Showing vs Telling (Part 2)

Last week I talked about how to avoid info dumps in your writing. This week I will talk about how to fix info dumps and how to balance the slippery slope of exposition and action. As I mentioned last week, I started editing a project I have been working on for three to four years (on and off writing while in college). The first chapter had almost two pages of back story and I ended up rewriting those two pages into a new scene which took up four pages.

I don’t have an issue with adding to my word count or page count because the story I’m working on is fantasy and basically a novella. As it is now, it’s less than 35k words. Eventually, I want to increase my word count and revising the draft is a good way to do that. Not only does it make you read through your story, you can also see where there is information needed or not needed.

Rewriting your info dump into a new scene is one way to fix them. It doesn’t always work mostly because sometimes a new scene isn’t needed and then it feels out of place. Not only do I suggest that you read through it but have someone else read it specifically to point out if there are sections in the manuscript that need a bit of trimming.

Another suggestion would be to list all the information that you need the reader to know right off the bat. I usually do this in a chapter outline. I make a list of what needs to happen and the information that needs to be put in. That way, I can control how I write information. It’s all about planning for the most part. It doesn’t have to be a complete list but a rough sketch wouldn’t really hurt.

Having the information relate to what is happening at the moment in-scene is my next suggest. Say for example your character is talking to someone they lost contact with and the reason was because there was a lie or something. Not only could you use a quick flashback sentence to let the reader know about the beef the two have but you could also do it in the way they speak to one another, thoughts, and body language. That way, this information and scene says something about your character the reader wouldn’t know otherwise.

The important thing is to keep the story moving forward. In my opinion, I think it’s important to have something happening in a story whether it’s physical, emotional, or psychological. Keep it brief if possible and integrate it into the story. It’s like killing two birds with one stone. Your exposition is pulling double duty. If you have to have a huge paragraph with information then so be it. At the end of the day, work with your writing style.

One last thing I will say it that the most important thing to do is write. You can always go back and change whatever needs changing. Get the story down on paper or on a digital document and then stress out about editing and revising.

 

Showing vs Telling (Part 1)

There are many post/pages out there and warn against the dangers of showing vs telling. I’ve read many of them and the information basically stays the same with variation on how it is told. Although the information is stored in the back of my mind, I continue to click on those articles to see if there is anything new that I should know. Even if I don’t learn anything new, it’s refreshing to know that my knowledge is being reassured.

When writing, I always want to be an active writer (more on that in a later post). In that regard, I like to pay attention to what I’m writing and making sure that I don’t summarize information or info dump in a paragraph. These examples I regard as telling. Instead, I try to sprinkle the information through the story.

I happened to look back on my project and I completely failed my knowledge. I read through the opening paragraphs and I cringed. I had info dumps and trying to tell the reader about the world. While I do confess that I started writing this story three years ago, I never really went back to look at the beginning until recently. It just amazed me how different my writing had gotten from then until now. I knew it happened but everything time I take a look at old writing, it hits me in the face.

So, here’s a few tips on how to avoid info dumps.

First, I like to make a rough outline of my chapters. It’s like writing a synopsis with the only exception that you won’t show it to anyone. This sounds tedious and repetitive but I have found it to be really useful. With that outline, you can decide where you want to put those world building sentences and other sentences that deal with your character and their life up to that point. Not only do you dictate where that information goes but you have a clearer view of where everything goes.

Second, I ask someone to read over my work. It’s nice to have an extra pair of eyes for anything. I’m sure if you have info dumps and the information slows down the reading then, someone is bound to tell you. You could always read it yourself when you take a few days off and reread your work. That way, you don’t have the story in you head and you can read like a reader.

Third, practice. You don’t win a marathon when you practice for only one day. You don’t send your manuscript out to agents on the first draft. Everything takes practice and so does writing. I don’t believe you can get really good at writing without failing a few times. If you make yourself become super sensitive over avoiding info dumps then it starts to become second nature to you and your writing is better off because of it.

Lastly, read. Reading is very essential to your writing. Without reading, you can’t soak up all the techniques other writers are able to pull off. Did I mention that their published authors? Yes, they are. So, bottom line read. Get to see what works and why it works and see if you can’t incorporate some of the same techniques into your own work.

What if you have any info dumps in your writing? Next week, I’ll be making a post on how to fix info dumps. Until then.

Edit vs Revise

I have talked a little about revision and given some tips on how to tackle that but it came to my attention that editing a project and revising it are two different things. There are some people that use these two words interchangeably and I’m guilty of doing this too.

I could say that it’s obvious that editing and revising are two completely different things but at the same time I think it’s a piece of knowledge that you know somewhere in the back of your mind but you don’t actually think about it often. Because of this, I’m going to do a little break down about the differences between revising and editing.

Editing
This includes anything to deal with grammar; spelling, syntax, etc. These are essentially the small changes you make. Nouns should be capitalized. Verbs should be use correctly. You’re not sure if you used a word correctly, pull out a dictionary. I understand it to be all the nitty gritty of grammar; comma usage, quotes, periods and everything else. The essentials of a good sentence.

Revising
When you revise, you get into the heart and soul of a story. You add or delete sentences or words. If you got a plot hole, it’s good to change the plot. A scene or dialogue doesn’t add tension or move a story along? Either delete or rewrite. You have one word that repeats too much? Let’s take out a thesaurus. Remember: the backspace button is your best friend. I also view revising as a stage where you might end up rewriting your whole story if the plot isn’t very strong. It’s all about adding and deleting from your work.

In the long run, I will suggest that you edit and revise your own work for a better read. You don’t have to get it professionally edited and I don’t believe it is mandatory. You can ask a friend to help you edit and for revision as well. If you are able to get your work edited by a professional then, go for it. Either way, as long as you accept that your work isn’t going to be perfect then that’s a step in the right direction.

P.S. For some reason, I completely forgot that I hadn’t posted anything on Friday(5/6/16). I guess that’s what happens when you’re trying to graduate college. Any-who, thanks for the patience.
P.P.S. I’m finally a college graduate.