon as you create it. You can take your time molding it into what you want before inviting anyone to view it.

Creating a Page is easy. Building a following takes more time, so you need to be patient and dedicated to it. Might as well start now.

If you’d like to see my Facebook Page, you may find it here: www.facebook.com/AuthorKellyBlanchard. I post a lot of pictures that could inspire settings or characters for stories. Occasionally I post quotes as I come across them, and I talk about my own writing experience when something thought-provoking or humorous or exciting happens. It would be good to see you there!

How to Recap in a Sequel

The problem with writing sequels to a book is the inevitable recap to get people up-to-date on events in the previous books in order to move forward. The temptation is to do a major info-dump at the beginning of the story just to be done with it, or it’s dragged throughout the first few chapters, but both of these can be boring and lose the readers who are already familiar with the story. So then the temptation becomes to simply skip all the recap and dive headlong into the story because, after all, your readers should know all about this universe you’ve created, but you could be wrong.

I’ve picked up books that were in the middle of a series without realizing there were any books prior to the one I had in my hand. For the most part, the authors handled this well, and I didn’t feel like I was missing anything. On the other hand, there have been authors who handled this poorly, and my impression is, “This person is a terrible writer!” But the truth was I had jumped into the middle of a series without realizing it. You don’t want this, and no, you can’t say at the beginning of the book, “READ PREVIOUS BOOKS IN THE SERIES FIRST!” Yes, it would be great if it worked like that, but of course that’s too easy, and real life never lets you have the easy way.

So what is a proper way to recap without boring your readers? First of all, do you recall what it was like when you wrote the first story? How you had to bring your readers up-to-speed about the universe of the story? Employ that same tactic here. Imagine the sequel is actually a solo story. All the previous stories do not exist. Of course, your fans and you know they do exist, but at the beginning of the new story, you have a clean slate from which you can build the story. This is where you can have fun and really play with your readers minds (especially those who have been reading since the beginning). Say you have one character who, in the earlier books, is the antagonist, and the readers come to hate him! But in this new story, a new character comes in, meets the antagonist and is instantly charmed by him. While your faithful readers are screaming, “NO! Don’t trust him!” and they constantly look around waiting for a familiar protagonist to enter the scene, any new readers may be intrigued by the antagonist, and of course they’re in for a shock when the entire story flips on its head.

How do you inform the readers on past events that are important for the progression of the story? Sprinkle it throughout the story. Mention it only when it is relevant, and only do it either in dialogue or when your character has paused to think and reflect. For instance, say a you’re in the third book of a series, and you have this character who disappeared in Book 1 and wasn’t in Book 2 but you’re bringing him back in Book 3, and you want to remind your readers of the tension he creates for the main character (MC). Now, you could go into great detail as to how this character had betrayed the MC at a crucial point in his journey, or you can simply show the resentment, creating questions for the readers, and eventually answering those questions at the right time:

Uh, general…not sure how to tell you this, but um..”

At Silas’ rambling, General Cephas took in a patient deep breath then raised his eyes to glare at the man standing in his doorway. Only, Silas wasn’t alone, and Cephas recognized the silhouette of the other man immediately beside him. “Blackwell.” He narrowed his eyes as he rose to his feet, but he fisted his hand, forcing himself not to walk around his desk in order to strangle the man.

General!” Blackwell smirked as he stepped around Silas, who withdrew to watch the confrontation from a safe distance. Blackwell approached Cephas’ desk. “Did you miss me?”

Hardly.”

You haven’t changed, I see, but hey, you got a new office—nice upgrade.” Blackwell motioned to their surroundings as he moved to sit on the edge of the desk.

Cephas folded his arms as he regarded the man before him. Derek Blackwell—his former second lieutenant but also chief tactician. He served Cephas for many years, but the last time he saw the man was at the disastrous raid of Selgove when the Galactic Army encompassed and trapped Cephas’ small force, and they had to fight their way out. In the midst of the fighting, Cephas turned and was taken back at the sight of Blackwell standing beside a nameless Galactic general observing the fight. Before Cephas could fight his way to them and demand an answer, a gunshot whizzed past his head, and he returned to the immediate fight around him.

However, after his men had escaped, Cephas had much time to contemplate Blackwell’s actions, and perhaps now he would get an answer.

What are you doing here? Playing spy for the Galactic Forces?” Cephas narrowed his eyes, watching every movement Blackwell made—ready to unholster his gun and shoot the traitor in the chest right here in the middle of his office if necessary. Yet he gave his former second lieutenant the chance to speak, but Blackwell merely wagged his head as he chuckled a little.

You’re always been quick to judge people, General.”

And so the scene could continue. The scene which Cephas recalled in this chapter would have been a scene which the readers would have witnessed in Book 1. It was summarized in a way that still showed but was brief and quickly returned to the present moment of the story.

In essence, treat each new book in a series as a stand-alone book although reading them in order will give the reader a better sense of unity than if they had read the series out of order. However, if they pick up a book from the middle of the series, at least you’ll be able to keep the new readers rather than discourage them.

You’re not obligated to give your readers ALL the information immediately, but it is important to set the story, establish the characters, and keep the readers informed as they progress through the story. Time each reveal just right.

This takes practice, patience, and an ear closely in-tuned with every moment of the story. You must pay attention to the characters, their thoughts, and their emotions as they encounter all their conflicts. Once you’ve completely honed into that moment in the story, you will know when it is right to reveal or to withhold certain information, and this is crucial with books which are sequels.