Editing Tip #24

Avoiding Info Dump, Pt 3 ~

Action in a story is better than inaction – right?

book dissectionNot necessarily.  If too much is happening in one scene, a reader’s mind will turn into a computer and flash “information overload.”  Not really, but it does feel like it at times.  If someone has to re-read a passage or scene more than once to get everything of import out of it, you’re dragging the reader out of the story.

Look critically at those scenes where a lot of information appears essential and ask yourself, “Why does this need to be learned right here, right now?”  If each element remains a high priority, then consider what information could be revealed or hinted at in an earlier scene and what information could be left out without causing confusion – perhaps the delay might even create suspense or intrigue.

When you edit a first draft, one of the main goals is to obtain a balance in your writing – in the flow of the story line.  You don’t want a bunch of stuff happening in one chapter and then nothing happening in successive chapters.

I know what you’re thinking, “There’s always something happening in my story – It’s right there on the page/screen… it’s something.”

Not necessarily.  Carefully look at the purpose for each of your scenes and determine if your characters are actively trying to obtain a goal of some kind.  If the goal is not clear then nothing is happening.  It doesn’t matter that Cindy is running around the house from room to room waving several cleaning supplies in the air, or that Mike is going for a jog through the park – if the reader doesn’t learn something of significance, nothing is happening to move the plot forward.

By finding that balance and deciding which elements are of paramount importance and which ones aren’t, you will clarify in your own mind a sense of purpose.

When we write a first draft, those of us to tend not to self-edit as we write can easily be carried away as pieces of the puzzle fall into place or set up a successive series of events that will ultimate impact the character or plot. There is a time and a place for everything.

We need to dissect our work and then put it back together again in the right order – the trick is learning to recognize when this is happening.

Categories: Editing

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